Why pet stores are so bad

    cryptoleo2

Inadequate Husbandry Practices

While there are responsible pet stores out there, MANY are not. If you don’t believe me, take a few hours to research the basic needs of common pet store animals (ferrets, iguanas, water turtles, parrots) and then visit your local pet store. You will likely find cramped quarters, inadequate lighting, poor heat, and low quality diet. Animals that require socialization (such as puppies, kittens and parrots) rarely receive any at all. While this would most likely be okay for most animals for short durations, in reality, animals can spend months, even years in pet stores and they can’t possible thrive under these inadequate conditions for such long periods of time.

The Death Traps

In some stores, you can find dead and dying animals in absolutely disgustingly filthy cages. Whether the employees are overwhelmed or just apathetic, the conditions in these stores have deteriorated beyond belief. I have entered pet stores and been sick from the smell of feces and urine. I have seen the skeletal remains of a snake in one enclosure, a bloody glob that was once a hamster in another. I have photos of parrot cages that are so encrusted in droppings you can hardly see the parrots housed inside. (Don’t be fooled – even the stores with spotless showcases can have a completely different set up in their Employee Only backrooms.) To read a news story about one of these death trap pet stores, click here.

Untrained Employees

Pet store employees are not always qualified to work with animals, let alone sell them. Unfortunately, these employees are often who customers ask for pet care advice. I have heard worthless to downright dangerous advice given by pet store employees who claim to be the experts of their departments. These “experts” are also usually the ones that provide “in-store veterinary care” to animals.senegal2small

Impulse Sales

In many stores, employees are taught to prey on ‘impulse buyers’. These buyers know little to nothing about the animal they’ve impulsively decided to purchase. They are not prepared to bring the animal home but instead buy everything at once at the direction of an employee. Some of the more common impulsively bought animals (green iguanas, parrots, even dogs and cats) are completely inappropriate pets for the average ‘impulse buyer’. When the buyers lose interest, these pets pay the price of neglect and improper care – most end up dead or in animal shelters.

Before they reach store shelves…

Pet store abuse is just one of many hardships pet store animals have to endure before they (hopefully) find a home.
Pet store animals come from one of three sources:

  • 4petsmart   Backyard breeders – A “backyard” or “home breeder” is someone who keeps a number of animals and either breeds them deliberately or just lets them breed. They may breed dogs, cats, hamsters, reptiles, etc. They usually have no understanding of or concern about breed standards, genetics, socializing, or animal health. They usually sell their animals out of the newspaper or online but will occasionally sell to local pet stores. A backyard breeder who is successful may decide to expand and become a commercial breeder.
  • Commercial breeder – Known as ‘pet mills’, these large-scale breeding facilities produce animal after animal, with only profit in mind. Animals are kept in rows of bare wire cages, fed low quality food, given prophylactic (preventative) veterinary care, and have little or no socialization with humans. They are considered livestock – not pets. The news is full of horror stories about mills that have been closed down due to extreme neglect and abuse. Even the more “responsible” mills are contributing to the overpopulation of dogs, cats, parrots, rabbits, and green iguanas.
  •   The wild – Pet stores also sell ‘wild caught’ animals that have been imported. These animals go through a long, complicated ordeal that leaves up to eighty percent of them dead by the time they reach stores. The survivors almost always have a long list of health problems that dramatically shorten their lifespans. Many of these animals are already being captive bred here in the US. Why are pet stores still selling wild caught specimens? (Because they are cheaper and easier to get, of course.) Of all the animals you can purchase in a pet store, wild caught animals are probably the least likely to thrive.

The risks involved

Not surprisingly, the chances of purchasing a sick or injured animal from a pet store are extremely high. When this happens, customers are often left to deal with the problem on their own. Pet store ‘warranties’ usually require that the sick pet is returned to the store, where it is euthanized or sold to another unsuspecting customer. Every day I receive emails from pet store customers who are dealing with stores that refuse to honor their warranties. Unfortunately I often have to tell these people that they are out of luck due to the unscrupulous contracts they’ve been tricked into signing. The rest of the people end up having to go to court to see any money from these stores.
In addition to the high risk of animal disease, there is also the danger of zoonotic diseases (those that can be spread from animals to humans). Animals not properly maintained or kept in dirty conditions are more likely to transmit these diseases. Salmonella, monkeypox, and psittacosis outbreaks in humans have all been linked back to pet stores.
Many pet stores are also selling worthless, even harmful, products. With the exception of food and medicine, there are no safety regulations for pet products. Manufacturers can make and sell anything they want – safe or not! Some of these products can hurt or even kill your beloved pets.

The bottom line..

The bottom line is that the pet industry is about making a profit, not about the animals caught in the middle. In addition to the abuse that goes on in pet stores, there are many other unscrupulous practices that occur in the pet trade such as: (cyanide fishing, production breeding, fish painting, the sale of unweaned animals). Fortunately, as customers, we have the power to effect real change by taking action when we witness abuse and being more mindful in our dealings with the industry.
I created this website not as a ‘pet store hate page’, but as a source of information. Not all pet stores abuse their animals or obtain them from abusive sources. It is, however, important that action be taken against the stores that do. It also undeniable that the industry as a whole needs to change. Too many animals are being mistreated before they even reach store shelves.

What you can do to stop pet store abuse

micecage

 

If you have witnessed pet store abuse, first and foremost, do SOMETHING. Don’t just think “What a Shame!” and then walk away! I have received NUMEROUS emails from people with horrible compaints, with lots of details about neglected animals, and their feelings on the matter, but no mention of any action that they had taken other than writing some random website owner (me). When I have the time, I have followed through with a phone call to the store, just to let them know that I had been made aware of some issues in their store. I tell them about my website and about several websites with up to date animal care guidelines. A week later, I contact the people that sent me the original complaint and find that the store has improved. Imagine that! One little phone call (that the original complaintant could have made) and the lives of the animals in the store have been improved!
Of course, there are some stores out there that have employees or owners that just don’t care. They think they are above the law and that no one is actually going to do anything about their abuse and neglect. One phone call is not going to make a difference here – but I can guarantee the list of actions below WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE. You just have to be prepared to go the extra mile for the innocent animals in these stores.

  •   Do NOT attempt to “rescue” animals. Taking an animal only frees up space for another one and tells the manager that they may need more! Even if they give you the animal for free, you are just making their jobs easier. Instead of bailing pet stores out by buying their sick animals, we should encourage them to carry higher quality animals and provide veterinarian care to animals that need treatment.
It’s also a good idea to go somewhere else for pet supplies. If you have nowhere else to shop for pet supplies, consider buying from one of the many reputable online suppliers.
  •   Document neglect or abuse with detailed notes BEFORE you bring attention to yourself. If you complain to management before you document your concerns, you may lose your chance (they will likely fix the problem temporarily or even ask you to leave). Things to look for include sanitation, physical health of the animals, and overcrowding. (For a list of guidelines, visit: General Pet Store Guidelines.) Also note the exact time(s) you were in the store.
If possible, take photos or video of the animals. To avoid breaking the law, stay in public areas and, if filming video, keep your microphone off. Make sure the timestamp feature of your camera is enabled if it has one.
  •  Ask to speak with the store manager. After you’ve documented the abuse, find the manager. Calmly explain to them what is wrong, giving clear solutions and referring to reliable resources. Listen to any excuses . If the manager seems unreceptive, contact the store owner.
 A common “excuse” is that the animals were received in bad condition from the supplier, and therefore it’s not the store’s fault. If that were true, the pet store should be able to show they have the animals under a veterinarian’s care, or that they have made arrangements for the supplier to take the animals back.
  •  Research laws governing pet stores. To protect animals in pet stores, several states have enacted pet store animal welfare laws. These laws also exist on the federal and municiple level. (Visit this page for more information on pet store laws.) 
Have copies of all applicable laws on hand when you are filing a complaint.
  •  Call your local animal control agency. If possible, make an appointment to accompany the investigating officer to the store and point out the individual animals in distress. Call the next day to find out what is being done.
Some areas (especially more rural parts of the country) may not have a designated Animal Control Department and the power to investigate cruelty cases may have been assigned to the local humane society or the local police. If you are unsure of who to contact, try the checking the government pages of your phonebook, or you can use the ASPCA’s Humane Law Enforcement Lookup page to locate the agency in your area.
  •   If the store is part of a chain, complain to corporate headquarters. If the store is a chain (such as Petco or Petsmart), call the 1-800 number for headquarters and talk to an “animal care coordinator”. Make sure you write down the names of everyone you talk to. You can find the number online if you don’t want to ask store employees for it.
  • Write a complaint letter. It’s important that you leave a paper trail in case future cases are brought against the store. In your letter, write down your list of complaints, giving dates and approximate times, and copies of any pictures or video you’ve taken. Outline any laws that are being broken. For an example, click here.
Send copies to the store, the corporate offices (if applicable), the store’s landlord (if applicable), the local animal control agency – EVEN IF YOU’VE ALREADY CONTACTED THEM VIA PHONE – and:
    1. Your state’s veterinarian. 
Each state has a State Veterinarian who is hired by the state government to oversee animal health matters within the state. To find your state’s, visit: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/sregs/official.html
    Your county or state health department. 
Animals kept in unclean conditions can create serious public health risks by being more likely to transmit zoonotic diseases and parasites (salmonella, monkeypox, psittacosis).
    2. Your city council or county board of commissioners.
Send them a letter about how the store is an embarrassment to your county. They might then choose to deny a renewal of the store’s local business license.
    3. If the store sells exotic or wild animals, the USDA. 
If the pet store sells wild or exotic mammals (degus, sugar gliders, prairie dogs, flying squirrels, etc.), complaints concerning ANY mammals in the store should be reported to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service office in your state. For contact information, visit http://www.aphis.usda.gov/contact_us/ac.shtml or call (301) 734-7833.
For more information on the USDA’s connection with pet stores, click here.
    4. If the store sells native species, your state’s Department of Natural Resources (or Fish and Wildlife). 
In some states it is illegal for pet stores to sell any native species of reptiles and amphibians. Use Google.com to locate the appropriate website.
  •    If the store is in a shopping mall, the mall manager. 
Ask the mall management not to renew the store’s lease. Send them copies of all complaints.
  • Notify the local media.

Some news stations and newspapers will do investigative reports on neglectful pet stores.