Countless people impulsively buy exotic animals as “pets” but aren’t willing to commit to a lifetime of care, understanding, and respect for them and don’t possess the knowledge required to meet their needs. One increasingly exploited animal is the sugar glider, a tiny marsupial native to Australia. Sugar gliders are now found in tens of thousands of households throughout North America, thanks to the cruel pet trade.

An especially egregious offender is a company called Pocket Pets, which sells sugar gliders to impulse buyers from mall kiosks all over the U.S. Companies such as this acquire sugar gliders from hellish breeding facilities similar to notorious puppy mills.

A PETA investigation at one such mill—California rodent and reptile breeder and dealer Global Captive Breeders, LLC (GCB)—revealed shocking and routine neglect, including that scores of rats drowned because of a faulty watering system. Others died of dehydration, and reptiles slowly wasted away over the course of weeks as a result of systemic deprivation.

Acting on evidence gathered by PETA, officials discovered nearly 16,000 rats and mice and more than 600 reptiles languishing in waste-filled cages at GCB, many of them starving, injured, and gravely ill, with no access to water. Mitch Behm, the owner of GCB, and David Delgado, the facility’s former manager, pleaded guilty to and were convicted of cruelty to animals.

Animals who survive such hellish conditions face even more dangers. Sugar gliders are peddled as cheap trinkets—basically as toys. Picked up and put down constantly for show-and-tell, handled roughly, fed improper and inadequate food, and then forgotten and sorely neglected once the novelty wears off, these animals are doomed from the moment they’re born into the pet trade.

Sugar gliders are highly social animals. In their natural habitat, they live in large family groups, not alone in a small cage. They engage in social grooming, which, in addition to improving hygiene and health, helps unite the colony and establish group identity.

As tree dwellers, they’re avid climbers with a furry membrane spanning from wrist to ankle that allows them to glide from tree to tree—similar to a flying squirrel. But when kept as pets, they are denied everything that’s natural and important to them: the companionship of their own species, fresh air, the outdoors, and the opportunity to climb or do almost anything except pace or sit and stare out of a tiny cage.

Over the years, PETA has dealt a blow to the exploitative trade in these animals by getting leading property-management companies to ban Pocket Pets from their shopping malls. These companies include the largest mall owner in the U.S.—Simon Property Group—as well as Brixmor Property Group, CBL & Associates Properties, Macerich, and others.

Simon and CBL were the last remaining major shopping-mall management groups in the U.S. that still hosted Pocket Pets outlets, which means that the animal-exploiting company is now banned from more than 1,000 retail properties and almost every mall in the U.S. Better yet, Macerich is phasing out all pet stores in its more than 70 malls and is instead offering the stores’ old spaces as adoption centers for homeless animals.

What You Can Do

There are still mall operators, such as Cafaro Company, that allow Pocket Pets to be sold in their malls across the U.S. Please take action for these animals by calling Cafaro Company Co-President William A. Cafaro at 330-747-2661 and politely but firmly asking for a ban on the sale of sugar gliders in the company’s malls.