'Captive Hunting' Animal Planet special likely to rile up viewers

Animal Planet routinely attracts a broad audience of diverse viewers with one obvious trait in common: They love animals.

Make that two traits: They're probably all going to be spitting mad after viewing "Animal Planet Investigates: Captive Hunting Exposed," premiering Monday, June 20.

The special takes viewers inside facilities in New York and Texas where well-heeled clients go to hunt and kill exotic and sometimes even endangered species. Zebras, wildebeests, even kangaroos -- all are fair game and confined to a limited area where they are easy pickings for the trophy-hungry hunter.

Although many Americans don't even know such facilities exist, more than 1,000 of these "canned hunt" ranches thrive in the United States, chiefly in Texas, where this covert industry brings in $1 billion a year. Only 11 states completely prohibit the practice. Fifteen others have partial prohibitions, and the remainder have no ban at all.

The Animal Planet expose features investigators from the Humane Society of the United States using hidden cameras and assumed identities to infiltrate these ranches to raise public awareness of this shady business and the people who patronize it.

"I think these are people who don't want to spend a lot of time to bag a trophy," explains Mary Beth Sweetland, director of investigations for HSUS. "They just want it to be easy, quick and guaranteed -- and some of these places actually say 'guaranteed kill.'

"It's almost an ego trip for someone to be able to hang an animal's head on their wall and not quite explain to others who may see that so-called trophy that this animal had absolutely no chance of escape."

Sweetland adds that she is banking on Animal Planet viewers being outraged by what they see in this special.

"I hope in every state in which it is legal to kill a captive animal that people will use this show, for which we are eternally grateful to Animal Planet for producing, and take it to their legislators and insist that this practice be outlawed," she says.