Pet Stores: The good, the bad, and the… yuck

Finding the good ones

For obvious reasons we recommend patronizing pet stores that do not sell animals. Some stores we DO recommend:

  • Ani-Mall (Morrisville)
  • All Pets Considered (Greensboro)
  • Phydeaux (Carrboro)

We realize that this is not always convenient, and sometimes you have to choose among the ones that do sell animals. When this is the case, make your decision based on the following basic rules of small animal welfare:

Are all their small animals separated by sex? Males and females should never be housed together after weaning (unless, of course, the animals are spayed and neutered which is not likely in a pet store). This is how unwanted litters happen (or as we jokingly call it—the “8 for the price of 1 deal”). Some stores offer a return policy on these litters but keep in mind that returns are very likely to end up as food for a reptile.

Are all the weaned Syrian hamsters housed singly (each in a separate cage)? Syrian hamsters are solitary creatures. They should not be kept in groups. If you look closely at most groups of these hamsters, you will notice wounds and scarring from frequent fights.

Are all the weaned male mice housed singly? Male mice fight to the death when housed together. Usually in groups you will see open wounds in males who have reached sexual maturity.

Do they discourage live feeding of rodents to reptiles? This is for the safety of the reptile as well as the welfare of the rodent. Feeding live rodents to reptiles is nothing like a reptile eating a live rodent in the wild. The reptile (and rodent) are contained in a small area in captivity and neither can escape. It’s like arranging a death match. It won’t end well for somebody, and that somebody can be the reptile. Reptiles in the wild do not catch every animal they pursue and usually prey on the weak. A healthy rat can kill a snake.

Are their rodents housed on appropriate litter? Aspen or recycled paper pellets (like Carefresh) are best. Corncob is acceptable. Plain pine, cedar, and the like are not. Phenols from the latter can cause severe respiratory problems.

Do all their small animals have access to food, water, and hiding places? Rodents have very high metabolisms so constant access it food and water is vital. Hiding is instinctive to rodents and other prey animals. There must be enough hiding space for all the animals in the habitat.

Are pregnant/unweaned animals on display? This is far too stressful for a nursing mother. She needs privacy. A lack of such will often cause infant mortality or shorten the life of the mother.

Dealing with the poor ones

One of the most common questions we are asked is, “Should I buy animals from pet stores to save them from bad conditions?”
No. No. And more no.
Never walk past an abused animal and do nothing. However, instead of supporting bad pet stores by buying them, please do the following:

  1. Bring it to the owner’s attention politely. Offer to take the animal off their hands (not buy, they relinquish to you) if they cannot afford to get proper care. Maybe the owner is just ignorant or needs encouragement.
  2. If the above does not help, file a complaint with animal control, local humane groups, also the health department and fish and wildlife, if applicable.
  3. Send a copy of the complaint to the store’s parent company if there is one. Call also. Assure them that you will be keeping up with this issue.

You’ll save a lot more animals by stopping the abuse than by funding it. 🙂

Read more about how you can help by visiting Animal Protection Institute’s Pet Store Investigation View the video while you’re there! (The link is on the right side of the page.)