How Animals Suffer When Petco Sells Them

Dead fish on store shelves, feces piling up in cages, sick animals suffering inside severely crowded containers, reptiles deprived of proper heat, dead animals being cannibalized in small tubs, and animals gassed, frozen alive, and left for dead—that’s just the misery that PETA undercover investigators, whistleblowers, and government officials were able to note. Imagine the pain and suffering that goes undiscovered at Petco stores and in its suppliers’ mills.

Petco treats the sentient beings it sells as disposable merchandise, but the buck can stop with us, the consumers. For all these 👇 animals’ sakes, please don’t buy into the pain that Petco peddles.

How Much Does a Bird at Petco Cost?

Ultimately, the cost of buying a bird at Petco may be that animal’s very life. We’ve been pushing Petco to end live-animal sales since the early 2000s, when we first owned stock in the company, which saw it end the sale of large birds in its stores and recommend and promote flight cages for all birds. But the big-box pet store hasn’t actually listened to the countless people who have begged it to stop exploiting all animals, including small birds, like these finches whom a PETA investigator observed while undercover at Sun Pet Ltd., an Atlanta-based wholesale animal dealer that supplies animals to numerous Petco stores:

petco animals birds
Feather loss—as seen in these finches—frequently occurs when birds peck at one another, a sign of stress, which is often the result of severe crowding and continuous confinement.

Video footage and photos captured by PETA’s investigator revealed how thousands of birds and other small animals at Sun Pet Ltd.’s enormous warehouses experienced widespread suffering, including incidents in which a worker violently killed hamsters and a supervisor abusively handled hundreds of other animals.

Or consider this white-capped pionus, a species of parrot. A concerned good Samaritan noticed that the bird—whose price tag read 50% off $799—had apparently spent 14 months in a cage at his local Petco store, waiting to be purchased.

With PETA’s help, this good Samaritan adopted this white-capped pionus, whom he affectionately named Tegan, after she’d apparently spent more than a year in a cage at a Petco store.

During the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s (CDA) 2019 inspections, a “large amount of feces” was found in a parakeet cage at the Northglenn store. Several stores lacked essential documentation, including one that was without a certificate for conures (parrots) whom it had evidently held for more than a year.

And even when they’re not heinously abused, birds sold and kept as “pets” are denied the opportunity to satisfy one of their most natural instincts—to fly.

Does Petco Still Sell Fish?

Although PETA has repeatedly exposed cruelty to betta fish in Petco’s supply chain and at its stores, the company is still selling these animals in tiny containers, causing hundreds of thousands to suffer.

Petco stores’ own Yelp reviews are proof of just how miserable it is to be a betta fish on a store shelf: “They had multiple dead Betta Fish, with one of them having fungus growing on [them],” one reviewer in California commented. “I counted at least 10 dead bettas just molding in the jars,” Megan from Washington wrote after visiting another of the chain’s stores.

petco animals betta fish
“This betta fish was suffering from fin rot,” this Petco reviewer pointed out. But a store manager was apparently reluctant to help.

PETA’s investigations revealed how betta fish are individually confined to small bags that contain hardly enough water to keep their bodies fully submerged and that are stuffed into boxes for transport. Many fish die before and during shipment to Petco retailers, which can take days. At the stores, they’re placed in tiny plastic cups, which are sometimes stacked directly on top of one another—even though Petco acknowledges on its website that the fish breathe by swimming to the surface.

The way Petco displays and sells bettas and other fish perpetuates harmful myths about the care of these complex animals. Minuscule plastic cups are never suitable containers for fish, who require gallons of filtrated, temperature-regulated water as well as enrichment and mental stimulation—all of which are denied to them when they’re kept in cups barely larger than their bodies.

Snakes for Sale at Petco?

In their natural habitat, snakes warm themselves in the sun, cool off by burrowing underground, climb trees, and swim gracefully. Experts say it’s essential to snakes’ health and well-being to be able to stretch out to their full length, at a minimum. They also need exercise and room to move—one python who had been fitted with a tracking device traveled 22 miles in 75 days. They’re denied all this and more when they’re forced to live inside cramped glass tanks like those made by Zoo Med, which Petco sells and often keeps snakes in.

Rather than exploring lush jungles and swamps and experiencing all the sensory pleasures that they’re so keenly attuned to, snakes who are sold and kept as “pets” are relegated to small tanks where they’re unable to straighten their bodies, hide from perceived threats, regulate their temperatures, seek out a natural and balanced diet, or move more than a few inches in any direction.

And if you’re wondering where the pet trade gets the snakes it sells, look to the multiple PETA undercover investigations and exposés that have revealed what it’s like to be a snake or any other animal at a breeding mill, where they’re frequently neglected—often to the point of death.

Denied adequate food, this water snake—a victim of the pet trade—is dying. This animal retained their eye caps after shedding, which was apparently caused by a vitamin A deficiency.

At supplier mills, snakes are often kept in enclosures like this one …

While undercover at a top reptile and mammal pet-trade supplier, a PETA investigator observed snakes kept in plastic, shoebox-like containers.

… or like these:

At a top reptile and mammal pet-trade supplier, a PETA investigator noted how snakes were kept in what look to be takeout-food containers.

PETA’s investigations and exposés have led to the seizure of tens of thousands of snakes and other animals from hellholes like the one above, but many exploitative pet-trade operations remain, which means that the best way to help snakes and other animals sold as “pets” at Petco and other stores is never to buy them.

Other ‘Pet’ Reptiles for Sale at Petco?

In 2019, damning CDA records revealed how at one Petco store in Northglenn, Colorado, workers failed to provide a thin leopard gecko with veterinary treatment over nine days. The animal lay motionless for at least two days before finally dying. Two other stores in the state also deprived reptiles of adequate heat and ultraviolet lighting. Also in Northglenn, iguanas, chameleons, and bearded dragons—who require basking temperatures in the mid-80s to low 90s—were in tanks as cold as 72 degrees.

In 2016, a Petco employee-turned-whistleblower contacted PETA when they felt compelled to report how animals were suffering and dying at the Texas store where they worked. According to the whistleblower, in just one week, two iguanas and a chameleon died from respiratory tract infections. For a month, management apparently refused to buy fresh vegetables for iguanas and tortoises. The whistleblower also told us about a python who apparently died at the store. The same evening of the whistleblower’s initial report, we sent our concerns to a Petco vice president, and the company sent a district manager out to visit the store. The manager did not identify all the issues that we noted but agreed that there was a need for additional training. However, to our knowledge, no further employee training was ever offered.

petco animals lizards and other reptiles
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration warn against keeping “pet” reptiles, because of the high risk of contracting potentially deadly salmonella. Turtles, lizards, and amphibians can carry salmonella bacteria on their skin and shells, and they can be found in the animals’ enclosures. The bacteria can be transmitted just from holding them, cleaning their enclosures in a sink, allowing them to walk around on floors or surfaces, or allowing children to touch them and then later touch their own mouths.

Learn more about why buying a reptile from Petco—or from anywhere else—would mean relegating a sensitive animal to a life of deprivation and suffering:

What Small Animals Does Petco Sell?

We’ve fielded too many calls to count from folks who have visited their local Petco store and were flabbergasted by the filth or neglect affecting the mice, rats, guinea pigs, and other small animals being housed in cages. A CDA inspector even noted that a ferret was suffering from a painful prolapsed rectum and a suspected upper respiratory infection, but the animal wasn’t provided with any veterinary care and died—reportedly as a manager was finally taking him or her to get treatment. This mouse …

Fighting is not normal among well-cared-for mice, but it can occur when they’re kept in stressful, crowded conditions and forced to compete for basic resources.

… was attacked by another at a Petco store in Texas and left wounded for at least four days—without being seen by a veterinarian—before finally being sold as live snake food.

PETA also exposed Petco’s partnership with Holmes Farm, a massive animal dealer in Pennsylvania that supplied hamsters and other small animals to the company and other pet stores.

rats frozen alive petsmart supplier
The rats in this photo continued to struggle in zipped-shut bags minutes after being put in a chest freezer at Holmes Farm, a massive animal dealer in Pennsylvania that supplied small animals to Petco and others.

Even after Petco representatives visited Holmes Farm—where animals were being confined to plastic bins, frozen alive, and crudely gassed to death—the chain continued to order and receive animals by the hundreds from the dealer.

Hamsters, chinchillas, guinea pigs, and other small animals are dying for lack of good homes and deserve the same consideration as dogs and cats, whose overpopulation crisis is well known.

Please never buy any animal, and let Petco know that you’ll be shopping elsewhere until it stops selling living, feeling beings:

How Many Dogs Have Died at Petco Grooming Salons?

It’s impossible to know exactly how many dogs have died at Petco grooming salons or shortly after their appointments, but the chain’s long laundry list of incidents involving animals who have been traumatized, allowed to escape, severely injured, and—yes—even killed while being groomed certainly is telling. There was the Petco groomer who tied a rubber band around the ear of a dog named Baylee, cutting off his ear’s circulation and eventually requiring amputation.

That same month, Dali—an “active, healthy and hyper” dog—was dropped off by his guardian, Mafang Yao, at a Petco grooming center in California. It was the last time Yao would ever see Dali alive—when she returned to pick the dog up, she was told that he had experienced “breathing issues” during his appointment and later died.

Dali died after his grooming session at Petco

Then there was Simba, who was allowed to escape from a kennel at a Petco store in Pennsylvania; 1-year-old Sarge, who died while being groomed after “protocols were not followed” at a New York Petco store; Baboo, a 7-year-old shih tzu who reportedly sustained a broken jaw during a grooming appointment at a New Jersey Petco store; and Oliver Buttons, an 18-month-old cairn terrier who needed stitches for lacerations to his face and neck as well as surgical glue for nicks all over his body that were inflicted by a Petco groomer in Wisconsin. You get the idea. Whether it’s selling animals or grooming them, Petco deals in volume.

The only way to safeguard your animal companions’ “health and wellness” is to groom them at home yourself.


Betta fish, snakes and other reptiles, birds, ferrets, chinchillas, and so many other animals are suffering in Petco stores and at the chain’s suppliers—they need us to take action right now. Implement activism through your consumerism by avoiding all Petco stores until the chain pledges to stop selling live animals. Instead, support retailers that don’t exploit live animals:

Shop Online to Find Supplies for Your Dog or Cat
Crystal, an American Eskimo mix rescued by PETA, chewing on a toy
Stay up to date on the latest vegan trends and get breaking animal rights news delivered straight to your inbox!

By submitting this form, you’re acknowledging that you have read and agree to our privacy policy and agree to receive e-mails from us.

Get the Latest Tips—Right in Your Inbox
We’ll e-mail you weekly with the latest in vegan recipes, fashion, and more!

By submitting this form, you’re acknowledging that you have read and agree to our privacy policy and agree to receive e-mails from us.