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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.
  • Susan Burandt says:

    I had NO idea and will stop shopping there and call them and tell them what I thinkI’ve been writing editorial letters too. Thanks for shutting down hell.

  • Judy Smart says:

    If it is not illegal and I shall find out I will use all my resources to show my local Pet Smart what exactly is going on!

  • Adawg says:

    This is why I got my Guinea Pigs from a person not an evil company!

  • Jim says:

    This is disgusting Petco you won’t be seeing me in any of your stores anymore. Thank God these poor animals have PETA looking out for them. Great work people.

  • charlotte smith says:

    I belive animals have every right to have just the basic needs. A lot of animals don’t get to have a family to grow up with a decent amount of living space and discusting condistions. Some people in this world don’t deserve what they have.

  • Erica says:

    I used to work at PetSmart but I quit because I did not like the way the animals were treated. I even had to buy a cockatiel because he was being bullied by his cagemates and the managers refused to take action His name is now Luciano and he lives with me. Needless to say he is treated much better at my house than at PetSmart!

  • Lori says:

    I respect your work so much! Everytime I come here I feel helpless and griefstricken. As a teacher I am teaching animal empathy and awareness about the campaigns your organization works after. The Ringling Bros. Circus is coming close to our town and we are doing all we can to inform families of the terrible cruelty that exists with this traveling nightmare.

  • Linda says:

    Thank you Peta for as usual caring for the thousands of animals that need us. I have a eccletic Zoo of “rejects” because I cannot stacnd to see animals suffer or be neglected. I wish I could do more!!

  • Beckie says:

    Looking for pet food? In Massachusetts the MSPCA sells high quality food and supplies at its shelters often at a lower price than stores! In some cases the manufacturers have donated it or sold it to the MSPCA at low cost. Check animal welfare organizations in your parts of the country to see if they offer anything similar.

  • kari welch says:

    well I think they should change there names to abusemart!!!! abuseco!!!!

  • Garret Thompson says:

    P.E.T.A you guys are soo amazing and i work in the pet industry.. lucky the pet store i work at doesnt carry animals and if my store ever did this i would do my best to shut them down. i have told everyone i know and more bout this and couple of animals rights group here in canada im apart of! and no matter what people say about you guys i just tell them “atleast they get the job done!!” and im thankful for that! keep up the work and love you guys!!

  • sherry caillet says:

    this is awful i will never shop petco again

  • Sussannah says:

    Yippeee another victory thanks to Peta those animals will fare better than in the clutches of a greedy discompasssionate corporation.

  • Ashley says:

    How disgusting! I will never purchase products from either one of those stores anymore! Poor animals3

  • kathy says:

    The minute you buy an animal from a pet store you become the reason it is there as it is replace with another one.You may think you are saving that animal but you actually become part of the problem because thousands of more animal will suffer to keep replacing the one you just bought.

  • John J says:

    My poor Boa died. Hope it wasn’t from a PETCO rat I fed it. I should sue. I guess I should use the sanke skin though.

  • Leanne Standley says:

    I’d heard about Petco years ago and stopped going there. I thought they had changed. Guess not!! I do go to Petsmart. I’ll have to quit going now. Poor little helpless animals. It’s so unfair. Thank you Peta for your difficult and heartbreaking work.

  • Riley says:

    I don’t know what to do. Petsmart is too large of a company so maybe we should buy the animals to save them from the crulety not buying a hamster there isn’t gonna shut them down.

  • Chris says:

    Screw Petco. I live really close to them but I’d rather drive out and buy from a responsible pet store. As long as they conduct business with a company as EVIL as USGE they wont be getting my money. Boycott!

  • Genneva says:

    No fight will be lost if we don’t want it to. No animal life is less than a human life. This is going to stop whether they like it or not.

  • Yolanda Whitten says:

    PETCO.That could only stand for Pets Extremely Terrorized by Capitalist Offenders!!!!! IT HAS TO BEEEE STOPPED NOW PEOPLE!!!!!

  • doree grindell says:

    where do I buy pet food now?

  • Angela says:

    Dear Petco I have 2 dogs and 2 hamsters. I got them from rescues. I spoil them to make up for the bad that has happened in their lives. They have been through some of the cruel things that the animals at your supplier have been through. It’s not pretty. I have shopped at your store often. It disapoints me that I will no longer be able to. I don’t know how anyone in their right mind can after learning what these animals you sell go through. Please stop selling animals. Do not buy from breeders. There are so many homeless animals. If you don’t believe me check out Why don’t you try to help them get good homes instead of supporting the overpopulation of animals. Sincerely Angela

  • John J says:

    I house a small boa and must feed her rats once a week. Can you recommend a vendor that can supply rodents be it rats or small rabbits? Ive been buying from PETCO until now.

  • Marnie says:

    Bigger stores like Petco just don’t care… but maybe it’s the same with every chain! The smaller shops are more confidential I love to buy there. The best is good old family business and the big ones are big enough and only about profit …

  • [email protected] says:

    I will never got to any pet store again. I did go to Pet smart but not anymore. Thank you PETA for saving these animals. Now if we could only outlaw Debby’s Petland and all pet stores….why is this fight so hard.

  • Sandra D says:

    Does the abuse ever go away? It just seems to get worse. I believe our world is in for major annihilation. I think the rage against God’s creature will be so great few will survive. Disgusting!

  • Johanna says:

    I live within walking distance to a PETCO and take my dog up there weekly to get rat food and a few other items… I’m now wondering if I should spend ANY of my money there. I’d be willing to drive a little further to purchase the same items from a local family owned supply store…but Geeze…this really just makes me sick to my stomach. And angry. Enough already!!!

  • Sarah says:

    Reading this makes me realize I have to make more of an effort to shop the few small pet stores in my areathey do not sell live animals. If we don’t then these small business will not survive and we will be at the mercy of these large unfeeling corporations. Thanks PETA for always promoting awareness! The decision of who to support lies in our hands!

  • Sally Warie says:

    It comes down to the most simple conclusion. It’s all about money. Too bad but true. It’s reality. Kudos to PETA for trying to save the little souls. You know a lot of individuals think that these animals are just an item and can’t go beyond that. I have never liked the way animals are kept in Petco.

  • kathy says:

    this is horrible…how do these people sleep at night? I’m telling everyone not to go to petco or petsmart! thank God for PETA

  • Patrick Hamilton says:

    PETA I want to thankyou for making me and many others aware of such disgraceful conditions in these animal mills. I shall continue my boycott of Petsmart and Petco and I am encouraging my friends and family to do the same.

  • Samantha C. says:

    Welcome to corporate america..get used to it because this is how every corporation acts..not just Petco.

  • michelle butler says:

    Thank god you managed to get those animals can’t believe the conditions they were made to live in.its disgracefulwell done peta

  • Tina James says:

    This is truly appalling!It is beyond disturbing to see such brutality… Thank goodness for PETA!

  • Patricia edwards says:

    Ive never heard of any of these shops. Where are they? Its disgusting that people that work with animals can allow them to suffer.

  • Shelly says:

    As consumers we can demand PETACO and Petsmart stop selling animals by not patronizing these corrupt chains! Speaking up with our wallets is the only way greedy corporations will listen. Thank you PETA for everything you do!

  • John says:

    This looks actionable. Petco lied to consumers and falsely claimed they didn’t know about this animal torture. But clearly they did! This is consumer deception.

  • margo says:

    I’m so glad PETA stopped PETCO from getting the animals. I can’t believe these outfits treat animals like this. They don’t love animals. They must hate them.

  • Cindy Rock says:

    We need to change our laws to guarantee a major hit to the bank accounts of animal abusers and a long period behind bars 510 years. I don’t accept that we must sit by idly and watch animals dying slowly so that a judge will deem it serious enough to act. Local authorities need to be given laws with serious enough charges to force them to act and save these precious lives. Internationally countries must know that we regard any abuse or marketing of wildlife as a major crime worthy of sanctions and international court sanctions.

  • Mary Stitch says:

    Sadly…I was in a Petco today just to buy eco friendly odor eliminator. I did not know that they bought exotic animals from these horrific companie’s until tonight when I received an email from Peta. I then started reading about the suffering these poor animals endured in the name of business. I walked around the store because I had never been in Petco before. I did see lizards and medium sized turtles. I now wonder what hell those poor creatures went through. Peta you have my promise NEVER to shop at Petco again! I will also pass the word on to my friends and family not to shop at Petco or any pet stores for that matter! emgee

  • Andre Inglis says:

    It’s about time PETCO pay PETA’s cost to properly house these animals.

  • Cynthia Weber says:

    I had no idea that Petco was this horrible! I had been doing some of my cat food shopping there but not anymore! Heartbreaking how this cruelty continues. I will never understand how people can be cruel to innocent animals. Makes me ashamed to be a human being.

  • susan says:

    I didn’t know this about Petco.I shop there for my rats gerbil and hamsters. But after hearing this I will go elsewhere. When I get my next email from them I will say thanks but no thanks.I did get my little girls from Petsmart.My feeling is that if they don’t get bought they will face a bad life. They are extremely spoiled at my house. What is the right thing to do?

  • Carol Vella says:

    Bravo Zulu PETA. It breaks my heart these companies can operate. One by one lets close them all down

  • Samantha says:

    Not one day goes by when I don’t give thanks for PETA and all that you guys do to help those without a voice. Bless you..bless you all.

  • GW says:

    PETCO A SICKNESS. One that turns ordinary humans into cruel greedy and depraved blood suckers. Blood suckers so arrogant so out of touch and so delusional they are unable to smell their own stench the stench of complicity and hypocrisy. PETCO ANIMAL SUFFERING AND DEATH.

  • trey says:

    Thank you PETA! I couldn’t imagine PETCO or any other scummy petstore chain profiting off these animals when OUR donation dollars are going in to keep them alive.

  • Chris says:

    Thank goodness. I refuse to shop at Petco I’d rather pay a few dollars more to a RESPONSIBLE company.

  • Rad_Rosa89 says:

    That is horrible I’m so glad you got all those animals out of their clutches!! Great work PETA!