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Commentary :: DNC : Organizing : Politics
Petcopathy at PETsMART
16 Jan 2004
PETsMART is no better than Petco...
Petcopathy at PETsMART
By Tela Wilson
avianwrites (at)


Pronunciation: PET KO pah-thE
Function: noun
Etymology: Greek Petcopatheia, from PetcopathEs without feeling, from Petco + pathos emotion -- more at
Date: 1965
1: Lack of feeling or emotion on behalf of Petco:
2: Lack of interest or concern of animals’ welfare:
See also: Petcopathetic (adj.), Petcopathetically (adv.), Synonym: PETsMART, Petland, Pet Industry (gen.)

Petcopathy is not a word you will see in a dictionary; in fact you will be hard pressed to find it in print. This is a word similar to Misothery, meaning the general hatred of animals, though petcopathy is particular to the pet trade’s actions, or rather lack of action, regarding animal merchandise. Misothery was originally coined by well respected lawyer, author, and animal rights activist Jim Mason in his 1993 book, An Unnatural Order, and is now used by activists worldwide.

Petcopathy is a word coined by members of a group committed to stopping live animal sales at Petco, a campaign called Petno ( This is a campaign launched by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), a group well known for it’s outlandish and radical tactics to draw attention to various animal abuse issues.

Upon inspection, the allegations against the large chain pet stores has more merit than many people give it credit for. Once one looks beyond the organization on the front lines, one discovers the way the “merchandise” is mass produced, mass marketed and sold as disposable living creatures is deplorable.

Most people walk through the aisles of a Petco, PETsMART or other pet store without considering where these animals come from. Perhaps it is time to stop to really think about it.

Any dog breeder who breeds for the love of their breed would never sell their puppies to a retail store. They would surely screen potential buyers, thus ensuring the pups went to the best possible homes and would stay there for a lifetime. Many dog breeders keep in touch with their customers, sharing photos, holiday cards and often have gatherings for their consumers and the dogs. A breeder who ships their puppies across the country to pet stores is often considered a “puppy mill.” (1)

Why then is it any different for the birds, reptiles and small mammals sold at the chain pet stores? It can be alleged that these animals come from breeding mills, and the tight lips of these organizations’ management make it impossible to know for sure. Petco and PETsMART have routinely refused to provide contact information for the various facilities from which they purchase animals, and so nobody really knows where they come from. In order to price competitively, one would assume pet store animals are bred in mass quantities and purchased in the same manner.

One particular animal mill that PETsMART uses is often boasted about by management. The Kaytee Preferred Bird Program supplies PETsMART birds around the country. This program has two facilities in Florida, and one in Nevada. Anonymous sources claim that the Kaytee program accidentally created a protozoa, which was fatal to Cockatiels, though this has not yet been proven. What has been proven time and time again, however, is that birds are driven by van to PETsMART stores throughout the country, unweaned and frightened.

Florida and Nevada have some extremely outdated cruelty statutes, and most cruelty allegations are based on subjective reasoning, i.e. justifiable cruelty is lawful, and one can speculate that the Kaytee programs justify the mass production and gavage feeding of chicks as justified by profits. Sally Blanchard, a well respected avian behaviorist and editor of the popular bird magazine, Companion Parrot Quarterly, has even called the Kaytee Preferred Bird Program the“poultrification of parrots.” (2)

One common remark from opposition to this campaign against live animal sales is that only Petco has been targeted. Front line activist, Tami Myers has this response: “ The Petno campaign needs to remain focused on Petco simply due to time needed to dedicate to any one campaign. There are so many issues, and so few people willing to dedicate the time and effort to work on them.” Myers goes on to say, “PETsMART is not exempt from a similar campaign; in fact it is on the horizon.”

"People who shop at PETCO and PETsMART care about animals. What many of these kind consumers do not know is that PETA receives horrible
reports of animal abuse and neglect regarding both PETCO and PETsMART on a regular basis.” Christy Griffin, Campaign Coordinator for PETA says of PETA’s campaign. “Kind consumers have a right to know about these chains' history of animal cruelty. We are asking that consumers boycott any companion animal supply store that sells animals."

PETsMART simply has been kept on the back burner... until now.

A baby Caique in a Massachusetts store recently died from complications due to crop burn, insiders say. This baby parrot was at a PETsMART store being “handfed” by store employees. The term “hand feeding” and the weaning of parrots by the pet trade is one which has been openly criticized by The Beak Retreat in the article Parrots and People, a Relationship of Conflict (3).

Karen Lee, the Assistant Director for Foster Parrots Ltd., a non profit parrot rescue, sanctuary and adoption facility in Rockland MA, saw this particular Caique while at the PETsMART store.

“I decided to go check on what birds they had for sale and what conditions they were being kept in. They were selling a young sulfur crested cockatoo and a variety of Conures, all of them young. My attention was captured, however, by the little caique that sat on the floor of its small enclosure with its head down. It was obviously quite young and unable to perch. Certainly it was also unable to eat on its own and was waiting for hand feedings, but it was too young and not strong enough, apparently, to aggressively seek attention or beg for food with any kind of zest. It simply looked sad, lonely and listless. A tap on the Plexiglas could coax its head up, and it would look for a few moments, but then the head went back down and the eyes would close.

"I was filled with such rage, looking at this helpless little bird, because I knew that in an emotional and psychological sense it was already a damaged bird. It's first life experiences were already isolation, loneliness, want, confusion, fear, insecurity and hunger. It had no chance to properly develop with a foundation of security and well-being.

"To learn that this little bird was, in fact, killed by its care givers at Petsmart pretty much put me over the top.

"If the welfare of their animals is indeed their top priority, as they claim, they would not be selling unweaned baby birds in their stores.”

It would appear that PETsMART is just as guilty of Petcopathy as Petco, and seems to be simply waiting their turn for scrutiny instead of changing store policies and ceasing the sale of birds as well as ALL animals in their stores.

(1) retrieved 01/10/04

(2) retrieved 01/10/04

(3), retrieved 01/10/04
See also:

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Re: Petcopathy at PETsMART
18 Jan 2004
Everyone should check their local pet stores on a regular basis. Let the store manager know what you are doing. Loudly announce any irregulatiries you see. Get all of the customers involved by pointing out dirty water, sick animals etc.
Re: Petcopathy at PETsMART
19 Jan 2004
I find it no surprise that we have an overpopulation of unwanted birds in New England because there are simply so many Petco and PETsMART stores concentrated here. With six known avian rescue facilities in MA alone, something MUST be done!!
Re: Petcopathy at PETsMART
26 Feb 2004
I urge the groups that are pointing out only the worst case to remember that there are in fact stores where the associates are animal lovers and do care about these birds. I suggest that you look every carefully at each store individually and not as a "chain". You will find that there are stores out there were the encounters that have been posted in respect to birds being "too young" and "killed in the freezer" are not true. Keep in mind every pet shop from the chain stores to the mom and pops have animals that become ill and despite every attempt to medicate and return them to good health there are those who just don't make it. One last thing when you (as a human) do die, they send you to the morgue where you are kept in a "refrigerator" until you are cremated or embalmed.
Re: Petcopathy at PETsMART
24 Apr 2004
Ok well, first off; have you guys been to every single Petsmart in the country??? if not you have no room to talk that all of the birds that are beeing sold in petsmarts are being neglected. i have about 6-7 petsmart within a 20-25 mile raidus of me and they all have healthy birds and the associates have all been PROPERLY trained in how to hand feed. yes i know it is unfortunate that not everyone uses and should use the same standards, but unless you personally are going to go to every store and " train" the assoiciates, you have no room to say that ALL petsmarts are like the ones you have seen!!!
Re: Petcopathy at PETsMART
04 Nov 2004
Just to keep you well informed - PetSmart actually has recently set up training seminars for all their stores!! I have recently finished both an avaian seminar and an aquatics seminar. These are day long sessions to go over proper Policies and procedures as well as any questions are gone over until the answers are VERY clear. I have worked with a few different veterinarians only because that is what I want to do in the future and I have seen very cruel things - the difference is EDUCATION!!!! It is totally unfair to put all the stores in one boat and try to portrait them as cruel and uneducated!! The sad fact is that YES customers are going to want a pet - and as sad as it may sound hopefully they will get it through a store that cares about eduacting them on proper handling and care as well as teaching them that over population is a horrible thing. It's funny that these sites live to pick on corporations that are trying to educate and are doing their very best to stop over population of dogs and cats - instead of maybe going after the mom and pop shops that live to sell dogs and cats from puppymills, those are usually the ones who also take in animals from their customers who continue to let them reproduce. PetSmart stores also try their hardest to make sure that the animals being brought to the stores are one sex. Yes sometimes there are mistakes but this is one of the ways we try and deter over population. Maybe go to Meijer, Target, Walmart and big Corp. like that that are trying to make a quick buck when people walk into the store to buy groceries. All I want is for you to get the FACTS and not only go to a store and search for the bad all of the time - try reporting something good as well. I know that I work my hardest to make sure that all the animals in the care at my store are VERY well taken care of - properly medicated - and all the birds that are handfed are handfed by TRAINED assosciates ONLY!!! Not to mention they are very sweet because we take the time to train and love them!!! I just wanted to throw my two cents in. Thanks for giving me the chance.
Re: Petcopathy at PETsMART
15 Jan 2005
I work in a Petsmart store that has had several "animal rights" people come in and complain about how our pets are treated. All you hear is about is how these animals are in the wild. Well, to PETA and all the other complainers, let me ask you this. Are any of you horse owners? I'm sure alot of you are. Do you realize that those horses you ride, feed, brush and pet are also an instinctively wild animal> I am a proud owner of a heartfelt and gentle throroughbred who was abused. That animal gallops at top speed to greet me when I see him. He follows me around and would not hurt a bone in my body. He knows to nose around in my jacket pockets for treats. He has obvious affection for me and recognizes me as an important role in his life. Im sure alot of you feel this way about your horses. So these animals are brought in from the wild all of the time and they willingly attach themselves to their human companion. Who are you to say that people do not have the right to have a Loving macaw or a playful conure or a delightful little parakeet. These animals are not wild. They are bred in captivity and do not know what other world there is except the wonderful one that we make for them. There are alot of bad seed people in this world unfortunately. But when we are aware of anything but the utmost care and respect for the animals in our store, we handle the situation and it usually results in a lost job. I worked with two different avian veterinarians and see that our standards of care are set very high and when a person pays around 500 to1500 dollars for a bird there standards are probably pretty high too. Who are you to judge us by some disgruntled employees who only 'think' they know what is going on in the real scheme of things. Certain illnesses and conditions in birds are almost unaviodable in alot situations and I have seen this forst hand working at an avian vet. I have seen cases of chronic feather pickers that come from excellent homes with alot of stimulation and care. We have seen birds come in that contract sudden illnesses and it has nothing to do with the caretakers. You cannot tell me that every time one of your pets are sick it is your fault. So how is it rooted back to our care when our animals get sick. We take every measure, every precaustion to make these animals healthy and happy while they are with us. We interact with them, play with them. They are not neglected. Do not tell us we are not committed to these animals care- we had employees drive in hurricane conditions just to make sure these animals were properly cared for. Anyone who gets fired from a job or quits a job is probably bitter with them for one reason or another. I would take some things your 'whistleblowers' say with a grain of salt. And scrutinize all you want. And while you are at it, why dont you try to find some of the happy people we have sold birds to and see how they feel about us not selling them. Tell all of this to the dedicated employees who come in on their days off to hand feed the birds. Tell this to the employee who is scrubbing bird poop off of perches. Or the employee who is carefully picking out bird toys for a cage of parakeets.
Or how about me, who goes to work everyday and can't wait to talk to the people about their pets and how they are. I recognize alot of customers and even have alot who come back and see me because I help them acheive the goal of total lifetime care for their pets.
Next time Im out holding my parakeet I bought at my store or riding my "instinctively wild oh-so-tortured-because-he-is-domesticated" horse I will think about PETA and how much of an impact they have on my thoughts. None...Im not saying that there is no cruelty in the world, Im just saying you should focus your efforts elsewhere and keep Petsmart on the backburner, cause as far as Im concerned, your efforts are lost with me now.