People who recently purchased mice, hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs from a pet store might have gotten more than they bargained for—such as vomiting, chest pain, testicular pain, meningitis, paralysis, fluid on the brain, or even children born with birth defects.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating an outbreak of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) infections in mice shipped to pet stores throughout the country earlier this year. Mice with LCMV can infect other rodents and even people who come into contact with them.
And guess which company shipped out some of the infected mice?
None other than Sun Pet, Ltd.—the PETCO and PetSmart supplier whose Georgia warehouse PETA investigated in 2009 and 2010. Our undercover investigator documented filthy, severely crowded conditions; unsalable animals killed in a crude, filthy makeshift gas box; and sick animals deprived of veterinary care. One worker put live hamsters into a bag and then bashed the bag against a table in an attempt to kill them.
The Georgia Department of Agriculture put the facility on probation following PETA’s investigation.
Infected rodents shed LCMV in their urine and saliva, and it also becomes airborne in filthy, cramped conditions such as those that PETA documented at Sun Pet’s warehouse. For animals, it can cause weeks or even months of lethargy, loss of appetite, weight loss, inflammation, and eventually death.
The CDC is encouraging people who experience symptoms of LCMV to see a doctor. The agency isn’t being overly cautious: In 2005, three people died after receiving allegedly infected organs from a donor who had purchased a hamster with LCMV from PetSmart. One of the victims’ widows sued PetSmart for negligence. We all knew animals paid the price for the cruelty and filth that are rampant in the pet trade. Now we see again that consumers might be paying it, too.
This is just one more reason to avoid sleazy animal dealers by never buying mice, hamsters, rabbits, fish, birds, or any animal from a pet store or breeder and by steering others who are considering getting an animal toward animal shelters.