Avian Welfare Resource Center from the The Avian Welfare Coalition (AWC) is a grassroots network of representatives from avian welfare, animal protection, and humane organizations dedicated to the ethical treatment and protection of birds living in captivity and in their natural habitats. The mission of the AWC is to prevent the abuse, exploitation, and suffering of captive birds, and to address the crucial issues of rescue, placement, and sanctuary for displaced birds. The AWC also supports efforts to insure the survival of wild birds and the conservation of their natural habitats.



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Hypocrisy Reigns at PETCO and PETsMART

a response to Petfinder from Krista Menzel

Early in 2002, Petfinder, a well-run online animal adoption promotion service, announced that they had accepted PETCO as one of their major sponsors. The following letter is my response to this news on behalf of Midwest Avian Adoption & Rescue Services (MAARS).

Dear Kim and Petfinder,

While I appreciate PETCO's decision to promote dog and cat adoptions instead of selling cats, kittens, dogs, and puppies in their stores, I thought you might want to know that in spite of being presented time and time again with overwhelming evidence from bird rescue and adoption professionals, PETCO continues to insist on adding to the epidemic of displaced birds and other exotic animals.

Each year, PETCO and PETsMART sell thousands and thousands of parrots and other birds. Many of these birds are produced in large-scale breeding facilities where the babies often don't receive the individualized attention crucial to proper companion bird socialization. These babies are often shipped and sold unweaned by uneducated PETCO and PETsMART staff members to uneducated buyers, along with mostly mediocre — or even unsafe — bird care products.

To protect their bottom line, PETCO and PETsMART continue to irresponsibly market birds in their advertisements and store displays as "easy to care for." The truth is that parrots are actually extremely demanding pets because they are still wild animals in spite of being bred and hand-raised in captivity. All parrots scream, all parrots bite, and all parrots are efficient chewers.

They require diligent attention to cleanliness and a varied diet that is time-consuming to prepare. In addition, parrots are highly intelligent and demand a great deal of interaction and mental stimulation or they will develop neurotic behaviors.

Parrots that don't receive basic physical care, such as fresh food, water, and a clean, safe environment, will die prematurely of malnutrition, dehydration, or disease.

Parrots whose high mental, social, and emotional needs aren't met will develop a variety of antisocial and/or self-destructive behaviors, including excessive screaming or biting, extreme territoriality, obsessive feather-plucking, depression, pacing, chronic overeating, or self-mutilation to the point of creating open wounds.

In addition, even the most well-adjusted companion parrot will become an even more challenging pet when it reaches adolescence and begins to experience instinctual mating and breeding urges. Large parrots, in particular, require patient, consistent guidance from an experienced, educated caretaker as they grow up. When sexually mature and in breeding mode, any parrot can become unpleasant or downright dangerous for children or inexperienced adults to handle.

Unfortunately, more and more people are now buying birds and other exotic animals as pets — many from PETCO and PETsMART, who are irresponsibly encouraging the exotic animal trade. Many bring them home without having done the crucial research and soul-searching necessary to determine if they can truly provide a long-term, responsible home for these animals. Instead of bringing them home as new family members, some people buy exotic pets as status symbols, mascots, entertainers, investments, decorations, or collectors items. Many of these animals purchased on impulse in response to a cute PETCO or PETsMART baby parrot display or fantastic 20%-off sale will become unwanted when the reality of their needs sets in.

Most unwanted exotic pets will be neglected, abused, given away, or sold. If they don't first die of neglect or abuse, an astronomically growing epidemic of unwanted parrots — often with health or behavioral problems as baggage — are now being rehabilitated and rehomed by bird adoption and rescue organizations like Midwest Avian Adoption & Rescue Services (MAARS), a member of your Petfinder service.

In spite of the "feel good" message, PETCO and PETsMART DID NOT decide to promote cat and dog adoptions instead of selling these animals in their stores because of their moral responsibility. They did it because they realized that they could make more money that way! The public's knowledge about dog and cat homelessness, euthanasia tragedies, the need to spay/neuter, etc., would have caused a huge public outcry and boycotts of stores had PETCO and PETsMART decided to sell cute puppies and kittens.

However, PETCO and PETsMART's marketing studies admittedly have proved that they can still make more money selling parrots, reptiles, and other exotic animals than they could if they didn't. Public education has not yet caught up with the realities that bird experts have known for years, so PETCO and PETsMART are not yet afraid of the public's response to their irresponsibility making a large impact on their bottom line. They are hoping to make as much money as possible until the exotic pet market begins to crash — at the expense of what will be the lives of millions of parrots sold by them.

So, while I appreciate PETCO's efforts to support Petfinder, I thought it was important for you to know that they are hypocrites and opportunists when it comes to animal welfare. We bird, reptile, amphibian, ferret, chinchilla, hedgehog, and other exotic animal rescue people would be thrilled if the cat and dog rescue people would demand that PETCO toe the line for ALL homeless animals if they are going to increase their profits through association with your organizations.

It will only be a matter of a few years before bird homelessness becomes a problem that overwhelms ALL shelters in our country. We feel that PETCO and PETsMART should take the lead in stopping this problem as soon as possible instead of adding to it until it is no longer economically prudent to continue.

Yes, we will "have a great adoption week," as you requested. It will be even more overwhelming and busy because of PETCO and PETsMART's ever-increasing contribution to our problem.


Krista Menzel

Midwest Avian Adoption & Rescue Services

Bird Adoption.org

Avian Welfare Coalition


Copyright 2002 Krista Menzel, Midwest Avian Adoption & Rescue Services (MAARS)


Selected Related Articles

Animals in the Retail Industry

by Monica Engebretson, Animal Protection Institute (API)

How Much Is That Doggie in The Window?

by Francis Battista, Best Friends Magazine

PETCO & PETsMART: Animal Welfare Advocates — Or Antagonists?

by Denise Kelly, Avian Welfare Coalition (AWC)

All material Copyright © 2002–2010 Avian Welfare Coalition, unless otherwise noted. Contact us to request reprint permission.

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