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Thread: So... Can Live Animal Sales Be Done Ethically?

  1. #1

    Default So... Can Live Animal Sales Be Done Ethically?

    Hi everyone - first post for me. If I have put it in the wrong place, please move it mods

    I am after some thoughts from some level headed animal lovers. Please keep any flaming or self-rightious black/white thinking out of this thread, it isn't going to help.

    A little bit of bio might be appropriate.... I am 30yo and currently employed as a (desk bound) professional. I have 2x7yo (inside only) cats and a 3yo GSD - all spoiled rotten. My wife and I are involved with our local GSD club and both come from families of animal lovers, including family members involved in not-for-profit animal welfare agencies and delta dogs. Like everyone else here, we love our furbabies.

    I have secured enough capital and a good location, and am looking to open a pet supplies business. I am pretty well progressed with my planning, and am at the stage where I need to finalise layout, etc. Probably be looking at opening late Feb / early March, by the time all is right to go.

    We weren't planning on selling live animals of any type - we have a fairly large site and our focus was more the petbarn / petstock type arrangement, as opposed to the "traditional" pet shop.

    A family member does a lot of volunteering with a local animal welfare agency that focuses on helping pensioners to desex their animals, and finding homes for abandoned/unwanted cats and dogs, including unplanned litters of puppies and kittens.

    She mentioned my plans to the president and secretary of the agency (who know me), and they have asked that I use the shop to help them find homes for the puppies and kittens they get.

    They say that they are having trouble finding homes (both permanent and temporary) for the animals that come to them. The vast majority of animals surrendered to them are unwanted litters that come to them when the owners call them to get some help desexing their (new mother) cat or dog.

    They also have relationships with a number of local pounds, and have apparently arranged for the pound's puppies and kittens to be handed over to them too - if they can find homes for them.

    I have been thinking pretty hard about their request (a few sleepless nights), and am still unsure whether it is a good idea. I would be mortified if I took the plunge and was acting unethically towards these animals, and also if I was thought to be acting unethically - I know there is a lot of opposition from animal lovers to the sale of animals in pet shops.

    The other issue is, of course, that a retail business needs to make an appropriate return on its floorspace, and meet its overhead costs. I am risking a hell of a lot of money on this venture, and my family's future... so that factor also needs to be honestly factored in to deliberations.

    Thinking it through, I think I would only consider using my shop to find homes for kittens and puppies in accordance with the following principles:
    1. all kittens and puppies to be vet checked and desexed before sale
    2. all staff to be trained by an animal welfare agency in finding appropriate homes for kittens and puppies.
    3. potential adoptees to complete a questionnaire with trained staff member, including questions on motivation for adoption and what they want from their companion, understanding of the long-term obligations of adoption, suitability of breed, home, etc
    4. all staff members empowered to say no to prospective adoptor
    5. offer trial periods
    6. adoptors details taken and follow-up calls made
    7. kittens and puppies to have appropriate accommodation in the shop, not be left alone, and handled / given attention and love often
    8. kittens and puppies to only be rescued, not bought from mills and backyard breeders.
    9. kittens and puppies possibly to be taken from owners desperate to move on their litter (the "I can't handle this" types) but not paid for - instead I will pay for their mummy cat/dog to be desexed, and possibly some sort of shop voucher?
    10. I could take calm adult dogs into the shop on a temporary basis too (say for a weekend) - a "shop dog" looking for a forever home?

    I am really in two minds with this, hence the post - it is a lot of added complexity and expense to the business, and has the potential to be viewed negatively if not thoroughly explained - hell, I am sure PETA types would frown on it no matter what. There is a lot of pressure to make sure I am doing it 100% right at all times.

    On the other hand, done right I think it could be a really positive thing - by matching up desexed rescue cats and dogs (who might otherwise be lost to this world) to their new mums and dads, surely I am doing something positive? Surely by offering an alternative to the puppy mills and backyard breeders I am hurting them, not helping them?

    Sorry for the rather long (and intense) first post.... but please let me know your thoughts!

  2. #2


    Congrats on your new venture.
    Personally I wouldn't have pets in store .
    I think the Petbarn stores, in Vic, have the Lort Smith animals and yes It's an adoption process done by application. So unless it's a well known organization that the adoption process is done by their guide lines I probably wouldn't bother.
    However, I would Definitely support and promote shelters and rescue. I would have rescue group days / weekends where the organizations bring in their pups and dogs that are up for adoption. Then the whole process can be done by them.
    You could even have an information board of shelters and rescue groups and pics of animals up for adoption.
    To be honest I don't think pets in store are a draw card. Petshops have a reputation of not having very knowledgeable staff. I would concentrate more on than side.
    JMO. Good Luck.

  3. #3


    macavity, I wouldn't do it because I think it would be very difficult to do properly.

    I would only buy a live animal from you, if I saw it housed in a pen with good light and air, shelter, somewhere it could sneak off to get away from me, fresh food, clean water, toys, a comfortable bed, and so on.

    I would not buy it if it appeared bored and lonely in a pen on its own.
    I would not buy it if there was urine or faeces in the enclosure with the animal, especially not if there was evidence of more than one elimination that hadn't been cleaned up.
    I would not buy it if it was unvaccinated.
    I would not buy it undesexed.

    If you met all the above criteria, I'd also like the adoption to come with vouchers for further vaccinations, and for the animal to be wormed and de-fleaed in front of me before I took it home.

    Furthermore - because I'm a fussy bitch - if I saw animals in your store that WEREN'T at my standards, and this is the dangerous part for your business, I'd leave without buying anything else, and I wouldn't shop there again.

    But the question you have to ask yourself, is am I an exception to the rule, do you really care if people like me don't buy at your store, so on, so forth?

  4. #4


    I have been a pet shop junkie for many years.
    I started out reporting the ones that sold puppies and kittens that were kept in poor conditions. I cannot believe the state in which some are kept. Even birds, rabbits and guinea pigs. And the info that is given out is mind boggling. To see Hermit crabs, rabbits, guinea pigs and rats kept on wood shavings astounds me. Anyway enough ranting.
    Like you have said a lot of money will be invested. I would use some of your floor space for floor stacks and for promo's. These can be easily moved, Then you can use that floor space for rescue groups to promote their animals for adoption. I would even promote rabbit and guinea pig rescue groups. God only knows there are heaps that need homes as well.
    Be prepared for the phone calls from byb wanting to sell you their pups and now we are entering cat season they will be wanting to sell you their unwanted litters from their un desexed cats.
    Look forward to seeing your new shop.
    Meant to add, I think it was/is Petsmart in America that have been successful in promoting rescue/shelters. I recall seeing them on DogTown National Geographic series where the no kill shelter Best Friends used to have days where people could meet and adopt.
    Last edited by molly33; 09-12-2010 at 12:17 PM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2009


    To be honest, im quite happy with your principles.
    My main concern would be sponteneous(sp?) purcheses though...
    Education not Legislation

  6. #6


    Quote Originally Posted by aussiemyf7 View Post
    To be honest, im quite happy with your principles.
    My main concern would be sponteneous(sp?) purcheses though...
    thanks for the replies. I posed this on a US forum too - and strangely the responses were much more positive there than here.

    I am concerned with spontaneous purchases too - I would need to make sure all staff were well trained and empowered to say no, and all potential mums and dads were run through their decision before any money changed hands - a questionnaire and a general "this is what is required, yes it can be work, and think hard about this because your furbaby is a part of your family for the next 10+ years"

    I am meeting with the welfare agency again next week, and am going to make contact with some other local welfare agencies to run through some ideas too. I will let you all know how I go!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008


    I would be advertising that I get all my animals from local rescue group/s, I would also be advertising that there isn't just puppies and kittens available but also the more mature animals. I would also advertise that I did not get my animals from puppy farms and most importantly WHY I didn't. I would also have a 24 hour cooling off period for the potential owners. Yes the animal is sold to the general publics knowledge but does not go home and no money is exchanged until the 24 hours is up.

    I think in general it is a good idea but I would also think about my advertising very carefully before setting up.

    Good luck in your new venture and I hope it works out for you.

  8. #8


    I know that Petbarn have a minimum 24 hours to up to a week. No animal goes home the same day. There is no trial period. They also have the vet clinic which is run by Lort Smith.
    I also have an interest in this topic. The thing that worries me is that people still think that puppies and kittens come from pet shops. It's all about education as well.
    I watch with interest.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Perth, WA


    Hi Macavity

    Firstly I would like to commend you on your stance against puppy mills etc and that you are giving this such careful consideration.

    I think it could work. I agree with Cate though, it would need to be very clear why those animals are there ie they are getting a second chance. And how you are different to normal pet shops (BYBs, mills etc).

    I also think the cooling off period is a good idea.

    As for the spontaneous buyers, I would think that once they realise they have to go 'through the hoops' so to speak, that should put them off. The adoption process combined with a cooling off period should give people the message this is a serious thing.

    If your employees love animals and care about their welfare as much as you do then I'm sure they will be willing to reject potential adopters.

    TBH I disagree with Molly - I think animals are a drawcard. How many times do you see people walk into a pet shop just to see the cute puppies and kittens? But that also depends on the location of the shop.

    Again, I thank you for taking the time to think about this.

  10. #10


    The thing is you don't want to have the animals on display, regardless of how fancy the enclosure is. Kids will still tap or bash on the enclosure. I believe it's a stressful environment for any animal especially ones that have already been let down by a human. This is why I keep going on about having weekends where animal can be viewed under the group/foster carers care and then goes home.
    Sometimes I liken pet shops, that have live stock to cheap zoos, where rarely they purchase anything.
    No.9 worries me. You could be seen as sourcing free/cheap live stock.
    You mention puppies and kittens from pounds that are picked up by the welfare agency, now assuming parvo, guardia, colitis, corona, demodex mange, hotspots, and ringworm presents itself in store will this be recognized quickly, then acted upon with possibly closing the store for disinfecting.
    I'm not sure if you have been in the pet industry before and there is so so so much to consider. It will take a large amount of your time and finances to do it well.

    Don't get me wrong I am a fan promoting adoption.

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