Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

Minnesota Herp Society and Petco

Conference Call

George Richard, MHS


Meeting Notes
Petco Conference Call
August 7, 1997

Attendees: Melissa Kaplan, George Richard, President, MHS, Don Cowan, Communications, Petco, Craig Parsons, Animal Acquisition, Petco, Donna Moore, Jan Mitchell, John Benjamin, Product Acquisition

Conference Call Synopsis By George Richard, President, Minnesota Herpetological Society

This is a recap of the August 7 conference call using material from the notes of Melissa Kaplan, George Richard and Don Cowan's memo.

Participating in the call were Melissa Kaplan of Reptile & Environmental Education, George Richard of MHS, Craig Parsons Petco Buyer and Don Cowan Petco's Communications Director. The call was Initiated by Petco and after some initial technical problems all parties were included in the call by approximately 4:15 PST and after some initial greetings It was suggested by Don and agreed to by all parties end the call at 4:40 PST.

As stated by Melissa "The purpose of the call was to identify some key problem areas in Petco's buying, maintenance, and selling of reptiles and reptile- related products, and ways in which changes can be made that would be of benefit to both Petco and the reptiles."

The meeting can be broken down into the following areas of discussion:

  • Wholesaler influence
  • Product mix
  • Education
  • Adoptions
  • Next steps


Wholesaler influence.
Since Petco is a large corporation with significant buying power they could and should use that power to demand healthier animals from dealers and wholesalers, and better, or more appropriately packaged products, from reptile product manufacturers. Specific suggestions included:

Require reptile wholesalers and dealers supply accurate common and scientific names. (It was indicated that scientific and common names were now appearing on in-store signage) The problem remains that wholesalers and dealers are notorious for not knowing what they have and often ship unordered reptiles which are incorrectly identified by store staff.

Refuse delivery of obviously sick animals and illegal species. (Petco Corporate states that this is policy.) An effective hard-line stance, including refusing delivery, refusing payment, and severing the business relationship with vendors who don't get with the program would send a clear signal to that end of the industry that they need to make some changes - as well as help ensure that Petco is getting healthy, legal species.


Product mix.
The subject was broached that many reptile care products now on the market are useless, inappropriate and in some cases dangerous. To stop distribution of these products requires the education of the store staff (on a continuing basis, due to staff turnover and appearance of new products on the market) and feedback to distributors on which products are inadequate. Some examples of dangerous products included :

The Zoo Med hot rock, which features a picture of an iguana on the rock both on the packaging and in herp magazine advertisements, despite the fact they are not good for iguana's and should never be used for them.

ReptiBark and other litters marketed for iguanas, which due to their nature may be ingested and become lodged in the gut, often to the point where the reptile requires surgery to remove the mass (this is common to many reptiles, thus putting other species at risk for this as well).

Zoo Med and other light manufacturers intentionally misleading the public by claiming their incandescent basking lights are "full spectrum" when in fact they are only broad or wide spectrum, providing only visible and some infrared light. The public (and too many store staff) believe that, based on the print advertising, the package information and statements made by uninformed store staff, that these lights provide UVB.

Melissa offered to review a list of products Petco currently sells comment, make alternative suggestions where appropriate or discuss the problems associated with each product if Petco would follow-up.

There are many products not marketed to the reptile trade specifically that could easily be sold by Petco. Melissa can provide information on these as well. Craig mentioned that Petco is currently reviewing reptile sales and merchandising including a test that involves live animal mix.

It was further explained that Petco would be removing Iguanas from the large hexagonal display areas and replacing them with more suitable lizards such as bearded dragons. Nile monitors were brought up as a possible future "problem" animal due to their adult size and temperament and Don stated that they would be removed from Petco's instore stock list and made available only as a special order product.


There was general agreement that additional education, particularly for consumers, would be helpful. To improve both the knowledge and experience of store staff and help educate the general public and improve the public's (especially the herpetoculturists' perceptions) of Petco, it was suggested that they offer in-store lectures to the public on reptiles, to be conducted by local herp educators. The lectures would include information on setting up environments, characteristics and concerns of the different types of reptiles in general, and more specific examples, augmented by the presence of and public interaction with live reptiles during the lectures. There are herpetological societies around the country which could be used as source contacts to find herp educators. In addition, there are an increasing number of specialty herp societies, such as the Chameleon information Network (CiN), which could be of use not only in public education, but in educating staff. Information on most states, and on specialty societies, can be found linked to Melissa's Herp Society page, Melissa and George both volunteered to send further contact information to Craig.


PETCO promotes companion animal adoptions in its stores, including advertising at its expense to encourage interested parties to visit the stores on adoption days. Advertising done by partner adoption agencies is done at their discretion and expense. The point is that PETCO also promotes adoption days at its expense. The dilemma faced by both the MHS and Melissa was restated at this time: We find it impossible to advocate Adoption Days when the same animals the groups will be trying to get adopted are sold in the store where the Adoption Day is being held. Since the MHS is interested in placing posters and working to place iguana's outside Petco Adoption Day program, George mentioned he would be faxing the MHS Iguana adoption poster prototype to Don.

Petco also said that they would take in unwanted iguanas they had previously sold, and would adopt them out "to whoever wants them." Melissa offered to provide her Adoption Application that Petco can use or adapt, to screen prospective adopters. It should be noted that, whether or not the person has ever kept an iguana before, they should be urged to read an accurate, up-to-date iguana book, care guide or video. This subject should be discussed further.


Next Steps.
It was agreed that we had taken the first steps had been taken but further discussion and action was required. The proposal was also put forward that perhaps this type of conference call should be scheduled at frequent intervals on a regular basis. Melissa will be sending her adoption form to Craig, as well as some educational information, she also suggested that her web site be utilized to help Petco gather information and contacts. Craig will also be handling any additional product and merchandising questions while other issues will be directed to Don's attention.

The conference call ended at approximately 4:45 PST.

Additional Comments
It is our hope to begin a dialog with the retail pet industry that will address and hopefully solve some of the problems we all face. If we can not voluntarily control some of the problems now running rampant sooner or later someone else will. In an effort to shed some light on the iguana problem I am asking for the following help.

If you are a member of a group or organization which conducts iguana rescues, runs a shelter, adopts or euthanizes iguana's, an accurate count (if possible by month) of the disposition of your Iguana's. Although hundreds of thousands, if not millions of ig's are imported into the US every year little is known of their final disposition. I would appreciate any and all statistics or numbers you could furnish on your iguanas.

If you are an employee, owner, or manager of an pet trade facility that handles Iguana's, any statistics regarding numbers of ig's received, shipped, sold or returned would be very valuable. Some companies are very secretive regarding Ig's and/or sales numbers. Please do not break any laws or endanger your livelihood through unethical actions.

Take a look at your local Petco have they fulfilled their part of our agreement? I would appreciate date, time, store location and # of Ig's for sale, where the iguanas were displayed and how many bearded dragons were available.

Make me aware of any other problems regarding reptile care and conditions at Petco, problem pet supplies, or other areas we may be able to influence. Please provide specific examples, dates, times, stores, conditions and remedies taken (if any) The purpose here is not to show Petco or their employees how uninformed they are but just to see what problems exist.

Thanks for your help. Please reply as soon as you are able, If possible I'd like to have some sort of solid statistics by the end of October. Any information received will be held (if requested) in confidence and used only for statistical purposes. Any informational regarding stores and Ig's will be discussed in an open forum.

George Richard
Minnesota Herpetological Society

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