The 5 Shadiest Practices Of Modern Pet Stores

Who doesn't love having a pet? America is chock full of dogs and cats -- 70 million and 75 million of them, respectively. Factor in the guinea pigs, birds, and chinchillas, and damn son, we're up to our nips in critters. And where do all these animals come from? If you're like me, you stalk them in the wild, wrestle them into submission, and then spend a month living in their cave until they have accepted you as master. Easy for dog, terribly hard for goldfish. But most people opt for the wussified method of getting pets at stores. And that's jacked, because pet stores are way more fucked up than you ever realized.

#5. Betta Bags

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Ever gone to a pet store and seen those sad little fish they keep in shot glasses? Those are betta fish, and their entire lives are worse than Ted Kaczynski's. Shit, sorry. I wrote that joke back in the day. Um ... their lives are worse than a different lunatic shut-in's.

Arguably, a betta wants to be able to swim somewhere that doesn't lead within three milliseconds back to its own butthole, but it doesn't have that luxury. You can't even put them together, because betta fish are the piscine equivalent of endless rage ninjas and they'll just kill each other all day long. Or that's how pet stores market them. In fact, female bettas are generally fine together, and males can live with other species quite often. They also tend to thrive in at least 10 gallons or more per fish, not a bag full of whatever can be scraped from a sweaty teamster's armpit.

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These are actually recycled urine sample containers.

Bettas are shipped much the same way you'd ship a boiled hot dog, if that was something you were inclined to do. The shot glass you see them in at the store is actually a relief compared to how they got shipped from the supplier. As it happens, each fish is packed in about an inch of tranquilizing solution at the bottom of a Ziploc baggie. Then they're all packed up in a big bag together and mailed out -- just dozens of little wet sacks with a little fish in them, probably thinking some deep-ass fish thoughts the whole time.

It's said that bettas are shipped this way to keep them chill and to lower costs. No doubt about that second one; god knows shipping bags of water is probably going to set you back a few bucks. But I feel like you'd probably have to be packed in morphine to make a trip in an almost airless bag across the country anything close to tolerable.

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And we wonder why they kill each other.

#4. Hermit Crabs

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Hermit crabs are probably the most hilarious pets a person can own, because they're nature's hobos. They carry their little bindles right on their backs, and shuffle about like crotchety old-timers waving their claws menacingly, mostly unable to do anything intimidating because they're the size of cat turds. It's no wonder they became such a booming corner of the pet industry.

If you've never experienced a hermit crab, you're missing out on a cold-hearted pet that doesn't care about you at all and has beady cartoon eyes. As they grow bigger, they throw their shells away and steal a new one from someone else, because nature likes to share. This is the entire life of a hermit crab. Shuffling, then getting a new shell every few years. It's literally as boring as Grey's Anatomy.

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"So is this gonna be the shell or just another 'will they or won't they' situation?"

To share this fun with kids around the world, pet stores usually have one aquarium full of these little crabs, which they sell for a couple of bucks a piece. Where do said crabs come from? Right off the beach!

Every pet crab out there was plucked from his home and forced into yours -- a tiny kidnapping victim with his own house on his back, maybe holding a picture of the wife he'll never see again because you wanted a $3 pet. Breeding hermit crabs is about as complicated as quantum physics after a night of low-quality Mexican food and high-quality wine. Some people can do it, but not most. The industry mostly thrives on live harvesting, the way SeaWorld made its big bucks off those whales everyone's suddenly so concerned over. But no one is concerned about hermit crabs, because look at 'em.

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The fact that they look like walking STDs doesn't really help their cause.

#3. Feeders

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Do you know anyone who has a snake, a large lizard, or a hairless uncle? Chances are they have to go to the pet store semi-regularly to buy some kind of feed for their pet that's a little different than your average bag of kibble. Snakes especially are fans of eating live prey -- things like mice or rats. Of course, a lot of people find that just too gruesome, and manage to get their pets cool with eating already-dead rats and mice. Many pet stores will sell little frozen ones, sometimes called pinkies if they're really young, for you to take home and pop in the cage with Mr. Slithers. Fun!

Ever wonder how a pet store gets a big supply of frozen dead mice? I mean, it's probably obvious when you think about it, but have you thought about it? What's the quickest way to get a dead frozen mouse? If you answered "put a live mouse in the freezer," you are correct. The quickest way between two points is a straight line, and the quickest way to get frozen mice is to freeze live ones. No one's waiting around for these guys to die of natural causes or commit suicide.

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And when they run out, there's plenty more next to the guinea pigs.

Animal rights groups like PETA have infiltrated animal supply warehouses and actually filmed employees filling Ziploc bags with live, healthy mice, zipping the bags shut, and just packing them layer after layer into chest freezers. Instant ratcicles.

Now, I'm not going all "free the monkeys" rogue on you here and picketing the idea of feeder animals. Whether a snake eats a frozen mouse or a live mouse, either way a mouse is dying so that snake can live. Do you have any idea how many pigs and horses died so I could have Fourth of July hot dogs over the years? I get the food chain, but I also can't help but feel like the pet stores are trying to pull a little deception by omission on the masses by offering the neat and tidy alternative of frozen mice. The least they could do is freeze them to order in store rather than kill them in bulk at a warehouse. Maybe one of those little shits could have had a life ahead of him when someone bought him as a pet instead of food. As a frozen rat, his choices are super limited.

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"Wait ... this isn't the employee lunch fridge?"

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