What to do when you find animals in substandard conditions at a pet store


ALDF Suggests: What to do when you find animals in substandard
conditions at a pet store

You go into a pet store to buy some delicious treats for
your oh-so-adorable companion animal, only to find out that the store is not
only selling live animals–which can be in and of itself upsetting–but that the
store is keeping these animals in appalling conditions. What can you do?

It helps to be methodical in these situations. Start by documenting
your findings in a detailed journal noting dates, locations, and specific
problems, including photographs and video whenever possible. Things to look for
are sanitation, physical health of the animals, and overcrowding. Also note if
the store is selling wild or exotic animals. Educate yourself about any
applicable laws and have them on hand to show to law enforcement when you
approach them to request an investigation.

Bring your documentation and copies of applicable laws to
your local law enforcement agency–such an agency would be your local humane
agencies such as the humane society, SPCA, or animal control. If your community
does not have this type of agency, law enforcement would be the sheriff or
police department. 

It is an unfortunate reality that the regulation of retail
pet stores is painfully lax. Less than half of all states require pet stores to
operate under a license. In the states that do require a license, a business
owner must apply for the license, which is usually granted by the state’s
Department of Agriculture. Pet store license applications often inquire about
the proposed methods of sanitization, animal housing, waste management plans,
and whether veterinary care will be provided to the animals. Very few states actually
address all of these categories. (“In-Depth Overview of Retail Pet
Stores,” Animal Legal & Historical Center, Michigan State
University College
of Law).

The regulatory or oversight agency may offer a complaint
process. Contact your state’s Department of Agriculture to inquire about the
regulatory agencies responsible for oversight of the pet stores in your state.
Laws that should apply are state anti-cruelty statutes and health regulations.
If the store sells wild or exotic animals, the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA)
also applies.

Agencies responsible for issues of sanitation are the State
Department of Health or the State Department of Environment. If the store sells
wild or exotic animals, also contact the United States Department of
Agriculture/Animal and Plant Inspection Services (USDA/APHIS). To submit a
complaint to the USDA, visit their website at www.aphis.usda.gov or
call 310-734-7833.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund does not have an investigative
unit, so it is imperative that you urge law enforcement and all other relevant
oversight and/or regulatory agencies to fully investigate the facility in
question. If the overseeing agency is non-responsive, consider circulating a
petition demanding that the abusive conditions be immediately corrected. Consider
enlisting the help of the local media (newspapers, radio and television
stations) to publicize the situation.  If
you decide to initiate a local campaign, such as picketing the business,
handing out flyers about the situations in the store, etc., make sure you have
all of the facts to back-up any public statements that you make.

If you bought an animal from a pet store and that animal is
now sick or dead, you may have recourse through the courts. If this applies to
you, see ALDF’s information about consumer protection and wrongful death or injury
of an animal

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