A growing public concern for the ethical treatment of animals has given rise to scrutiny from pet lovers and animal advocacy organizations over the treatment of animals sold in pet stores. Pet owners not only want to know about the products and services they purchase, they want information about the ethics of the pet shop's practices and policies when it comes to the animals they sell.
Humane Treatment Regulations
Wild or exotic animals and “pocket pets,” small mammals including degus, hedgehogs, spiny mice, prairie dogs, jerboas and flying squirrels, are protected by the Animal Welfare Act as revised in 1998. The act, which went into effect in 1966, outlines standards of humane treatment for some of the animals you may find in a pet store. Stores that sell these pets must be licensed and follow AWA requirements for humane care. Some, but not all, states have enacted laws to establish additional standards for the humane care of pet shop animals, but the standards vary from state to state.
Ethical breeders do not usually sell their puppies to pet stores. Most breed club organizations, such as the San Antonio Great Dane Rescue, clearly state that only an unethical breeder will sell “puppies to brokers, pet stores, flea markets, or roadside for cash.” Despite what your pet store tells you, warns the Humane Society of the United States, there are pet stores that sell puppies from puppy mills. Even if the pet store tells you that the facilities their puppies come from are USDA or government inspected, this does not mean the animals received ethical treatment, or that they didn't suffer. This is because, the Humane Society explains, USDA regulations only require minimal standards for the food, water and shelter.
The Humane Society of the United States works with local pet stores to put into place a puppy-friendly policy, which means they agree not to sell puppies in their store. The program, according to the Humane Society website, was designed to help end pet overpopulation and support local shelters and pet adoption programs instead. In fact, many pet stores who are in fact puppy friendly partner with local shelters and adoption agencies to find homes for dogs and cats.
Pet shops operate under licensing and registration rules under the Animal Welfare Act, according to the U. S. Department of Agriculture. This act exempts retail and retail chain pet stores from regulation, unless they exhibit animals that fall under exotic animal regulations. Because the exemption is on an all-or-nothing basis, explains the USDA, if a store does not qualify for an exemption because it has one or more animals that fall under the exotic animal classification, such as a monkey, a parrot, or a "pocket pet", the entire business is classified as a dealership and is subject to inspection.
- San Antonio Great Dane Rescue: What is an Unethical Breeder?
- The Humane Society of the United States: Pet Store Double Speak
- The Humane Society of the United States: Puppy Friendly Pet Stores
- Animal Welfare Information Center Bulletin: Regulation of Pocket Pets
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Licensing and Registration Under the Animal Welfare Act
Christy Ayala writes about recreation, sports, aquatics, healthy living, family and parenting, language development, organizational change, pets and animals. Ayala holds a master's degree in recreation administration from Aurora University’s George Williams College, a graduate certificate in organizational change from Hawaii Pacific University and a bachelor's degree in Spanish from the University of Missouri, St. Louis.