When you see animals suffering in a pet shop….

I recently had the experience of working in a pet store that sold animals. They did not sell dogs or cats, but they did sell  herps (snakes, lizards), birds, rabbits, ferrets, mice, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, and fish.  My job was NOT to take care of the animals, but I could see how they were being taken care of.

In fact, in this particular pet shop, the animals were all taken care of first thing in the morning: bedding changed, food and water put out.  Is that enough?

One of my co-workers saw that a desert animal was not being kept in a dry environment. In fact—he had a huge water bowl taking up half his habitat.  Another co-worker was very  demoralized because a tank of feeder fish was over stocked, with no aeration or filtration, causing almost all the fish to die in less than a week.

We could all see that  virtually all the animals were under some stress: they had just been moved around, and had people staring at them or poking at their glass all day long.

We—as employees—have no say in how animals are treated. They will fire us if we raise concerns. That is a fact. IT IS UP TO THE PUBLIC TO ADDRESS  CONCERNS TO THE MANAGER—AND THE COMPANY. It does no good at all to tell an employee, nor does it any good to BUY THE ANIMAL. That  only re-enforces the business’ policies.  In fact, there are many pet store managers who are not animal lovers. They are retail managers. They have been told by  their corporate managers how to run the store.  They do not care either way if an animal has tipped over a water bowl, or is in a stressful environment. It is an unwritten policy that if the pet buying public is concerned, the  empathetic pet lovers will buy the animals and ‘rescue’ them from the horrible pet shop.  People do this all the time.  When they do this—the pet store buys another animal to sell, and the problem does NOT get solved.

I thought  people knew this—but the pet stores and COMMERCIAL ANIMAL BREEDERS—breeding pets as livestock—do a better job of marketing that the humane activists.

We are not all PETA. We don’t believe that pet animals should be eliminated from the earth, but  PIJAC—the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council—the pet industry lobbying group—is pretty slick at painting us all with a broad brush.

So, what should you do?

1.Talk to the pet store manager directly. If he is not there, ask if he has an email address.

2. Ask if there is a corporate entity that controls policy for the stores, and address them.  Tell them you will give them (x days) to correct the problem, and if they don’t, you will post on social media:  Yelp! & Facebook come to mind;

3. Contact your state department of Agriculture—but also, you have to be a little more sophisticated: you are going to email them, as well as your state senator, state representative, and local humane organization—and ask when you can expect a response;

4. If you don’t get a satisfactory response in a timely fashion (and YOU have to decide what that is), contact local media: television stations, newspapers and magazines;

5. You must work with other concerned animal lovers. Getting organized is very  difficult, but it is the only way to affect change.

6. Talk to your friends about what you  experienced.

Something you should know:  while designers and inventors are always  coming up with new pet products to sell, very few of them are the Furminator or the Kong toys.  Most don’t sell well enough to make manufacturing them worthwhile. However,  it is because of consumer activism that we now have  many high quality, premium pet foods. They  didn’t become successful because of marketing—they became successful because of  word-of-mouth.  You do make a difference.

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