Over the last few years the pet retail industry has seen an increased awareness of animal welfare, resulting in fewer sales of certain species. However, contrary to this, due to the availability of animals through internet channels, the demand does not appear to have changed. Where do these animals come from, and how can you find the very best livestock supplier for your store?
Amanda Plant, Assistant Manager at large UK retail chain Pets Corner, tells more: “We have noticed a reduction overall in sales of animals, but this does not seem to have affected demand. There is instead a more varied demand. Puppies and kittens are no longer in stores, but the market has expanded to include other species, particularly exotics.”
In store care
Looking after animals in store can be quite a responsibility. “We need to ensure they are not overcrowded, nor that they injure one another if paired incorrectly. For example, rabbits and guinea pigs should not be kept together in the same pen, since the size difference can result in the guinea pigs getting hurt.” This has led to the store holding fewer animals in stock.
“People tend to automatically trust a store on the basis that they already have trust in their brand as regular shoppers. We have a waiting list for our animals, for example, since customers know they will be getting a healthy, well-bred animal with proper aftercare.”
The impact on the breeder might be that they are no longer able to sell through retail channels, instead listing their animals for sale online. The problem that arises from this is the common criticism of any internet sales; lack of control over where the animals are coming from.
In particular the issue of puppy farming has raised serious concerns. Evidence exists of breeding facilities that are still issued council licenses to operate, without taking into consideration the social nature of dogs and their need for early contact with everyday human living.
Puppies from farms are kept isolated, often in small pens with very little contact with humans other than their kennel staff. In the animal behaviour field, such dogs find it very hard to adjust and can be sound phobic due to lack of experience of household noises.
Terms of sale
What can be done to improve this situation? Pets Corner took their detailed terms of sale and purchase of rabbits from careful research, including information from the UK’s Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF). All retailers want to ensure they gain a good reputation for quality products and livestock is no different.
Care must be taken in choosing where the livestock comes from. “Some retailers may buy from anywhere that happens to have stock,” says Amanda. “We have been offered baby animals from people who have bred them at home, but we do not accept animals from these sources. We want customers to feel confident that they know their animals are not inbred, are not pregnant themselves, are sex guaranteed, and of course have good long-term health without any hereditary problems.”
Be wary of internet sales
To improve standards, retailers must inspect livestock breeding premises in person. Internet sales allow too much freedom to treat the livestock as a commodity, particularly the huge numbers advertised on sales sites such as Gumtree, or Facebook. Proper livestock websites do exist, but whilst some are excellent, others may hide problems.
In particular, wild caught exotic pets can be an issue; brought in legally (or sometimes illegally) it is hard to tell whether or not they are bred here or whether they have been captured in their native country, and then imported. Carefully done, this may not be a problem. Carelessly done, then disease, poor quality and a highly stressed creature may be the end result.
Method of transportation
Buyers of livestock via the internet should also check the method of transport. It is not unusual for standard parcel carriers to transport live creatures to their destination!
Word of advice
So, how can a livestock breeder and retailer work together to ensure a good result? “Form good contacts, have lots of interaction so you can get a feel for how the animals are bred and raised, and also the breeder can check how their animals are cared for afterwards,” advises Amanda. Pets Corner keeps a written record of every animal that passes through their doors, and can trace them for the breeder if needed. Signing a declaration is a good step towards ensuring that promises are kept!
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