The following article was written
by Alicia Woempner.
vegetarian college student who loved animals, I was thrilled to be offered a
summer job at PETCO. I was excited to spend my days talking to animal guardians
and meeting their furry companions who often accompanied them to the store and
to care for the birds, reptiles, fish, guinea pigs, and other small animals
there. However, I quickly realized that this store that had seemed like heaven
to me was actually hell for the animals who lived there.
shock came when I noticed a large open wound on the face of a small white
mouse. Immediately informing my supervisor, I was told not to worry about it because
the animal was "just a feeder mouse." PETCO, you see, stocks live
mice and rats to be sold as food for "pet" snakes. Mice and rats who
are thrown into a cage with a snake may spend hours or even days shaking in terror before the
snake finally gets hungry enough to eat them (which may or may not happen), and
they can even attack and harm the snake in an attempt to defend themselves. I'll
never forget how horrified I was every time a customer came into the store
wanting to buy a "feeder mouse" or rat, knowing that I was
responsible for condemning to terror and a horrifying death whichever mouse or
rat I was able to catch and wrestle into a cardboard box. I began to notice ill
or injured "feeder mice" on a daily basis, and having lived with a
companion mouse, I was heartbroken seeing how much suffering these intelligent,
affectionate animals were enduring at a store that claims that "animals
always come first."
sells live "feeder fish" for turtles and reptiles people keep as
captive "pets." These small goldfish are kept by the hundreds in
huge, severely crowded tanks with no enrichment. The death toll was so high at
the store I worked at that part of the closing procedure every day was to take
out the dead "feeder fish" who had been sucked into a filter, wrap
them in a plastic bag, and place them in the "dead" freezer, along with
dead rats, mice, hamsters, birds, and other casualties. There were so many fish
in the filter every day that it was impossible to separate those who were still
alive and breathing but too weak to swim out of the filter, so they were thrown
in the freezer with the dead ones. (I don't know whether they suffocated or
froze to death first.) Of course, we also took a daily "dead count"
of all the aquarium fish as well since they, along with the other animals in
the store, are seen by the company as disposable commodities.
the most gruesome incidents that I witnessed was the result of the intensive
confinement to which the animals in the store are subjected. Birds, who in
nature would fly, migrate, nest, and raise their own families, are kept in
crowded cages and denied the opportunity to engage in their natural behavior,
which can cause them to go crazy. One night after closing, I heard a cacophony
of squawking from the parakeet cage. Running over, a fellow employee and I
found that one parakeet had become the victim of frenzied pecking from
other birds had pecked all the flesh off the top of the animal's head, leaving the
skull completely exposed. I begged to be allowed to take the bird to a 24-hour
veterinarian to be mercifully euthanized, and eventually I was allowed to do so
but only after precious minutes had been wasted on the phone requesting
permission to spend the extra money on an emergency vet. By the time I got to
the doctor, the parakeet had died. I'll never forget that bird.
store's "merchandise" can also be "damaged" by careless
employees. One individual I will always remember was a tiny baby chameleon
whose back was broken when a worker accidentally slammed the animal's cage door
shut. The chameleon died the next day without the
dignity of euthanasia.
are only a handful of the incidents that I witnessed as a PETCO employee, but
undercover investigators have also revealed horrific animal abuse at the
breeding facilities that supply PETCO and PetSmart, among others. I urge you to
learn more about the horrific
pet-trade industry. As
you can imagine, I didn't last very long in that job, but I will always regret
having been in that small way a party to such a cruel industry. I hope you will
join me in boycotting retailers like PETCO and PetSmart that still
sell animals and that you will make a commitment always to adopt and never buy companion animals.
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.