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

Petco Correspondence: July 30, 1997

Mike Fry (Animal Ark) to Don Cowan (Petco)


This letter from Mike Fry is in response to a reply received from Don Cowan that was, apparently, less than satisfactory.


July 30, 1997

To: Don Cowan

From: Mike Fry
(Reprinted by permission of Mike Fry)


Thank you for the prompt reply.

I need to tell you, I am not interested in presenting a "threatening" tone or position. I AM interested in having an open, candid and honest conversation with someone at the national level in the Petco organization who can address the concerns and issues I have raised. I hope my comments will be seen in this light.

To date, I have found no one who has even attempted to respond to the real issues I have raised -- why your company continues to import threatened animals; house them in poorly designed enclosures; sell products which are useless or downright dangerous; fail to educate your staff regarding the proper care required by these animals; and fail to really support the nonprofit organizations who are working very hard to solve the problems associate with your activities relating to reptile sales.

Is it possible that in your last e-mail you attached the wrong documents? What I received were responses from Petco to the Minnesota Herp Society, indicating that Petco was going to make "Adoption Days" available to them in your store. Maybe I am missing something. But I do not see how this, in any way, addresses the issues I have raised.

It has been my belief that all rescue groups have an open invitation to your stores to conduct adoption events. Animal Ark has participate in several. While I am personally grateful for the opportunity to attend these events, I also need to be honest in saying that I see this as a small gesture, which may actually benefit Petco more than the rescue groups participating.

In my experience, in order for a rescue group to have a successful adoption event in one of your stores, it is essential that the group put forth a substantial effort: advertising their presents in your store; coordinating volunteers; preparing and transporting animals, etc.; preparing printed materials. . . All of this costs the participating organization resources, money and time. Even with this expenditure of time and energy, the results of a typical adoption event go something like this. . .

A few weeks ago we attended the Grand Opening of the Stillwater store. We had 6 reptiles along with several dogs and cats at the event. We advertised the event in local newspapers (ads paid for by Animal Ark). We had 7 volunteers available for a 7 hour time period. Because the event was in conjunction with other grand opening activities, the traffic in the store was pretty heavy. Still, most of the people who stopped by to see Animal Ark were their looking for pets because of the advertising we did. We adopted 2 dogs and 2 cats. We talked to 2 parties interested in iguanas. One of these resulted in an adoption. However, less than a week after the adoption took place, the animal was returned to the shelter because, while the people were made aware of the possibility of aggressive behavior from large iguanas, they were not prepared to really deal with it when the animal started behaving aggressively in their home. In other words, after all of that work, time and money -- we still have the same iguanas we started with.

Again, this is fairly typical. Because of our activities, Petco received: free advertising in the local newspapers; additional traffic in their store; a perception from their clients that they "care"; and direct sales related to the animals adopted in the store.

Because of this, I speculate that your offer of "adoption days" to the MHS may pleases them in the short-term (and gets them off your back with the press for now), but it will not actually help MHS in the long run.

Don't get me wrong, I think that opening your stores to rescue groups is a nice gesture. But it does nothing to solve the real problem. The problem is -- you are selling animals that are not appropriate pets for the people you are selling them to.

Of the 3 Petco "reptile experts" I have talked to, none of them have ever handled a large adult iguana! Tell me, how are these "experts" going to accurately communicate to your customers what it is like to own a six-foot-long, aggressive reptile if they themselves have never had this experience?!

Again, I am interested in having a serious dialog with Petco regarding these issues. This is not written as a threat. It is not written with the intention of "putting you down". However, to have an honest, open discussion it is important to be honest and direct.

My first assumption was that your organization would not behave this way toward its animal sales deliberately. That would amount to willfully destroying animals for profit, while, in effect, intentionally misleading your customers (I am sure there are laws against that!). Therefore, I have assumed your organization has been unaware of the extent of the problem, and that you are, underneath it all, interested in the welfare of the animals for which you are responsible. If this is true, I would expect you to take an interest in such an open, honest, and frank discussion. Unfortunately, you have not responded with any substance relating these topics. And you have failed to refer me to anyone who can. Please address these issues, for find someone in your organization who will.

/s/ Mike Fry

"There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew." - B. Fuller

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