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Don't buy ANYTHING in stores that SELL ANIMALS

Cavy Spirit does not advocate buying ANY animal in ANY pet store. There are rescues and shelters which carry not only dogs and cats, but just about every kind of small animal as well--rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, birds, reptiles, etc. 

IMG_0091c.jpg (26128 bytes)The only way to break the cycle of homeless animals in shelters, abuse of animals in pet stores, and by initially well-intentioned pet owners is to stop all demand for the animals in the pet stores. Even if you think a particular pet store is good to its' animals, supporting that store supports the whole process. ANY purchase at ANY store supports the channel and continues the demand and supply across the board. Do you understand what that means? It doesn't matter if you have the world's best pet store across the street from you. Buying animals in ANY pet store supports the whole industry of selling animals in pet stores and contributes to the problems. EVERY sale of an animal in a pet store can be correlated to a death of an animal in a shelter.

At rescues and shelters, potential adopters are screened and qualified. This greatly reduces the IMPULSE BUY at the pet store--a huge contributor to animal neglect, misinformation, abuse, and abandonment. People who go to shelters and rescues to get a pet, have usually done more research and thinking about pet ownership, especially the small animals.

When at all possible, you should buy supplies for your animals at pet stores that do not carry animals or support online sites that are not part of corporate organizations which carry animals, such as PetsMart and Petco which should not patronized.

For additional, related reading on pet stores, see our Dump page.

Here's an example from a post on a guinea pig forum (name changed) of WHY pet stores are able to stay in business providing minimal-to-no care for the animals. This happens day-in, day-out at pet stores across the country. And this girl is probably a decent home--at least for now--unlike the majority of impulse buys:

Posted by Julie on July 06, 2002 at 18:19:55:

Today we went to go get shavings for the piggies, and we went to a pet shop that is a fish shop and sells guinea pigs too. When we got in there, they had over 20 guinea pigs in only 3 cages! On the top cage they had 2 males (I think). In the middle cage they had tons of males, and one didn't have an eye, and on the bottom they had females -- about 8 pregnant females -- 2 females that were about 2 months old, and then in the corner they had 2 precious little 3 DAY old babies. The mother is black, one baby (male) is also black, and the other one is brown and white (female) like the dad. They had no food, no water, and they all came up to the said of the cage squeaking. The baby's dad was the ONE EYED male, and to top it off they are COVERED in LICE. Soooo 10 minutes of bagging to my mom, and $31.00 later I got to take them home (of course, my dad doesn't know about them hehe). 

Petco Employees Speak
Direct Quotes in Letters to PETA From Current or Former Petco Employees

More Challenges Ahead on SB1357
(6/24/02) It seems that Wal*Mart will be opposing the bill unless tropical fish are specifically excluded. And there are a few other items. We may be testifying again at the Appropriations committee hearing in August. 

Bird Quarantine at Petco Redwood City
(6/25/02) Another Petco store in the Bay Area is in trouble over animal health. The outlet in Redwood City has been told to stop selling birds for 45 days, after a woman complained about her sick animal.

SF City Attorney Calls Petco a Public Nuisance

(6/19/02) The SF City Attorney's Office says it is suing Petco Animal Supplies to prevent it from selling animals in the city but the company says it has not been served with the lawsuits as of yet.
Bay Insider

SF Chronicle
SJ Mercury News
SF City Press Release

WHERE did that pet store guinea pig came from?

If most pet stores don't have a clue as to where their animals come from, how are you to know? Oh sure, they may know the name of the distributor they buy from, but certainly NOT where the distributor got the animal. Some pet stores will buy animals from 'local breeders.' Some pet stores will buy or take guinea pigs from people off the street (or breeders off the street for that matter) who don't want a litter or their original guinea pigs. 

Are you under the impression that every private home takes great care of their animals and that they are healthy and not pregnant? We can't tell you how many private surrenders we get from so-called 'nice' families (plenty of money, nice homes, 'nice' people) where their animals are in very poor condition, parasite-infested, and pregnant--sometimes intentionally, sometimes through ignorance, sometimes through a basic lack of caring about the animal. These EXTRA, UNWANTED pigs are sold or given to the pet stores for the next impulse buyer that comes along (or snake owner or dog-fight trainer). Unlike shelters and rescues that make every effort to adopt out healthy, non-pregnant pigs, the pet stores just toss them in a cage (often-times literally) and put a 'for sale' sign on them.

A pet store may THINK they know the 'local breeder' they are buying guinea pigs from, but do they? No. They don't. Pet store owners and managers don't go to the homes of the breeders or even the facilities of the distributors to check out the condition of their animals. hollister1.jpg (173908 bytes)Most of these people don't allow you to visit even when you ask as a pet store owner--if any pet store owner cared enough to ask. A case in point is the recent Hollister rescue. These pigs were sold to pet stores.
This is the kind of horror YOU ARE SUPPORTING and PAYING FOR and ENCOURAGING by buying animals from pet stores. She had a market. Every animal purchased at any pet store helps make the market. For 11 years, this woman was supplying pet stores with guinea pigs. Who knew? Not you. Not me. If you think there aren't other similar, truly horrendous conditions that animals are suffering in right now in similar circumstances, then you are mistaken. And there are many suffering in conditions that are just as bad, they just don't LOOK so awful to the average person. They are not attention-grabbing, clearly abusive situations.

Be an Advocate

Don't go home from a store wishing you had said something. If you see something wrong with the animals, tell someone in the store. If it is really bad, tell multiple people and ask to speak with the manager. Sometimes it's only a kid who is in charge of locking up for the day. Other times it will be the owner. Depending on how comfortable you are and how bad it is, if the situation escalates, be sure to talk about the situation in front of other customers. This will tend to keep the manager or owner on their better behavior. If you must, resort to telling them that you will contact animal control (and follow through). If it is really horrible, tell them you will contact the local press (and follow through). If it is something they can fix easily, like empty water bottles, tell them you will shop around until it is taken care of. More suggestions on how to help keep pet stores taking good care of animals will be posted in the near future. Remember, we are the humans with the control and the power. Doing nothing accomplishes nothing while the animals suffer.

The Local Pet Store Scene
(Peninsula, SF Bay Area, CA)

The Local Scene: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Please patronize stores that do not carry animals. However, sometimes those stores do not carry everything that you need, and you must shop at a store that does carry animals. Below is a list of stores that sell cavies of which Cavy Spirit has personal knowledge. These are located in the mid-Peninsula area.

Recently closed UGLY pet stores because their rent was increased:

Hillsdale Pets in San Mateo closed down. We also heard that the shipping expenses from their puppy mill source was getting too expensive.

Pet Meister in Millbrae. Moving their store to 15 minutes outside of Sacramento. Too bad they aren't just quitting.


Pet Club
(off Rengstorf)
1010 N. Rengstorf
Mountain View, CA

As long as Melissa continues working in the small animal department, then cavies sold there have a chance. She is knowledgeable about cavies and does a fairly good job of keeping them appropriately. I have seen the occasional wire bottom cage, but hopefully those were changed out. Do not buy a pet store cage, which will be recommended. They take in dumps from people as well as breed their own. 


Laurelwood Pets
(off 92 at the Laurelwood Shopping Plaza)
1232 W. Hillsdale Blvd.,
San Mateo, CA

The owner no longer carries guinea pigs. He works with Cavy Spirit. We trade referrals. That is a good thing. He also carries some key supplies that are great for cavies: Cell-Sorb bedding, Timber Hide-A-Ways, Oxbow's Timothy Hay, and Oxbow's Pellets. These are hard to find items. The downside is he carries all other animals and conditions are difficult for him to maintain properly.


Petco, San Mateo
Petco, Redwood City
Petco, Mountain View
Petco, San Jose, on Meridian
Pet Club, San Jose
(see link to story)

(Petco has additional stores that I haven't been to in: San Bruno, Fremont, Sunnyvale, 3 in San Francisco, 2 in San Jose)

Petco employee turnover (including store managers) is very high. Petco frequently sells cavies that are missexed, pregnant, have upper respiratory infections, and mites. Frequent overcrowding. I have many stories of people buying animals from Petco that died shortly after getting them home. There are a few concerned people at various stores who try their best, but it is not possible to stem the tide of incoming sick animals. Nor is possible for Petco to retain the types of people they need. This is true of most pet stores.

Petco San Mateo, and Petco Redwood City have been willing to work with Cavy Spirit to improve conditions. While some small progress has been made, it is still a sub-optimal situation. And cooperation lasts as long as the current employees last.

Contrary to what you might expect, the small independent stores that carry animals tend to be worse than the big chains.


Pet Meister
(MOVING, see above)
320 El Camino Real
Millbrae, CA
(650) 692-1304

This store breeds their own. Poor conditions. Poor animal handling. Frequently dirty water in bowls. Guinea pigs sometimes share cages with rabbits or rats. According to the owner, you can't sex a guinea pig until they are 6 weeks old.

Menlo Park Feed
564 Oak Grove Ave
Menlo Park, CA

They breed some of their own, they buy or take some from local backyard breeders and other breeders. Ask to see the upstairs area where they board and breed animals. It's a loft in the rafters with stifling heat in the summertime. Also poor conditions. Cages are in or near the front window which bakes in the summer. I have seen cavies in the cage on the floor crawling with bugs. They have mixed rabbits and cavies (one time when a boa constrictor was loose in the store). Water bottles have frequently been empty. They have no clue on sex. The last time I stopped in, they had 3 pregnant females in with one male and two rabbits.

Pets Are Us
1807 El Camino Real
Burlingame, CA

Poor conditions. Overcrowding, bites, mites, wire bottom cages, not properly sexed, raucous birds so loud all the time you can't hear yourself think.


There are several types of suppliers: the big distributors, the employees of the stores who breed, and the backyard breeders.


Here is a backyard breeder to
avoid. She advertises in the paper. She specializes in Peruvians. The conditions in which they are kept outdoors have been reported to local animal control authorities (and not by Cavy Spirit). Do not buy from this person:

Mrs. Ruth Ruppi (and her son Terrance)
Sunnyvale, CA 94087
(408) 736-7962

If not Pet Stores, then Where?

How do you find a guinea pig if not at a pet store?

1. Rescues. There are several listed in the SF Bay Area.
2. Shelters (check the yellow pages for shelters in your area).

3. Newspaper--private listings in the newspaper (avoid breeders).
4. Internet--private listings on the internet (avoid breeders).

5. Breeder, if necessary (If no shelters or rescues or private listings exist in your area, which is highly unlikely. You will have to do your own searching, because we do not promote breeders).

(6.) Pet Store--avoid at all costs--a last resort which can almost always be avoided with some effort.


For more info on how to find a guinea pig, check out www.CavyRescue.com

A note about Pet Stores:


NEVER listen to or believe ANYTHING ANYONE tells you in a pet store.


ALWAYS get confirmation of any advice before relying on ANY information from a pet store.


NEVER believe the sex of an animal from a pet store without getting expert (vet) confirmation.


NEVER buy products for your animal based on the advice of a pet store owner or employee. Again, ALWAYS get confirmation of any advice before relying on ANY information from a pet store.


One last note, if you think you are buying a healthy animal and a non-pregnant female, or non-mating pair, THINK AGAIN. Many pet store guinea pigs have health problems which are not obvious to the untrained eye. Many, many people go home thinking they have just bought a male guinea pig, only to wake up to babies one morning!


Okay, one more note, if you are buying a furry friend for an existing guinea pig and you think that pet store guinea pig is healthy and can't introduce a potentially lethal illness to your treasured guinea pig at home, THINK AGAIN. Always quarantine new pigs from existing ones in separate rooms (and of course, separate cages), behind closed doors, and wash your hands between handling times for THREE WEEKS.



Pet Store Advice

NEVER listen to or believe ANYTHING ANYONE tells you in a pet store.

get confirmation of any advice before relying on ANY information from a pet store.


NEVER believe the sex of an animal from a pet store without getting expert (vet) confirmation.


NEVER buy products for your animal based on the advice of a pet store owner or employee. Again, ALWAYS get confirmation of any advice before relying on ANY information from a pet store.
One Simple Example

Pets Are Us
Millbrae, CA

piglyingoutsideofbowl.jpg (68246 bytes)

pigoutsideofbowl.jpg (54447 bytes)

pigwantsinbowl.jpg (84096 bytes)

Simple example of cavies on wire bottom cages, trying to escape the wire and find comfort in their food dish. The poor Himalayan piggie won't fit. The non-stop screech of the birds in this room is deafening and extremely stressful to the guinea pigs. No sign of hay.

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The media clips below are in the Windows Media Video (WMV) file format. If you have difficulty playing them from your browser, you could try downloading them to your hard drive.

Part 1 of an
Undercover Report
Petco in the
SF Bay Area
(Click the photo to view or download the video for smoother viewing: right-click here)

Part 2 of an
Undercover Report
Petco in the
SF Bay Area
(Click the photo to view or download the video for smoother viewing: right-click here)

Cavy Spirit was involved with this story after they received the initial email. In addition to providing some sources and info for the story, we spoke with the reporter about the sick baby guinea pig while she was at the pet store. Since the reporter planned on buying the guinea pig the next day, she wanted to make sure I could take it in as a rescue, since she didn't really know anything about guinea pigs.

I agreed to make a exception about my not taking in pet store guinea pigs on the condition that she made sure the story about the guinea pig wasn't left on the editing room floor.

It was a very sad phone call to hear that the guinea pig we expected to receive that day had already died.

Petco is supposedly making efforts to clean up their act as it relates to animal care in the store and hopefully that will translate to better advice being dispensed to customers. Time will tell. 

The point of keeping this story alive is to help make sure that the any progress made doesn't backslide due to a lack of attention from various people. Also, this story makes some Petco look great in comparison to some other pet stores.

Please keep in mind that the average small locally owned store can be just as bad, and frequently worse than the conditions portrayed in this story. This is not just a big corporate company problem.


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