You may have thought that the pet store owners would know how to properly meet the needs of their animals, and would ensure this was done correctly so as to educate and inform the customers buying pets each day.

Sadly, however, this is not often the case.

In fact, some pet stores seem to think of their animals as little more than stock. In many cases, making a profit takes priority over animal welfare.

What Counts As Animal Cruelty?

Animal cruelty is, at a very basic level, failing to meet the needs of an animal.

There are many different ways that a pet store owner could be guilty of animal cruelty, for example:

  • by failing to provide veterinary care for the animals — sick animals should not be on display in a pet store, especially if they are suffering from a contagious illness
  • by failing to meet the societal needs for the animals — keeping social animals, such as rabbits, alone
  • by failing to meet the environmental needs for the animals — puppies should not be kept in small cages in pet stores because this does not allow the puppies room to exhibit natural behaviors
  • by failing to meet the emotional needs of the animals — by selling very young animals who should still be with their mothers, the pet store owner is neglecting the emotional needs of both the babies and their mother
  • by failing to meet the behavioral needs of the animals — caged birds require at least some form of entertainment to tackle boredom, a bare cage could be considered cruel
  • by failing to meet the dietary needs of the animals — it is important for good health that animals are fed the correct food for their species, and this means exotic animals such as monkeys should not be eating junk food

What To Do If You Witness Animal Cruelty In A Pet Store

pet stores animal crueltyStumbling across animal cruelty is upsetting, and you may find yourself simply wanting to save the animal in front of you.

It’s important to remember, however, that doing that will save just one animal.

Document and report animal cruelty. You will save many more animals from the same fate.
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To do this, you should:

1. Document the Cruelty

It’s important to document the cruelty, and ensure you have the proof required for a conviction. Start off by taking detailed notes about the cruelty you witness. Make a note of the time, date, location, type of animal and the cruelty itself.

Photographs and videos are a great way to increase the chance of prosecution, but you’ll need to be careful. Many pet store owners will be suspicious if they see you whip out a video camera.

Recording the cruelty on your phone is one option, and you could also use your phone to take photographs. Once you have these files, make sure they are backed up somewhere safe so that the evidence isn’t lost if you misplace your phone.

2. Become an Expert

Research the animal cruelty laws where you live. These vary between states, so you’ll need to know which ones will apply to your local pet store.

List of Animal Cruelty Laws by State

Get in touch with your local animal protection charity, or contact one of the national animal advocacy groups, and ask for some advice. If they have the time, they should be able to offer you some pointers, and if not, they’ll at least point you in the right direction so you can find the information you need without too much trouble.

3. Report It

Once you have the evidence, and know which laws (if any) are being broken, it’s time to report the cruelty.

How To Report It

Once you have all of the evidence, and have verified that the cruelty you witnessed is against the law, it’s time to take it to a law enforcement agency.

This varies from state to state, but as a general rule, you should contact your local SPCA, Humane Society or animal control officer. You’ll be able to find out their contact details online. If these agencies don’t exist in your local area, you will need to contact the sheriff or police department.

In just 27 states, pet stores require a license to operate. Though the effectiveness of this type of regulation system is questionable, it is worth contacting the licensing body if you live in one of these 27 stores.

If your state does require pet stores to be licensed, you may be able to complain to the licensing body. It’s important to bear in mind, however, that the license may not cover all areas of animal cruelty, and so may not help in your case. If the pet store sells exotic animals, even if the cruelty you recorded concerned a domestic species, the federal Animal Welfare Act will apply.

The US Department of Agriculture oversees some pet stores, so all instances of animal cruelty should be reported to them. To submit a complaint, visit the USDA website at or call 310-734-7833.

Other Ways To Prevent Animal Cruelty In Pet Stores

  • Instead of buying animals from pet stores, adopt animals from shelters and rescue centers. Ask your friends and family to do the same. There is lots of great information online about why you should avoid pet stores which sell live animals. Read it and share it to educate more people.
  • If you live in a state that does not require pet store licensing, write to your representatives and explain why it’s important that they introduce this.
  • If you live in one of the 27 states where licensing is required, write to your representatives and ask them to strengthen the laws already in place. Each and every state could take more action, and go further to help animals.

With so many shelters overloaded with cats and dogs, what do you think about pet stores that sell animals?

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