The 5 Shadiest Practices Of Modern Pet Stores

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.

Betta Bags

The 5 Shadiest Practices Of Modern Pet Stores
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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.

The 5 Shadiest Practices Of Modern Pet Stores
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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.

The 5 Shadiest Practices Of Modern Pet Stores

And we wonder why they kill each other.

Hermit Crabs

The 5 Shadiest Practices Of Modern Pet Stores
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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.

The 5 Shadiest Practices Of Modern Pet Stores
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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.

The 5 Shadiest Practices Of Modern Pet Stores
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The fact that they look like walking STDs doesn't really help their cause.


The 5 Shadiest Practices Of Modern Pet Stores
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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.

The 5 Shadiest Practices Of Modern Pet Stores
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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.

The 5 Shadiest Practices Of Modern Pet Stores
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"Wait ... this isn't the employee lunch fridge?"

The 5 Shadiest Practices Of Modern Pet Stores

Shipping Birds And Frogs In Bottles

The 5 Shadiest Practices Of Modern Pet Stores
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So how does a pet store get pets? If it's an easy pet like a dog, they probably come in a cage, hopefully from a licensed breeder at the very least, or even better, local shelters (because stop breeding animals, ya fuckin' weirdos). There are literally tens of millions of strays in the US alone. Seventy million is the average number tossed around for cats, and no one even wants to guess at dogs. So the lady with the chestnut perm and gaudy diamondelle jewelry who feels the need to breed almost-champion Cocker Spaniels and sell each pup for $2,000 is mostly just a thoughtless, greedy assbag.

While those pets that come from shelters and such can be counted on to have probably arrived in a car, or at least by bike messenger, things like frogs don't have that luxury. Frogs don't take up a lot of space, and you want to maximize your profit, so it's not unheard of for pet store suppliers to ship them around in that most cost-effective shipping container -- the two-liter soda bottle. Once you're done with your Mr. Pibb, you've got room for several dozen Mr. Toads, and you can guarantee they had a wild ride.

The 5 Shadiest Practices Of Modern Pet Stores

The juice left remaining in the bottles is how Mountain Dew is made.

When it comes to birds, have a look at this Criss Angel shit.

Polly want some oxygen?

Even if you're OK with people for some reason transporting exotic birds in water bottles, can you explain the wizardry involved in getting it in that bottle? It's like that wine that has the pear in the bottle, except I know how that works, and I feel like the same can't be done to a parrot. The story says the bottoms were removed, but have you ever tried to grab hold of a cockatoo and do anything with it other than getting bitten and/or shat upon? I have, and I got bitten, then shat upon. And I wasn't even trying to force the stupid bird into a bottle; I just wanted to give the douchebag some little seed bell treat.

Caring For Sick And Injured Animals

The 5 Shadiest Practices Of Modern Pet Stores
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One of the worst things ever for a pet owner is dealing with a sick pet, especially if it's some kind of bullshit sickness. Real sickness is stressful. No one wants Mr. Poochy to die. Bullshit sickness is rage-inducing, like if Mr. Poochy ate a bunch of houseplants and you need to take him in to make sure he's not been poisoned, but it turns out he's fine, he'll just have diarrhea for a few days, and the vet will now take $400 from you for his time. But at least at the end of the day, you have that option as a pet owner. At a pet store, no one gives a shit. And worse, what do you think happens to the smaller animals, like hamsters? Ever take your hamster to a vet? Hell no. There are like eight vets in North America who know what to do with a hamster.

The 5 Shadiest Practices Of Modern Pet Stores
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"Hundreds of dollars in medical bills or free snake food. Hmmmm ..."

According to the various undercover videos PETA has posted, stores like PetSmart suffer daily deaths and injuries; they just hide those animals in back. Hamsters and gerbils get wet tail (which is literally fatal diarrhea) all the time. Sick animals can be sent back to the warehouse -- which you'll recall is the warehouse that's run like Satan's circus of depraved indifference and animal cruelty -- but what the fuck for? Literally nothing happens.

One video shows a guinea pig sent back to the warehouse without food, since apparently the brain trust at PetSmart haven't been educated in the ways of mailing living creatures. The pig, on death's door already, is just set aside to die. Elsewhere, in a more proactive corner of the warehouse, a human shit shingle fills a plastic bag with hamsters and then beats it repeatedly against a table. You'll notice this is not the generally accepted method for doing anything with a living creature. At all. Unless you're a complete sociopath. So kudos to that, lady. You're a fuckin' psycho.

The 5 Shadiest Practices Of Modern Pet Stores
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On that note, here's a creature that looks like Donald Trump's toupee.

Basically, there is no treatment for sick and injured animals at those types of pet stores. I like to believe most stores are responsible and actually have a vet come on site to check out the little fellas, but I'm basing that purely on a desire to live in a world that wasn't written by Quentin Tarantino. The evidence suggests it's more likely the opposite -- at least when it comes to the little guys that most vets aren't properly trained to do much with.

I doubt all pet stores are evil, but let's just safely assume a few are, because they have to be and they've been shown to be. Armed with that knowledge, next time you want a marmot or a squid or whatever, Google that shit first and find yourself a responsible source. Then find the evil pet store in your town and go poop in the aisles. Someone will blame it on a dog. They always do.

Learn why your pet bird thinks you want to sex it up in 6 Weird Problems No One Tells You About Owning Exotic Pets and check out the very cute, but very sad dwarf horses in The 6 Most Horrifying Pets We've Bred Into Existence .

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