The Problem with Chain Pet Stores

Rachel Steed, Reporter

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Even when I was just seven years old, everytime I walked into a pet store I went straight to the reptile section. I loved (and still love) to watch the baby lizards, mainly bearded dragons, jumping at the side of the glass, wanting to be adopted. As I grew older, reality set in. Instead of little baby lizards just itching to get out and play, I started to realize that there were too many bearded dragons cramped into a very small tank and leopard geckos way too thin for their age.

I have always had leopard geckos living in my house but a little over a year ago, I got my very own personal reptile. He was a bearded dragon I named Geta. He was perfect when I first bought him from a chain pet store, but a problem arose a few days after I brought him home; I realized he didn’t have a good feeding response.

This meant he was eating way less than a normal baby bearded dragon should eat. I suspected that was because of how little they were feeding him at the pet store or that he just gave up on fighting the other lizards in the tank. Either way, Geta was underweight due to his care at the pet store and I didn’t have the time I needed to get him healthy. He only lived a month and died in his sleep one night.

Most of the animals, including reptiles, in chain pet stores are babies, but what most people don’t realize is that baby reptiles are harder to take care of than adults. Baby lizards generally need to eat more than an adult because they are growing and need energy.

They also don’t care about eating as much as adults so when you do get them to eat, you need to feed them as much as they want to eat in one sitting. Chain pet stores generally get the animals as babies so that they appeal to people, because they’re smaller or cuter than an adult of the same species. They also teach people the adult care, and not the care for a younger animal, so it makes it seem so much easier than it actually is.

I have had only two animals survive from a chain pet store: my bearded dragon Misha, whom my parents got me as a gift a month after Geta passed, and my crested gecko Dala. When I first got Misha, I was absolutely terrified when I saw that cute little face staring back at me from the tank. I didn’t want to go through losing another pet again, but I knew that sending her back to the pet store was like a death sentence, so I kept her and now she’s healthy. Misha survived because she has an amazing feeding response, which is rare in the animals from chain pet stores, and I bought my crested gecko just as she was being put her in the tank at the store. I consider that to be a miracle and most of the time that doesn’t happen. I had questioned my ability after the whole thing with Geta and never wanted another reptile again. I didn’t want to kill them like I thought I had done with Geta, but Misha showed me that I was qualified to take care of reptiles. She led me to get my crested gecko, my African fat tail gecko, and most recently my blue tongue skink.

All the things that I’ve gone through with my pets have taught me something. The natural urge to grow and be happy has really created some terrible things but most don’t even seem to notice it because they’re blinded by the happiness created by owning a pet.

Chain pet stores have gotten caught up in the need for the best looking pets even if the animals themselves are not that happy. Living in a small town, I have no choice on where I get my supplies for my pets. I cringe every time I give the cashier money because I know I’m feeding into the demand just like everyone else when all I want to do is take care of my own animals.

We all want our pets to look appealing to others, but I don’t care how ugly or scary a creature is, as long as it’s healthy and thriving in life, it is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen and I wish that other people saw that too.


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