Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Animals sold by the pet industry are given no more consideration than a keychain or a pack or pencils—they are nothing more than another piece of merchandise. Small animals such as mice, rats, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, ferrets, chinchillas, and rabbits have it particularly bad. Because they are relatively inexpensive, easily replaced, and easy to throw in the trash, whether these animals live or die is of little consequence to those who profit from them. The real money is found not in the animals themselves, but the expensive accessories such as cages, toys, and food that go with them. The only way to put an end to the immense suffering that these animals are forced to endure is for companies like PETCO to stop selling them. Please demand that PETCO, PETsMART, and other retail pet stores end the sale of animals and, instead, focus their considerable resources on adoptions only:

From: PETA  www.peta.org

October 5, 2004

James Myers, CEO PETCO 9125 Rehco Rd. San Diego, CA 92121
Brian Devine, Executive Chair PETCO 9125 Rehco Rd. San Diego, CA  92121

Dear Mr. Myers and Mr. Devine:

We have recently finished a six-week investigation into North American Pet Distributor, Inc. (NAPD), located in Bloomington, Minn., which supplies mice, rats, hamsters, gerbils, rabbits, ferrets, chinchillas, and fish to the pet industry. Several months ago, we received a call from a whistleblower about unacceptable and negligent treatment of animals at NAPD. The caller told us that sick animals often died in their cages without adequate veterinary care, that the animals were severely overcrowded to the point of causing injuries and disease, and that PETCO was one of the company’s biggest customers. In addition, the caller reported that despite the fact that NAPD did not have the facilities to house birds, PETCO had asked NAPD several months ago, and NAPD had agreed, to hold more than 200 parakeets, most of whom ended up dying in the overheated, overcrowded cage that all 200 of the birds had to share. While I realize that PETCO is desperate to see PETA’s monthly PETCO Casualty Reports disappear into thin air, I believe that our investigation into NAPD shows that PETCO has a long way to go in proving itself sincere about animal care.

As the enclosed videotape and letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture reveal, NAPD appears to have contempt for federal regulators and for PETCO while also being totally indifferent to animal suffering. NAPD knowingly shipped sick animals to your stores, and those suffering animals were sent back—in several instances during our short investigation—in tiny, hot shipping boxes. Many died right in those boxes after their grueling journeys via delivery truck with no temperature controls. I’m sure you know that PETA was assured by your company that its stores do not ship sick animals back to vendors. As for general conditions at NAPD, our investigator found severe overcrowding to be the order of the day. She saw hundreds of rats cruelly gassed inside the large plastic bags used to ship fish, piled on top of one another gasping for air, not one of them checked for signs of life before being tossed en masse into the trash can. She watched a veterinarian make recommendations for sick animals that were almost always disregarded. She was told that disinfecting cages was too much trouble and that they didn’t have time to do anything but scrape the feces out. She was casually told, “Oh, that happens sometimes,” when she arrived at work to find an exhausted rat desperately treading filthy water among the bodies of 16 other rats in an enclosure that had been flooded overnight by a faulty watering system. And she photographed and videotaped the animals who had developed diarrhea and other conditions from the filthy, overcrowded conditions. We find especially pathetic the enclosed photograph of a dead rabbit in a trash can, his hind end covered in watery feces and urine. 

Perhaps most of what we uncovered at NAPD can be attributed to that company’s management and way of doing business, but PETCO bears enormous responsibility. During our investigation, PETCO sent Astrid Kammueller to conduct an audit of NAPD in order to make it a “certified vendor.” Ms. Kammueller has no knowledge of veterinary medicine or proper animal husbandry practices, and as NAPD had expected and hoped for, she failed to recognize that an indeterminate number of rats whom NAPD planned on shipping to PETCO stores were infected with the corona virus. I’m sure the taped conversations about this visit will make you cringe. NAPD, including its attending veterinarian, Amanda J. Covington, was equally delighted and relieved when Kammueller observed, but made no mention of, the fancy chinchillas crowded into grossly undersized cages. NAPD representatives knew in advance about this audit inspection and had plenty of time to try to bring things up to snuff, indicating that their respect for PETCO is nil and that PETCO’s certified vendor program is a farce.

PETCO has serious problems. It cannot possibly hope to oversee its vendors to the degree necessary. These vendors churn out animals cheaply so that retailers can afford to buy them and still turn a profit. Neither can PETCO control what its stores do or don’t do for animals. The obvious answer is to stop selling animals.

We were told in no uncertain terms a few weeks ago that it is PETCO’s policy never to return sick animals to vendors, but when we requested that assurance in writing, we didn’t get it. I’m sure you can understand why we now wonder if such a policy really exists because it certainly would not make good business sense for PETCO to pay the veterinary bills that arise from animals who arrive from a vendor sick. Nevertheless, we were given an unbelievable example of PETCO’s having spent $5,000 in veterinary bills on one sick ferret (again, when we asked for this in writing, we did not get it). We are not fools, and we do not believe for a moment that PETCO could satisfactorily explain to its shareholders a $5,000 veterinary bill. PETCO needs to be honest with us if it really wishes to see our campaign subside rather than the opposite.

Until PETCO can see that selling animals in its store is a losing proposition, we ask that you arrange for a PETA representative to attend inspections/audits of all your suppliers. Surely if there is nothing to hide and you share with us a commitment to animal care and enhancing the human/animal bond, our presence can only be welcome.

The wretched and prolonged animal suffering and neglect that begins at NAPD and often ends in death at PETCO’s stores must not be allowed to continue. PETCO must end its sale of animals or admit its failings and work to correct them in a serious and transparent manner rather than the insincere and wholly unsatisfactory way that it has conducted itself up to this point. Until that time, we will continue to issue our monthly PETCO Casualty Reports and may present to you at any time additional information on other vendors. PETCO must act humanely and responsibly. We look forward to details as to how it intends to do this.


Mary Beth Sweetland, Senior Vice President

Director of Research & Investigations Department


Group Calls News Conference to Reveal Federal Law Violations at PETCO Vendor
For Immediate Release: October 5, 2004
Contact: Mary Beth Sweetland 757-622-7382   

Minneapolis  PETA has obtained undercover video footage showing dead, cannibalized animals in cages and plastic bags full of dead animals who had been improperly gassed at Bloomington, Minn.-based North American Pet Distributors, Inc. (NAPD), a supplier to PETCO, the pet store chain that boasts of "humane animal care policies" and claims that it "sets an industry animal care gold standard" as well as requiring vendors to pass an unannounced audit to be certified by PETCOs "Standards of Excellence Program."

At a news conference in Minneapolis on Tuesday, PETA will make public the results of its undercover investigation that documents violations of federal law at NAPD, the upper Midwests largest supplier of animals to the pet trade, which also counts PETsMART among its clients:

Date: Tuesday, October 5
Time: 11:30 a.m.
Place: Radisson Plaza Hotel Minneapolis, 35 S. Seventh St.

PETA is filing a 23-page formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), cataloging numerous instances of NAPDs failure to provide veterinary care for sick and injured animals, severe overcrowding, inadequate ventilation, and allowing animals to remain in shipping crates until they died from heat exhaustion or dehydration. Among the conditions videotaped and photographed by PETAs investigator are the following:

·          Dead animals in cages, some cannibalized by cagemates

·          Ferrets confined inside plastic "shoebox" enclosures in sweltering heat

·          Filthy enclosures containing rats who had been forced to swim until they drowned due to a faulty watering system

·          Hamsters suffering from untreated "wet tail," a usually fatal disease resulting in swollen, inflamed hindquarters due to stress associated with poor living conditions

·           A dead rabbit, tossed into a trash can, who had suffered from diarrhea for days

·           Plastic bags full of dead rats who had been improperly gassed

·           Severely overcrowded cages of rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, mice, and rats

·           A room called "the secret place" where staff stored animals out of view of the USDA


PETAs efforts to end the sale of small animals in retail stores like PETCO are driven by complaints against the chain lodged by employees and customers over the company’s shoddy treatment of animals. Small animals are acquired cheaply by stores like PETCO although their needs for care and medical treatment are as great as any large animals. While PETAs investigator was at NAPD, a PETCO inspector visited the facility but failed to act.

"NAPD has hurt and caused the deaths of numerous tiny animals who needed to be treated with care," says PETA Senior Vice President Mary Beth Sweetland. "Retailers like PETCO and distributors like NAPD have made a business out of treating small animals as if they were shampoo samples."

For more information about the suffering of animals in the pet trade, please visit PETAs Web site PETCOCruelty.com. 

Petco lawsuit - mistreating animals

Case ID: 2373
Classification: Neglect / Abandonment, Mutilation/Torture
Animal: rodent/small mammal (pet), reptile, rabbit (pet), other companion animal, dog (non pit-bull), cat, bird (pet)

San Diego, CA (US)
Date: May 28, 2004
Disposition: Civil Case

Persons of Interest:
Petco Brian K. Devine CEO

Petco Animal Supplies will pay more than $900,000 to settle lawsuits over mistreating animals and overcharging customers.

The District Attorneys in San Diego, Los Angeles, Marin and San Mateo counties have documented cases of animals kept in unclean cages without water, proper nutrition or veterinary care; sick and dying animals kept in freezers, animals with contagious diseases left untreated and other mistreatments.

The county district attorneys also found that Petco price scanners overcharged on certain items from as little as 3 cents per item to as high as $20 per item. On average, customers were charged $1.19 more than the advertised price.  The pattern of overcharging spanned a period from July 1999 to mid 2002 according to San Diego Counties Weights and Measures division, which checked prices at local stores.

As part of the settlement, Petco will admit no wrongdoing. 

For almost a decade, PETA has been receiving complaints of abuse and neglect from PETCO's customers and employees across the USA.  Animals sold are consistently deprived of the bare minimum, required b law, including adequate food, water, veterinary care, and a humane death. 

Lawsuits were filed in California, Nevada and Utah.  San Francisco California barred PETCO from selling animals there because of the "cruelty and pattern of brazen violations that continued over 3 years.  It took 2 years of litigation against PETCO for the City Attorney Dennis Herrera to get these unprecedented court ordered injunctions.  The lawsuit in San Francisco was stated in June 2002 and originally sought to permanently enjoin PETCO from live animals sales in San Francisco after the SFACC repeatedly gave them warnings and citations at their 1685 Bryant Street and 1591 Sloat Blvd locations.  

Employees were often ordered by their managers to throw sick animals into freezers to die or to leave injured animals neglected in back rooms to starve to death.  

There is a campaign on now for PETCO P.A.L.S. card holders to cut them up and send them to Brian K. Devine, the Chair and CEO of Petco.  The address is 9125 Recho Rd., San Diego, CA  92121. 

In San Francisco, PETCO was ordered to pay $50,000 fine by August 2004.  For the next 18 months PETCO has agreed to abide to enforceable injunctions to prevent a further pattern of cruel and illegal mistreatment of animals. 

The Stipulated Injunction and Settlement Order submitted to the Santa Clara Superior Court on 5/27/04 states PETCO will abide to the following provisions: 

  • Specialized training provided to all new employees in PETCO's San Francisco stores within 3 weeks of their employment.  San Francisco's Animal Care and Control Department will review and comment on the training materials provided to all San Francisco employees.
  • Upon completion of the specialized training program, each PETCO employee must sign a verifiable certification of training, which SFACC may review upon request.
  • PETCO will refer all sick or injured companion animals to medical care.
  • PETCO must designate a managerial or executive level employee at their corporate headquarters as a contact for the SFACC regarding any issues pertaining to the care of animals in their San Francisco stores.  All calls must be returned within 48-hours, and must assure the SFACC that all outstanding issues will be resolved quickly and professionally.
  • PETCO must also ensure that San Francisco has a region manger contact at all times, and will inform the SFACC if this person(s) changes at any time.
  • All of PETCO's animals in the San Francisco stores by an independent veterinarian selected from a list of mutually agreeable practitioners nominated both the SFACC and PETCO.

PETCO operates 670 stores in 44 states and in the District of Columbia.  For the fiscal year ending January 31, 2004 in its Form 10-K annual report with the US Securities and Exchange Commission claimed $1.65 billion in net sales.  

In all Petco Animal Supplies has agreed to pay $651,754 in fines and investigative cost for allegedly neglecting animals and overcharging customers.  They must also spend $202,500 to install better equipment in its California stores to eliminate overcharging. 

Animal sales make up only 5% of the companies revenues according to a statement by the CEO Brian Devine. 

The types of animal care problems that occurred in over 100 stores in 27 states from March and April 2004 were: 

  • Ill and injured animals were deprived of veterinary care
  • Birdcages contained spiders and webs from lack of cleaning
  • Parakeets were kept in tiny enclosures, their food full of excrement
  • Parakeets who tested positive for psittacosis were left for sale
  • Birds escaped their enclosures and flew around the store only to die because they were left uncaught
  • A bird who was purchased and returned to the store had previously been sold and returned for behavioral reasons
  • Bird food was spoiled
  • Turtles infected with parasites were sold to Petco customers and subsequently died
  • Many dead fish were kept in overcrowded and parasite infested tanks
  • Dead fish and hermit crabs were on display
  • Beta fish were kept in tiny cups in which they couldn't move
  • Saltwater tanks were flooded with freshwater, killing all the fish inside
  • Fish purchased from the store infected customers other fish, killing them as well
  • Live, healthy fish were removed from tanks and slammed against a table so they could be fed to turtles
  • Ferrets were lethargic and obviously ill
  • Rabbits were kept in unsexed tanks and were covered in scabs
  • Animals were left without water
  • Reptiles were being kept in filthy enclosures
  • Reptiles that escaped their enclosures were found dead weeks later or were stepped on
    Lizards were left for dead in tanks next to bones of other dead lizards
  • Mite covered reptiles were kept in dark and dank sick rooms some left for up to 2 months
  • Rodents were being kept in overcrowded tanks
  • Rodents born in the store were released into the woods
  • Rats were found to be suffering from upper respiratory infections after being purchased, unweaned or died after being diagnosed with an ear infection
  • An obviously ill gerbil who was bleeding from the eyes and nose was on display with a healthy gerbil
  • Groomers were seen abusively handling animals.  The animals were left with severe razor burns that required veterinary care.  One dog was slammed against a table and choked, another was kicked and had its fur torn from its face
  • A kitten was unable to open his eyes after a grooming appointment, an untrained employee had bathed the animal
  • Employees did not seem knowledgeable about proper animal care and housing
  • An employee was seen laughingly sucking 2 parakeets into a vacuum, the birds died as a result and the employee was allowed to continue working at the store
  • A store manager removed the infected eye of a hamster and left the blinded hamster still for sale
  • Hamsters kept in the sick rooms died of wet tail with medications being withheld.  These same hamsters were given cabbage to promote diarrhea to kill them
  • Ill frogs were crammed into feces-strewn enclosures
  • Lethargic and ill guinea pigs were left for sale
  • Sick guinea pigs were attacked in their enclosures by loose rats
  • Mice were found dying in snap and glue traps
  • A mouse who appeared to be dying was on display, the animal was stuck in a running wheel and having difficulty breathing
  • A previously healthy chinchilla became dehydrated and began to suffer from diarrhea after being given improper bedding
    Soaked chinchillas were kept in tiny cages with no room to escape dripping water bottles
    Frogs were burned alive by heat lamps

    Note:  The SFACC, PETA and Humane Societies compiled this information from customer complaints and investigations and were instrumental in pursuing the lawsuits.

In addition 120 inspections in 65 stores in 8 counties in California were conducted, randomly checking the advertised price of merchandise against the price run up when the item was scanned at checkout. 

As part of the settlement, customers who are overcharged in the future will receive discounts of up to $3.00 off the overpriced item. After the settlement was disclosed, Petco's stock dropped 13 cents, closing at $31.87

September 13, 2011 PETCO Leaves Animals to Drown in Flood

March 21, 2013  Remember the animals PETCO left to die in the flood?

January 16, 2016 Animals Frozen Alive, Crudely Gassed at Petco, PetSmart Supplier Mill