By Dan Paden
By now, most kind people know that the best thing we can do to help eliminate the cruel pet trade is to adopt animals from shelters, never buy them from pet stores or breeders. But once you bring your new animal companion home from the shelter, choosing where to buy supplies like dog food and cat litter is another important consideration. If you shop at big-box stores that sell live animals, you’re still indirectly supporting a greed-driven industry that views animals as disposable objects, not living, feeling beings.
A new PETA eyewitness exposé documented that thousands of small animals were confined to crowded bins or cages in filthy, windowless warehouses at a massive animal mill in Pennsylvania. This facility supplies animals to hundreds of pet stores across the eastern U.S., including several big-box chains.
Rabbits were stacked in cages with wire floors, giving their sensitive paws little, if any, relief. The cage that one lone rabbit was kept in contained a pile of feces measuring approximately 25 square inches.
PETA’s eyewitness saw hamsters constantly running in circles, which is often a sign of severe stress or illness. Gerbils, kept in bins in which each animal had just 6 square inches of floor space, scratched frantically at the walls. A dollar bill is 6 inches long, so that gives you an idea of how cramped these enclosures were.
All the buildings reeked of urine and feces. The floor of one building was also spattered with the blood of helpless animals who had apparently been torn apart by the cats who were allowed to roam freely throughout the facility. One hamster was attacked by a cat and then just left to writhe in pain and finally die on the floor.
Animals were also commonly given no choice but to drink from filthy, contaminated water bowls—when they had any water at all. During nearly three months at the facility, our eyewitness found hundreds of small animals dead, often in bins in which no water had been available.
PETA’s observer never saw any animals receive veterinary care at the facility, despite repeatedly alerting the manager to the plight of obviously sick and injured individuals. Instead, workers piled animals—from rats and gerbils to guinea pigs and even a rabbit—en masse into a feces-smeared cooler and crudely gassed them with carbon dioxide. Their screams as they were gassed to death could be heard across the room.
Live rats and mice were also stuffed into plastic zipper bags and put in a freezer, where they died in agony. Some rats frantically tried to claw their way out as they slowly and painfully froze to death, and several mice were still breathing after nearly 15 minutes. These animals were sold as feed for carnivorous reptiles.
Over a period of less than three months, this facility shipped more than 20,000 guinea pigs, hamsters and gerbils to pet stores. Mother mice were seen trying to hide their babies as workers took their newborns away to ship them to customers. Animals slated for shipping were packed into boxes the day before and left there without water overnight before being hauled away for a grueling, multi-state journey.
Based on PETA’s evidence, a team of U.S. Department of Agriculture officials descended on this animal mill, and the company is now under federal investigation.
That’s good news, but please remember that this case is hardly an anomaly: Numerous exposés of other animal dealers have revealed similar conditions. Animals will continue to languish and die in the cruel pet trade until consumers stop patronizing stores that stock live animals.
By Dan Paden