Reprinted from BEST FRIENDS MAGAZINE September/October 2002
ambassador to the animals
By Francis Battista
The problem with pet stores and supposed pet supply stores
that sell animals (Petland, Petco, PETsMART, etc.), is that until
an animal goes home to a caring family, he or she isn’t a pet at all.
He or she is merchandise and usually treated as such. He or she is
an “It.” A toaster that has to be fed, watered, and cleaned up after.
This all came to a head recently in San Francisco, where the
city has sued Petco for abuse of the animals in its stores.
Petco and PETsMART have made a name for themselves in
the world of animal welfare by not selling dogs and cats, and by
hosting dog and cat adoptions. And local dog and cat groups have
come to depend on these locations to place pets in good homes.
Both companies also have a charitable wing that dispenses funds
for good stuff like spay/neuter and special events. Best Friends
has received grants from both companies and also organizes adop-
tions at both stores.
All this makes it difficult for most local organizations to pro-
test the sale of these other animals.
How Much Is That Doggie
in the Window?
Off the Shelf
Modern merchandising, especially in chain stores, is all about
shelf space. The more shelf space, the more products you can dis-
play. Conversely, the smaller the packaging, the more products
that can be displayed on a given shelf.
Now you probably never thought of it this way, but in the weird
world of animal sales, a cage is the equivalent of a product pack-
age. So, if the product is a parrot, then the parrot’s cage is the
packaging. And the smaller the package, the more birds can be
displayed on a given shelf.
In fact, pet retailers have a trade and lobbying group whose
main job is to protect the interests of pet retailers by making sure
that laws aren’t passed that would require pet retailers to do things
like keep animals in larger cages, because that would impact the
old shelf-space equation.
Henry Ford Meets Dr. Dolittle
The economics of mass-marke