Man Tortures, Kills Hamsters He Says He Bought at PetSmart

Published by Katherine Sullivan.

Leighton Allen Labute, a 20-year-old British Columbia man, has been arrested and charged with six counts of cruelty to animals after posting online videos of himself repeatedly stabbing, drowning, and otherwise killing hamsters he says he purchased at a PetSmart store. But we’re not pardoning PetSmart’s role in the ordeal. To spare other sensitive beings similar torment, the company must end its sales of live animals.

petsmart hamster

Leighton Allen Labute, the alleged perpetrator, sits with a hamster in his lap—a cardboard PetSmart carrier is visible in the background.

Labute allegedly published disturbing images of his actions. In one online post, he explains that he “recently purchased … hamsters from PetSmart,” and a PetSmart box can be seen in the video in which he handles the animals, as in the screenshot above. After PETA’s Emergency Response Team received complaints about the disturbing footage, we provided law-enforcement authorities with extensive forensic research.

PetSmart sold vulnerable hamsters to someone who tortured and killed them, and that’s really no surprise, because the chain sells animals to anyone who can pay.

We’re calling on PetSmart to try to prevent acts of cruelty like this from ever happening again—and the only foolproof way for it to do that is to stop selling animals. Today, we fired off a letter to PetSmart CEO J.K. Symancyk, requesting his immediate attention and action. Given that PetSmart claims to “love pets” and that Symancyk wants to “be the trusted partner to pets and pet parents,” let’s hope the company will take immediate, concrete action to ensure that such a horrific incident will never recur if it can help it.

Hamsters, including those sold at big-box pet stores, are notstarter pets.”

Hamsters may be small, but caring for them is a big commitment. Even if you have the best of intentions, giving a hamster everything he or she needs to thrive is complicated. For example, did you know that in their natural habitats, hamsters love to run? But people often buy cages that are too small, which can cause hamsters pain—they sometimes even develop spinal problems and arthritis. Hamsters are smart, and some will refuse to use a too-small wheel—but inactivity can be equally detrimental to their health. Pet stores like PetSmart don’t tell shoppers any of this, though—they encourage people to view these sensitive animals as trinkets. So please, if you’re considering adopting a hamster, read this first.

How to Help Hamsters and Other Animals 

If you already have a hamster, our tips for hamster care will help you be the best guardian possible. If you’re thinking about adding an animal companion to your family, please, never buy one from a store. And until PetSmart decides to sell only animal supplies, support retailers that haven’t aligned themselves with animal exploitation. Stay home and shop online for your furry friend:

After you’ve finished shopping, let PetSmart know that it won’t get your business until it stops selling animals:

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“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

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind