Animal Writes
17 March 1999 Issue
Pet Shop Horror Story

by [email protected]

This past week has been emotionally devastating, as well as eye opening for
Ann Marie and myself. We both want to share our story with you in hopes
you'll empathize and realize there are very inhumane and unethical happenings
behind the scenes at some, if not most, pet stores, especially a popular chain
pet store here in Knoxville. Unfortunately, there's not much one can do to stop
the "milling" of animals for stores like these, but you can refuse to support the
stores, as well as spread information to other people about where the animals
in the pet shops come from and how most of the time are separated from the
mother too early, shipped across the country before being properly developed
to survive, and not properly vaccinated against deadly illnesses that plague
young animals who haven't ingested enough natural immunity through the
mothers' milk.

Ann Marie and I grew up with pets, and just took for granted that pets came
from pet shops. Until now, we would never leave the mall without going in the
pet shop to see each and every puppy and some would even get the "could
you imagine that little guy running around at home...." fantasy. We've visited
the shops from time to time for almost two years now waiting for the right "little
guy" to look at us in just a way we couldn't resist. One day we would give the
gift of a lifetime full of love, care and tons of fun and happiness. Never once
did we suspect any of the horrors those "little guys" in the pet shop had
suffered. The term "puppy mill" was foreign to us both.

Recently, we were at the mall on a rainy Saturday afternoon and fell in love
with a little Yorkshire Terrier. We both woke up that day feeling the need to go
see the puppies, so once we were in the pet shop holding a sleepy, 2 pound
Yorkie, that was it! That little guy won the lottery of love! We spent some time
with him, curious as to how he would act outside the cage, but he seemed
rather tired and annoyed at being bothered. The clerk said the puppies are
usually really tired and unresponsive on Saturday afternoons because of all the
traffic and kids knocking on the windows, etc... That made sense, so we were
excited about getting him home so he could get some peace and quiet.
However, before we bought the dog we inquired about the high price the pet
shop had in comparison to local breeders of the same breed. The difference
was about $400. He seemed surprised we would even say that, implying in a
condescending manner that breeders can't be trusted and won't guarantee the
dog to be healthy like the pet shop does. The clerk showed us all the registra-
tion and shot records and hurriedly sped through the terms and conditions of
a "lifetime guarantee" contract that covers medical expenses for 2 years for
certain things and a full refund if the dog should die or become crippled with
any of the popular dog diseases. The whole deal sounded legitimate as Ann
Marie and I both read through the contract and examined the shot and pedigree
records. The next four days would prove to be heartbreaking.

We named our nine week old baby "Ravi" and put him to bed as soon as we
arrived home. He vomited initially, but we were told that was normal due to
the stress of new people and a new place. The next day, Sunday, he still
seemed rather lethargic and depressed so we didn't bother him too much
except to talk to him and hold him against our warm bodies. He finally decided
to eat, so we took that as a sign he was getting comfortable. Within an hour
or so, he had vomited and had diarrhea all over himself and his bed. By
Sunday evening he couldn't even drink water without vomiting immediately.
With heightened concern we searched the net and read in a book provided
by the pet store and began to realize these weren't just anxiety induced
symptoms. This pup was really sick, so we paid close attention to him for a
couple of hours. By 11:30 Sunday night, he began to cry and his breathing
became labored. His gums were white and his eyes were cloudy. We
rushed him to the pet emergency clinic and watched him go into convulsions
on the exam table. The doctor stabilized him and gave him fluids and vitamins
over night. At six AM Monday morning, we found out little Ravi had parvo, a
potentially fatal intestinal disease. PARVO, a disease he had SUPPOSEDLY
had a series of three shots for vaccination prior to arriving at the pet shop in
Knoxville. For the next two days we visited him at the vet and cheered him on,
as his little 1.8 pound body was fighting a virus that is one of the most deadly
and contagious known to domestic animals. He was separated from the rest
of the animals and seemed so depressed and lonely. We'll never forget his
little eyes looking up at us, so confused about everything he'd been through
in his nine weeks here in the world. Although his prognosis looked dim, we
never had a doubt that little guy would survive. But, he lost his battle early
Wednesday morning.

It's Thursday morning now and I'm still crying. Why did this happen? We
fell in love with a little doggie, just to bring him home and watch him die.
But, the hardest thing to understand is why he had to have such a painful and
tragic experience here. Had he ever wagged his tail? Did he realize how
much we loved him and wanted him to make it? We knew him less than a
week, but the attachment was instant. We embraced all he was and
represented. We embraced Ravi as well as every other living creature.
This wasn't just about losing a puppy, it was about experiencing pain through
another life. And learning and realizing how man's negligence and greed
sucked the life right from an innocent 1.8 pound puppy who should've still
been laying with his mother.

We don't really know how Ravi contracted parvo, but the fact is he was too
young and not strong enough to be separated from his mom at six weeks of
age, shipped from MO and thrown in a cage in Knoxville, TN with another pup
with the same story. I'm sure the other pup has been put to sleep by now, and
it's hard to speculate about the fate of the other 15 dogs who were potentially
exposed to the parvovirus. This whole ordeal has taken an emotional toll on the
both of us, and we've found no solace or remorse in the people who imported
and sold us Ravi. We have, however, been made aware by our vet, vet
students at UT, other pet owners, breeders and people who've been through a
similar experience that all the shot records, registration papers, and the "bill of
health" guarantee presented to us by this pet store chain is meaningless.
We've learned of a thing called a "puppy mill" where people breed pet dogs in
mass numbers and ship them off as soon as possible, with no respect for
natural development. Many times the shot records are vague and there's no
way to really know where the dog came from or what vaccines it's had,
because all the presale examinations and vaccines are done and documented
by the breeder and sellers of the dog. This whole case is becoming more
complex by the day as we investigate.

Our intent here isn't to pass judgment on people in the business of breeding
and selling animals, but it's to make you all question the ethics of these people
and businesses. Ann Marie and I both feel as if our hearts have been ripped
out, and we wish this pain on no other person or animal. Take the time to
educate yourself and pay attention to the rights of animals, especially those
exploited for the entertainment of humans. Don't take for granted the honesty
of a pet shop that houses many adorable pets just because you're taken in by
puppy eyes and smooth talking salespersons. Remember, this company is in
the business of selling, they see you as the caretaker.

We've spoken with the main office in MO of this particular pet store. It's taken
everything short of threatening a law suit to convince them to consider fully
compensating us for the dog, supplies and vet bills. Ravi was in our
possession just over 24 hours when he became too sick to lift his little head.
We feel as if the pet store chain is 100% responsible for everything, because
the pup was obviously infected with this virus before we took him into our
care. This position is shared by both the emergency vet, primary care vet,
as well as all who've heard this tragic story. Not once has anyone from the
local pet store or the national headquarters offered any condolence or
remorse. They have the attitude that the dog is our responsibility and seem
outraged that we would even ask to be refunded all the money invested in Ravi.
We've insisted that this is not really about the money, but it's about ETHICS.
And, we're abhorred at the position of defense they've taken in this situation.
We might understand had it been a couple weeks or month after the purchase,
but it was the very next day when Ravi demanded emergency care. The
company acts as if we should've let him die instead of allowing three days of
life support. I wonder if they would feel differently if they had held Ravi as he
cried and moaned just before slipping into violent convulsions? Or if they had
visited him at the vet while he was alone, fighting for his life and devoid of all
the things little puppies need to be happy?

Please, share your love with animals and respect them. When you're ready
for a pet, visit the animal shelter, ask a vet or other people with pets about
good breeders to call. We've learned a lot of lessons through this, and hope
no one ever shares this heartbreaking experience. And please beware, there
are pet shops out there that are nothing more than facades for an unethical
underworld of animal cruelty and exploitation.

Send a vibe of love out for Ravi today and hold him in your heart as a victim
of an unfortunate fate. A fate that could've been different if his right to live
wasn't taken by human greed.

Karman & Ann Marie

[Editor's note: Our heart goes out to Ravi, as well as all the shelter dogs who
are victims of people's greed. Adopt one until there are no more needing
homes in the shelters and pounds of our nation.]

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