I had a conflicting problem of morals today. I shopped at a pet store.
My puppy (human error) ate my bait bag and I had to see two very large, aggressive dogs as clients this afternoon. I wanted to have my Friend-Making Treats instantly accessible, so I could not order a new bait bag online in time and had to use a walk-in box store/pet store.
My objection to pet stores that sell live animals is two-fold.
Firstly, many employees are young people, students, or persons with very little education or experience with the vast range of live animals that they sell. These can range from goldfish, marine fish, guinea pigs, exotic parrots, ferrets to venomous snakes requiring special handling techniques.
All of these animals have varied and highly specialized needs, and persons not familiar with their specific needs often do more harm than good. I worked at an exotic veterinary clinic for 11 years. We often saw pet store animals in dire need of help. As an example, we would frequently see iguanas of all ages and sizes suffering from calcium deficiency, affecting their bones and joints. Calcium is a very necessary part of their diet that is so easy to provide, but unwitting owners are unaware.
My second objection is the impulsivity of the purchase. I am a very, very experienced animal handler, having grown up overseas among a variety exotic animals. I attended Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching College for several years and have been heavily involved in animal rescue of both domestic and wild animals for my entire adult life.
Even so, I am often tempted to bring home "just one more". My rescue background is the only thing that keeps me from doing this - I realize that someone else is going to do the same thing, and a few months later, IF that animal is lucky, it winds up in one of my rescue programmes. "Just one more" adds up when you figure the time that is required for personal attention for them, exercise and mental enrichment needs, food and bedding, any veterinary attention that is necessary and the subsequent time to medically treat the animal.
Sources of procurement for these animals can often be heavily suspect. Animals, particularly parrots, are often factory farmed (like a "puppy mill") and taken too early from their natural weaning processes. And these are low-dollar sales animals, very few veterinarians are contacted when a for-sale pocket pet or reptile, avian or amphibian gets sick. Fortunately, I have heard of several of the larger box stores employ the services of local veterinarians. My own vet clinic works with one such store.
Lastly, if you shop with your dog, and take them to the little critter acrylic cage "doggie TV" entertainment section, spare a thought for the little critters inside. They are prey animals, trapped in a cage of windows with no place to run or hide for safety. I used to think that it was really fun for my dogs to watch these scampering little critters until I realized that they were running in panic for their lives, and I felt like the world's most insensitive, blithering idiot and don't do that anymore.
The large pet store near me is progressive, and I complimented them on that. Their birds have toys and bowls of food are kept feces-free. All cages are clean, but the MOST impressive thing that I find is that they have little barriers for all the Bettas (Siamese Fighting Fish) who display their beautiful, long fins in aggressive displays to one another in agitation of territorial dispute. By providing them barriers to one another's line of sight, the store is keeping them from the mental and physical agitation of fighting one another for space.
Please talk to people about their choices of locale for purchasing animals, and how to financially support the businesses or individuals who sell animals with their best interests in mind, including educating and advising the buyer as to the proper care and needs of the pet.