A man’s best friend can come in any size, shape, or form. That is why when you are lucky to have a pet as a friend you want to take extra special care of it. Speaking as a loving owner of two ferrets (Thelma & Louise) and two hamsters (Beacon & Maybe), I want to buy the best things possible for them and in order to do that I have to shop at the best pet store. But sometimes it’s not easy to find a good pet store that is conveniently located by your home.
One particular chain of pet stores that you can almost find in any city is Petco. Like any other person, I decided to give this chain a chance, mostly because it is the only one closest to where I live. With all of the hateful websites asking people to sign petitions banning Petco from selling animals, I grew to agree that this place is one where I do not want to shop for my ‘friends’.
My experiences at Petco were just awful. Although I was lucky to find my ‘friends’ at the University District Petco, I had a really hard time doing so. Every time I entered the ‘small animal’ section of the store, I was mistreated and not valued as a customer. It almost felt like the employees, including the management, did not care about any animal but dogs! The small animals did not seem like they were taken care of because the cages were dirty and they all had fleas! I later learned that these animals were not given proper bedding and food.
Another warning sign about this place was that no one had any knowledge about small animals. When I got my ferrets I was lucky to find one girl at Petco who knew about these creatures as well as loved them. But all of my other experiences that were unforgettably horrible outweighed my decision that Petco should change their ways. That is why I made a list of all the things you should watch out for when looking for a pet store to treat your ‘best friends.’
1. Cleanliness: Is the pet store actually clean? Are there thick coats of dust on the products? If there is, you know that they haven’t restocked their shelves in a long time. Which also means that a lot of things in the store are pass the expiration date.
2. Customer Service: When the employees are acting friendly and smiling, it’s a clear sign that they actually like being there. This can make your experience of shopping easier as well as less hazardous for the animals.
3. Love Of Animals: If you don’t like animals, you should not be working in a pet store. This was a warning that I should have noticed early on at Petco and that I later found out the hard way.
4. Variety In Merchandise: When large pet stores like Petco carry tons of products for only one kind of animal, you know that the others are forgotten. This was a big problem at Petco because there was only so much to choose from for certain, less popular, animals.
5. Quality Products: Is the food, bedding and toys safe for animals? Believe it or not, some places like Petco carry things that are actually bad for animals…and they know it! For example, bedding that causes respiratory infection, food that contains unnecessary salt and fat.
6. Where Are These Animals Coming From: I have heard that private breeders and ones that are close to the area of the pet store are better to buy from than some companies that are located in another state. What kind of diets are these animals on? Depending on where the pet store gets its animals, there is a high chance that these animals are not eating a healthy diet. Side note: employees at Petco have actually told me that some of the foods and bedding that they carry are not good for the animals that they sell.
7. Management and Return Policies: What is the return policy for animals and products? There have been complaints that Petco sells sick animals. Which three out my four ‘friends’ became sick the first couple of days that I got them! Management, especially at a pet store, needs to practice policies that are in the best interest of the animals. A two week return policy, like what Petco has, is sometimes not long enough to tell if your pet is just adjusting to your home or is sick.
8. Sanitary Cages/Homes: Look to see if the pets that they are selling are in adequate cages for their sizes and are in clean healthy environments. Side note: Avid activists around the U.S. against Petco have had dreadful experiences of dead animals being left in cages with the other animals days on end.
9. Knowledge of Animals: The management should provide adequate knowledge of every animal and reptile that they carry in the store for all employees. Its a clear sign when the person selling you an animal can't help you with any further facts or tips other than just selling it to you. What pet stores need to push is safety and knowledge for every customer buying a new pet for the first time. Otherwise how would these customers know exactly what to do to provide a happy and healthy life for the animals that they just bought?
10. Preparation/Care Sheet/Transportation: When you buy an animal at the pet store most places will give you a care sheet telling you what to expect. With all of my experiences at Petco, I was never given this sheet without having to ask for it myself. Also a great thing to do to ease the stress of moving a pet from the pet store to your home is to take some bedding or food, that is still in their cage, and put it in the pet's new cage. This will provide a little familiar comfort for them to smell and will lessen the shock of moving. Good pet stores should recommend things like this if they really care about what they are selling.
This list is not to overwhelm you but is a guide so that in the future you can avoid places like Petco, who need to retrain their employees about customer service and animal maintenance. If your pet store meets any of these criteria you should seriously rethink where you are shopping for your ‘friends’.