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PETCO Profiting Off Animals Seized From USGE? Over Our Dead Bodies

Written by PETA | February 11, 2010

Remember PETA’s 2007 undercover investigation of Rainbow World Exotics (RWE), a hellhole in Hamilton, Texas, that supplies PETCO and PetSmart stores with little hamsters, gerbils, and other critters? Before going public with that investigation, we sat down with three PETCO corporate representatives (one of whom was a vet) and showed them heartbreaking footage of a worker who was castrating rabbits and bleaching their wounds, a manager who was stomping hamsters to death, live animals who were being tossed in the trash, a cockatoo who was starving and dying, and more. We were sure that PETCO would want nothing to do with RWE after seeing the footage of all this misery. Boy, were we wrong. PETCO (as well as PetSmart) stood by RWE, refused to sever ties, and insisted that things there were not so bad. We are quite sure that the animals would disagree. Up until now, we thought that we knew how low this massive pet-store giant was capable of stooping.

It turns out that we were wrong.

On Tuesday, PETCO put out a news release saying that it had “stepped up” and was “calling all small animal lovers” to “adopt” “more than 2,000 recently rescued animals” who are being held in the company’s Dallas-area stores—animals who were among the 26,000 critters who were confiscated from yet another hellhole supplier, U.S. Global Exotics (USGE), after a PETA investigation uncovered horrific conditions there. USGE was a supplier to RWE. Many of the animals seized from USGE were ultimately bound for PETCO stores.

In the news release, a PETCO rep actually proclaimed, “We were appalled by the tragedy at U.S. Global Exotics ….” That’s rich! But not as rich as PETCO—the company made more than $2.5 billion in 2008 by selling animals from massive mills like RWE and USGE. And according the release, it looks like the company was poised to make a pretty profit off this “adoption” deal. All the money to be made from the adoptions and the application fees for the animals was set to go to the PETCO Foundation, while all of the money from the pet supplies a new parent needs to properly care for an animal would have lined the pockets of PETCO’s CEOs. The money would not have gone to the thousands of animals from USGE who need homes. No, that responsibility falls on the shoulders of PETA and other nonprofit organizations that have been working around the clock to get these animals out of harm’s way and to provide them with the basic necessities of which they have been deprived.


Veterinarians and humane agents found thousands of distressed animals confined at USGE, including hamsters and chinchillas who were packed into crowded crates without food or water. Such shipments arrived weekly, usually from the Netherlands, containing animals who would eventually end up for sale at pet stores such as PETCO and PetSmart.


This chinchilla was confined with no room to move in one of the dozens of shipping crates found on the day of the seizure at USGE. Part of a massive weekly shipment of mammals from the Netherlands, these animals had been trapped in shipping containers for at least two days without food or water.


Housing containers at USGE were not much different from shipping crates. USGE crammed dozens of hamsters into one litter pan, leaving them to fight and compete for space and other basic needs such as food and water—of which the animals were routinely deprived.


PETA’s investigator took this photo in USGE’s mammal room just five days before the surviving animals were finally rescued. Cannibalism, dehydration, starvation, and death were daily occurrences at USGE—an unavoidable consequence of the pet trade that is perpetuated by companies such as PETCO and PetSmart.


After PETA made a few phone calls, we were able to get the animals—including anoles, geckos, toads, snakes, iguanas, hermit crabs, long-tailed grass lizards, mice, hamsters, and frogs—removed from PETCO’s clutches. We were promised that they would be placed with reputable groups. PETCO told local media that it was “extremely disappointed” after this absurd plan was halted (we bet!).

These animals are now safe, but PETCO’s exploitation of animals will continue as long as the corporate giant continues to buy and sell animals. So what can you do? Tell everyone you know to chime in and demand that PETCO cease all live animal sales immediately!

Written by Daphna Nachminovitch, Vice President of Cruelty Investigations

Commenting is closed.
  • melanie waggett says:

    What kind of society are we. I am so sick and tired of animals being exploited for man’s greed. Does anyone of you people at Petco have a soul!

  • Kenny96 says:

    This is crazy.I was going to buy animals from petsmart and petco, unfortunately, my brother didnt have his i.d. w/ him so we couldnt but it. I will tell my family about this. Peta, we need to stop this!!!

  • PETA says:

    StopTheCruelty, you’re never to young (or old) to help animals! Get in touch with PETA’s Action Team for more info.

  • StopTheCruelty says:

    I want to help , how old do you have to be to help stop thiss stuff ?

  • Karina says:

    This type of animal cruelty needs to stop. All this corporate companies buying animals from companies like this that torture their animal’s and sick minded employees. I would like to tell that women who mash those hamsters against the counter “B i would like to do the same to you!”And to the other man who quizzes the animals until there gouts come out and gets angry because they dont die! One comment to those entire employeess! ” I am angry that you are still out in the streets walking! I wish all of those employee’s where in jailprison getting the same treatment they gave to those innocent animals ! who have NO VOICE to scream out for HELP! Guess what you sick minded employees torturing those animals! people like me will speak out for those animals! To the people who will approvedeny of this comment being posted. email me back if u deny it? Because all i expressed was the thing that those innocent creatorsanimals could not scream out for help.

  • frances says:

    i cried when i saw this

  • CHRISTIANA says:

    It is hard not to be shocked angered and astonished i will do my part and will start a peta aware group to protest and speak up for my area and hope to have us all keep spreading it has to run through congress!!!Are we not civilized? No don’t turn ur back it is here and all over the world do something nowget involved.They need your voice coz they have none!

  • Renee says:

    Oh my GodI almost got a job at Petco last year.Do you know if Long Island Game Farm is ok?I always wanted to work there and I need your opinion

  • Jamie says:

    It’s horrible what these poor little animals go through. I love little animals especially hamsters. I would like to know which chains are actually reputable? Which ones are safe to go to? We recently bought 3 hamsters from a different place I had never been to before but is a chain called PETLAND. How about that one? I unknowingly ended up with one being 3 legged! They are sweet though. And are all hamsters sold from PETCO and PETSMART from out of the country?

  • khaltz says:

    That is very sad. To think I shop to by fish from there not to mention crickets for my Crested Gecko Yoda. I guess PetCo and PetSmart are out now. I am glad I bought Yoda from Pets On Broadway a local Portland Store. And continue to make my little guy his food with fruits and supplements.

  • Blaire says:

    I felt sick seeing those animals locked in tiny cages and especially after seeing the last picture. Thanks to PETA fewer animals will suffer like that.

  • daniel says:

    I don’t know that!

  • christine deckard says:

    thank u peta i wouldnt have known and im nevr shoppin there agian

  • Debra Dephillips says:

    Will it ever end? another place I will not go… for fur or $ fur wins for me.