Why we should never buy animals
By Dan Paden
For years, animal advocacy groups have encouraged, urged and begged consumers to shun pet stores and breeders and instead adopt animals from shelters and rescue groups. With a never-ending stream of homeless animals—and not just cats and dogs—pouring through the doors of animal shelters day after day, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would ever buy an animal from a pet store.
But if that’s not enough to sway you, consider this: Patronizing pet shops means supporting an industry that treats animals as disposable objects, not living, feeling beings. Every PETA investigation of the pet trade has revealed callous disregard for animals, appalling conditions and heartbreaking abuse, and our latest case is no exception.
PETA’s recent eyewitness investigation found thousands of animals languishing and dying in filthy conditions at a rodent-breeding operation and a pet store—both owned by the same couple—near Denver. Enclosures containing rats and mice, many of whom were destined to be fed to snakes and other reptiles kept as “pets,” were not cleaned for weeks, forcing the animals to eat and sleep amid feces-filled and urine-soaked bedding. Tubs containing rats and mice routinely flooded when water lines were chewed by rats or knocked loose by free-roaming cats. Hundreds of animals drowned.
Rats and mice were fed only once per month, and the food became moldy and covered with feces as the weeks passed. One owner admitted that some animals starved between feedings.
Others were violently torn apart by cats, whom the owners routinely allowed into their “factory.” Kittens were taken from the free-roaming cats and sold, but some were so sick that they died before ever reaching the couple’s pet store. PETA’s eyewitnesses never saw any animal receive adequate veterinary care at either facility.
Chronic severe crowding and a lack of food, water and other basic necessities created stress and fear among the animals and led to fighting. The eyewitnesses found one weak and thin rat with facial injuries so critical that her nose and upper jaw were missing. A gaping wound exposed what appeared to be her bone, cartilage and internal tissues. The rat was rushed to a veterinarian, who put her out of her misery.
Dead rats were often overlooked and left to rot in tubs along with live animals for days or even weeks on end. One dead rat apparently went unnoticed for so long that nothing more than a bloody skull remained.
At the pet store, ailing reptiles (whom the couple bred in their basement) were denied veterinary care and instead thrown into a freezer to die. Sick and injured rats and mice were crudely “whacked”—that is, swung by the tail and slammed against a hard surface in an attempt to kill them. Some were then wrapped in plastic bags, which a worker admitted caused them to suffocate.
A hedgehog at the pet store with an infected eye was neglected for so long that her eye shriveled up and lost all vision. But instead of providing adequate treatment, workers sprayed one or both of her eyes with diluted chlorhexidine, a product used to clean the cages and enclosures at the store.
Based on PETA’s evidence, the Thornton, Colo., Police Department executed a search warrant at the pet store that allowed them to rescue some of the mammals, reptiles and amphibians there. Despite having extensive evidence of persistent, widespread cruelty to animals for more than two months, the Adams County, Colo., Sheriff’s Office still has not seized or rendered aid to the thousands of animals kept at the breeding operation. PETA is now calling on the sheriff to seize all animals from that barn without further delay.
But such actions alone won’t stop the suffering in the pet trade. Animals will continue to languish and die in this greed-driven industry until consumers start doing two simple things: adopting animal companions from shelters and reputable rescue groups (instead of buying them from pet stores and breeders) and purchasing all their animals’ food, toys and other supplies from companies that don’t stock animals in their inventory.