… With a $3,000 suspended fine and two years of probation from the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA)! It’s the least that Sun Pet deserves, considering that PETA’s undercover investigator took video footage of one of the animal dealer’s employees—who has since been fired—placing hamsters in a bag and bashing it against a table in an attempt to kill them. The investigator also documented that other animals were being abusively handled and warehoused in conditions that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.
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None of this appears to matter to PetSmart or PETCO, whose stores continue to sell animals supplied by Sun Pet despite findings by not only the GDA but also the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The GDA’s April 22 inspection found rodents running loose, dead animals (including eight guinea pigs) in enclosures with live ones, food thrown into cages and on top of bedding, and rusty cages with sharp, dangerous edges, which Sun Pet was ordered to replace immediately (but didn’t). According to the consent order, inspectors also found live rats climbing out of a trash can.
Eighteen days after the GDA inspection, the USDA—prompted by a PETA complaint—inspected Sun Pet and found the same jagged, rusty surfaces on the facility’s chinchilla cages as well as severe crowding, inadequate lighting, accumulations of trash and rodent droppings, and deteriorated animal carcasses. The USDA also noted that in a repeat violation of federal law (which Sun Pet had been warned about in February 2009), the company had been buying animals from unlicensed vendors and selling them to pet stores such as PETCO and PetSmart.
PetSmart’s execs apparently need a reading lesson, because in PetSmart’s official response—sent to PETA before the GDA’s investigation was officially closed—they claim that “the Georgia Department of Agriculture … conducted two thorough investigations since [PETA] issued [its] allegations. The first investigation resulted in one citation for a rusty chinchilla cage which was immediately replaced. The second investigation resulted in no violations.” (“Immediately replaced”? Really? Then why did the USDA find the same dangerous cages almost three weeks later?) PETCO has not officially responded to PETA, but as of this week, it is still doing business with Sun Pet, according to its vice president of animal care and education, Marcie Whichard.
More on this soon. In the meantime, we can take “disciplinary action” against Sun Pet and other 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 away from pet stores and toward animal shelters.
Written by Lindsay Pollard-Post