PETA Pushes Petco to Ban Rodent Sales on Heels of Wrongful-Death Lawsuit

Rampant Filth, Disease in ‘Pet’ Trade Is Dangerous and Cruel, Says Group

For Immediate Release:
March 3, 2014

David Perle 202-483-7382

San Diego, Calif.

On the heels of a lawsuit filed against Petco by the family of the 10-year-old San Diego boy who died after contracting rat-bite fever from a rat purchased at a Petco store, PETA is calling on Petco CEO James M. Myers to take the only action that could ensure customers’ safety and stop animal suffering: ending Petco’s sale of rodents.

PETA investigations of Petco suppliers have revealed routine neglect of and cruelty to animals. At Rainbow World Exotics and Sun Pet—both dealers that supplied Petco stores across the U.S.—investigators documented that animals were thrown into the trash while still alive, deprived of veterinary care for painful injuries and illnesses, and housed in crowded bins. A Sun Pet worker was caught on video putting hamsters into a bag and then bashing the bag against a table in an attempt to kill them. Petco insisted on keeping both companies as suppliers, despite PETA’s shocking findings and the public outcry that followed the investigations.

Animals sold by Petco are subjected to extreme stress and suffering before they reach store shelves. Transport trucks haul them from suppliers to stores—often for days and across hundreds of miles—in inhumane and dirty conditions. Mice and rats are crammed into tiny boxes that are breeding grounds for parasites and disease and often reach the pet store severely diseased, dying, or dead.

“Petco can reduce the risk posed to the public as well as the mishandling and mistreatment of animals by just not selling rodents as pets,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “When people see how they are bred, warehoused, shipped, and sold in sickening, cramped conditions, they are appalled.”

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PETA’s letter to Petco CEO James M. Myers follows.


March 3, 2014


James M. Myers
Petco Animal Supplies, Inc.


Dear Mr. Myers:

I’m writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and our more than 3 million members and supporters to ask you to take a meaningful step in order to prevent any more upsetting incidents for humans or animals by ending the sale of rodents. Although nothing can bring back Aidan Pankey, the 10-year-old who died from rat-bite fever after handling an infected rat purchased from a Petco store, you can easily reduce the risks to which other children are exposed and end the suffering of rodents in the pet trade.

Petco employees—former and current—report often seeing ill and injured rodents, and in December 2013, we received a complaint from a customer who saw a dying rat at a Petco store in Burbank, Calif. She reported the rat’s condition to a manager, who shrugged it off, noting that “sometimes they just show up like that.” Indeed, they do. Committed to helping the suffering rat when no one else would, the complainant called PETA, and we secured veterinary care for his chronic respiratory illness, in addition to finding him a permanent, loving home.

Ending Petco’s sale of rodents will also make the difference between life and death for hundreds of thousands of animals. As you know, PETA’s investigations of Petco suppliers Sun Pet and Rainbow World Exotics (RWE), and of RWE supplier U.S. Global Exotics revealed, among other horrors, that animals were kept in extremely crowded bins, thrown into the trash while still alive, and deprived of veterinary care for injuries and disease that caused them pain and suffering. Shipped to retailers in inhumane conditions—crammed into crowded boxes that serve as breeding grounds for disease—mice and rats who survive the hours- or days-long hauls often reach the store ill, dehydrated, and malnourished.

Petco’s concession that there is a “high prevalence of asymptomatic infection among rats” and that “testing and treatment … is not practical,” coupled with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s warning that rat-bite fever is transmissible by various rodents, makes clear that the responsible decision is to end rodent sales. May we please hear that you will protect the health of your customers and the well-being of animals by doing just that?


Daphna Nachminovitch
Senior Vice President of Cruelty Investigations

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