On May 31, 2015, an innocent Golden Retriever’s life was cruelly taken from him as a result of employee negligence at a Petco in Midlothian, Virginia. The tragic incident went viral on the Internet, outraging animal lovers of all kinds. Though, this is not the first time a friendly family pet has experienced horrendous suffering and a gruesome ending from the retail pet store. Many other instances of animals being tortured at the hands of Petco have happened that did not grasp widespread attention. It seems that with many more incidents like this, Petco has become a serial animal abuser.
The latest incident of an animal suffering and being abused is when a dog was baked to death in a grooming drying cage. Allison Marks, the most recent pet owner to be a victim of Petco negligence, took her two-year-old golden retriever “Colby Jack” to the Petco just south of Richmond in the Westchester Commons shopping center to have him groomed, in what some would say is a spa-like experience for their pet. However, the doggie day spa turned into a house of horrors in just under one hour. Marks had left Colby at Petco for an 8:00 a.m. appointment. She was confused and a bit worrisome after she had not gotten a call back for hours. After a short time, she was informed by a Petco employee that her dog was rushed to a local animal hospital after a tragic incident occurred at the store.
Marks was told that her beloved Colby died unattended in a closed drying cage. The dog was said to be left in the cage at 105 degrees Fahrenheit for over 45 minutes. Colby’s family was informed that their canine companion was left unattended for that duration of time due to an impatient employee, who put a party above the life of an animal. As can be expected, an investigation has now been launched by the Chesterfield County Animal Control. The cause of death was confirmed to be a heat stroke. The vet stated even though Colby had been dead for over an hour, his body temperature was still at over 100 degrees.
The employee, who has yet to be named, clocked out of her shift to attended a friend’s graduation party. The fact that anyone would leave a innocent dog inside a locked cage baking and withering away is undeniably preposterous. When dog owners leave their furry companions in a car on a hot day without any type of air circulation, they can easily die from heat stroke. When a dog dies in the hands of their negligent owner, they are charged with animal cruelty, and, in many cases, can face jail time. Considering that when someone puts their dog in fatal conditions and is prosecuted, the same should happen to the careless Petco employee. Leaving a dog inside of a heated cage without a way to escape is the same as leaving them in a locked car on a hot summer day. Therefore, the same consequences should be faced by the negligent employee or the business as a whole.
Petco released a second statement on Monday, following the horrible death of Colby. “We have strict protocols in place to ensure the well-being of pets in our grooming salons…The groomers involved have been suspended while we complete a thorough investigation, and we are in contact with the pet’s parents and coordinating with local Animal Services…It’s important to know we do not use heated dryers in any Petco grooming salons, and we can confirm there was no heat used in the drying process during Colby’s groom.”
It is quite interesting that Colby’s death by heat stroke was caused in a drying cage that used no heat. Although the temperature was over 105 degrees, it seems that Petco executives do not understand the concept of heat. Could this possibly be a blatant lie or a cover-up?
Petco has a long rap sheet of condoning animal cruelty and suffering and attempting to get away with it. There have been incidents reported all across the U.S. in recent years. In one instance, two dogs were mutilated while being groomed at a store in Hawaii. Even though this situation seems like it could not get any worse, there was an attempted cover-up.
In July 2011, Gladys Kapuwai took her Pomeranian-Maltese mix to the Kaneohe Petco for a “routine” cleaning and grooming. However, when “Dodo” was picked up at the store, she noticed that her dog was missing a piece of her ear. “[She] was dried, bloody, was dry blood, everything…the doctor had told me it looked like they tried to glue it back.”
At the same store, another dog was maimed while going through another “routine” Petco grooming. Estelle Green, the owner of the dog, stated her dog was, “filthy and the tip of the dog’s tail was cut off…they offered another free grooming…I guess they wanted to take off other body parts.” Both dog owners filed a lawsuit against Petco for negligence.
When Petco employees are this careless around live animals, it creates even more problems. The two mutilated dogs could have contracted diseases, causing sepsis, organ failure, and, eventually, death. Furthermore, it would be foolhardy to think an incident like that would not have a definitive effect on a dog’s psyche. When these horrendous acts occur, it can not only disturb the dog’s body, but it could also ruin their life, mentally.
In March 2015, Hanna Pellissier was running an errand at her local Atlanta Petco, once again expecting a “routine” visit, when the animal lover was shocked to her core when she looked through the window and saw a dog literally being tortured. She took out her smartphone and began to film the saddening and painful scene unfolding inside another Petco grooming room. An employee was trying to cut the dog’s nails when the animal was seen to be panicking from intense pain. The video shows the employee hitting the table to scare the dog into submission, and violently pulling on his paw.
Pellissier could not stand idly-by anymore, witnessing the sheer anguish the innocent dog was going through. She rushed into the store, cutting in front of people in line, frantically telling the manager, “He’s going to pull the leg off that dog if you don’t stop him.” Though, the manager nonchalantly and unapologetically told her that he would talk to the employee. It seems that Petco is not so pet-friendly after all.
An inside story revealed more information and terrible tales about the abuse and cruelty Petco forces people’s pets to suffer, from a young woman and animal lover who worked at a Petco for a summer during college. She said she had many “routine” visits to the pet store over the years; though, what happens beyond the stocked shelves and cash registers is something truly horrifying in a place that claims, “animals always come first.”
After working at the store for only a few weeks, the woman found that she was disgusted by the appalling ways Petco treats their mice and fish. Petco sells live “feeder fish” and “feeder mice” for their carnivorous family companions. However, they way in which they are treated before being purchased is frightening.
Goldfish are kept in small tanks with hundreds of sickly swimmers that die very fast from being in such grotesque conditions. Many times the live fish are unrecognizable from the dead from a lack of movement due to starvation and failing health. At the end of each day, employees take out the dead feeder fish, which have been sucked into the tank’s filter. Along with many unfortunate live ones, the fish are wrapped in a plastic bags and put in the “dead” freezer. Although they say they put the dead fish into the freezer, it is the case that live fish are often thrown in the freezer, forced to experience a prolonged, painful death. Moreover, these “death freezers” are the frigid graves for a cacophony of birds, hamsters, mice, and other pet store casualties.
In one of the most gruesome incidents of animal abuse, the young woman stated Petco’s policy on confining the animals is absolutely inhumane, especially with birds. When birds are kept in close quarters, they become nervous and begin to panic and fight with others in the cage. The woman said one night after the store closed, she noticed a loud squawking noise from one of the bird cages. When she went to check, she saw a parakeet had been yet another victim of Petco’s suffering policies, having being pecked nearly to death by a frenzy of fellow captives. The parakeet prisoner had all of the flesh on top of its head torn off, completely exposing the bare skull. She mercifully begged her manager to allow her to take the mortally wounded bird to the vet, but had her mission put on hold as she was forced to call Petco headquarters to ask for permission to spend extra funds on the emergency care of one of its own dying animals. By the time the bird was rushed to the animal hospital it was dead. “I’ll never forget that bird,” she said.
The retail pet store does not only have a history of condoning animal cruelty and suffering under its roof, its supplier commits even worse acts of violence and negligence towards friendly, innocent animals. Sun Pet Ltd. makes the pet trade a living hell for animals. In an undercover investigation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), more disturbing sights were unearthed from the house of horrors behind the scenes of a company that says they humanely treat future family pets. When animals are deemed not worthy for sale to the public, due to disease and malnutrition, they are beaten, frozen to death, or left to die from untreated illnesses and injuries.
For the company’s smaller animals like mice and hamsters, when they cannot be sold, they are put into gas chambers to suffocate until they die. Carbon dioxide is pumped into a dirty fish tank full of the doomed animals, killing them in a very slow, very painful way. However, some animals are not lucky enough to perish from the gas. When the gas chamber does not work, the small rodents are taken out of the chamber, put into a plastic bags, and slammed down on a table to crush their tiny bodies into a pulp. Typically, there are nearly a dozen in a bag at one time. In many cases, mice that are not killed by the gas chamber or the crushing are left in the bag, panting voraciously, only minutes from a suffocation death.
It is understandable that Petco may have to euthanize an animal from time to time if one is terminally ill and shows signs of severe pain. Though, Petco’s direct supplier kills far too many animals for how many it sells. One would think that putting more of an effort into medication and better treatment of animals in the store, rather than sheer quantity, it would make for a better outcome for pets and people. However, the retail pet store believes that it should run the animal equivalent of a Nazi concentration camp at a store that claims its first worry is the health and safety of animals.
There are also many horrors with Sun Pet’s packing and shipping practices. Before shipping, mice are thrown into boxes without regards to their health or safety. Many mice suffer from broken bones while being packed for shipping. When being transported across the country, they are not given food or water for the long journey. When many small animals arrive at Petco stores, they are malnourished and severely dehydrated. This leads to an even greater number of innocent animal casualties that could have been prevented.
Sun Pet also has an unspeakable gender determination “method.” To determine if a mouse is male or female, an employee squeezes the body of the mouse hard enough to see if testicles come out of the mouse’s body. Doing this has terrible consequences on the animals internal organs, leading to greater susceptibility of internal injuries and death. Employees at Sun Pet claim the mice are not hurt by this process. However, this is most likely another boldface lie, which is business as usual for the company.
Extreme crowding is also another fundamental business strategy of the retail pet supplier. Many rodents are picked from the fry of mice after they have been left rotting for days. Nearly all of the mice in the cages are filthy and many are very sick. Their habitat in the stores looks more like a death camp than a place that would be the purveyor of animal happiness. In light of this, a lawsuit was brought upon Sun Pet for its dreadful care of hamsters. The company was ordered to pay a $3,000 fine to the Georgia Department of Agriculture after an incident involving the starvation death of hundreds of hamsters. However, no further charges were filed.
Sun Pet purchases animals from U.S. Global Exotics, which are then shipped to Petco stores. A few years ago, allegations rose that claimed employees at U.S. Global Exotics were abusing animals, which were sent directly to Petco. Petco released a statement to a concerned customer complained to the company after multiple abuse claims. They stated the pet store does not use that supplier as a direct vendor for its inventory of animals. However, a supervisor from Sun Pet told a PETA investigator that, actually, the opposite is true. Hamsters brought from U.S. Global Exotics are, in fact, sold in Petco stores, the investigator was told. It seems that not only does Petco have a history of condoning animal cruelty and suffering, but also lying.
If Petco has lied about the validity of its relationship with its supplier and their brutal treatment of animals and the fact that they fail to tell the truth to the public about the cage in which a dog was fried to death, what else could they be hiding? Between the cover-ups, lies, beatings, maimings, mutilations, deaths, and distressing care of innocent animals lies the truth about one of America’s largest chain pet stores and the hellish ways their animals are treated. It is apparent that animals do not deserve justice while in the hands of Petco, Sun Pet, or U.S. Global Exotics. The name of the game is torture for some employees of Petco and its suppliers. Presumably, a pet store would never hire someone who is aggressive towards animals, and would at least fire an employee for committing such heinous acts. However, it seems that Petco is just elongating their prevalent history of animal cruelty and suffering.
In light of the most recent event with Petco animal abuse, millions have taken to social media to express their outrage with the retail pet store. Many are calling upon fellow animal lovers to stay away from the store and personally groom their pets, as to insure their safety. Petco and its vendors have escaped punishment for their inhumane actions towards animals for years. Animal rights groups and those who vehemently oppose animal abuse have urged people not to take their precious pets to Petco, for it is possible they may come back with less than what they came in with. It is quite possible that the insolent company could begin to suffer the consequences of their actions, just as Colby and many other animals did.
Opinion by Alex Lemieux
Huffington Post: Petco Sued For Allegedly Cutting Dog’s Ear Off And Gluing It Back On (VIDEO)
NBC 12: New statement from Petco on dog’s grooming salon death
Washington Post: Ugly video captures Petco groomer abusing a dog in store
PETA: From PETCO to PETA: A Former PETCO Employee Speaks Out
Guardian Liberty Voice: Dog Baked to Death in Petco Grooming Drying Cage [Update]
Guardian Liberty Voice: Petco Not So Pet Friendly?
The Animal Rescue Site: Tell Sun Pet Ltd.: No More Hamster Killing!
Photo Courtesy of Mike Mozart’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Photo Courtesy of Jeff Giles’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
By: Alex Lemieux