When I was a kid, my parents bought me a guinea pig at a pet store. I named it Howie and loved it more than anything. Howie was adorable and affectionate and smart. There was only one strange thing: he could only walk backwards. Even as a child, I wondered if in the past he had suffered some kind of physical or mental trauma that led him to behave in this strange way.
Since then, I have learned that animals in pet shops suffer a living nightmare from the moment they are born. Seventy-two percent of the exotic animals in the “pet” trade DIE before they even get to the pet stores. The animals are raised in BIG factories or are separated from their families and homes in the wild; crowded into tiny cages filled with waste; and deprived of everything that is natural and important to them, often including their basic needs.
Caution: The following information may make you cry.
Hell in the factory-breeding room
A PETA researcher spent seven months at U.S. Global Exotics (USGE) – once one of the largest international distributors of exotic “pets” in the United States. USGE shipped animals to PETCO, PetSmart and other pet stores. Following the PETA investigation, over 26,000 animals were rescued (the largest animal seizure in HISTORY) and USGE closed permanently. But animals continue to suffer and die with other suppliers of exotic “pets”.
Most of the animals destined for pet shops are raised in warehouses, where they are crowded and confined in desolate containers, in cages and other small containers. These facilities are basically factory farms where animals are mass-produced and sold as products, and where their most basic needs are often ignored.
Small animals such as rats and reptiles are kept in tiny, filthy, overcrowded cages, or are housed alone and denied the opportunity to socialize. At USGE, some animals were even kept for days or weeks in pillowcases, shipping boxes, or 2-liter soda bottles. Deprived of exercise and social interaction and WITHOUT any veterinary care, the animals’ bodies and minds deteriorated. Sick and dying animals were often simply left to starve, thrown in the trash, or put in freezers while they were still alive.
PETA’s research has revealed that breeding factories often employ only a small staff of three or four – not nearly enough workers to adequately care for tens of thousands of animals. Many animals lack adequate food, water, air, space, moisture, heat and veterinary care, and are often denied a painless end to their suffering. The intense confinement and deprivation of many animals leads them to desperately scratch at cage openings in an attempt to free themselves, to sway back and forth ALL day long, to fight for space and food, and some even refuse to eat.
Transported as goods
The animals are transported to the pet shops in overcrowded containers, which are a breeding ground for parasites and viral infections. They often arrive malnourished, seriously ill, pregnant or injured. Many animals are left to languish for days in agonizing pain before being removed from the containers in which they arrive. Dead or dying animals are considered a normal part of the process – pet shops simply throw them into their freezers.
Suffering on pet store shelves
The goal in pet shops is to make a profit, so they put as many animals as possible in their cages. Small animals such as mice, hamsters, gerbils, and rats live in cramped quarters. Fish (which are supposed to have whole oceans or lakes to inhabit) swim in endless circles inside small tanks. Birds are crowded into cages where they can barely stretch their wings – let alone fly.
In a nutshell
Pet shops do not see animals as living beings that deserve respect. They see them as mere objects to be sold for financial gain. For companies like PETCO and PetSmart, animals are nothing more than inventory.