Petco Conference Call: Melissa Kaplan's Recap
August 7, 1997
Attendees: Melissa Kaplan,
George Richard, President, MHS
Purpose and Premise
Petco is a large corporation with significant buying power. Petco 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:
animals and products from vendors
Refuse delivery of obviously sick animals and illegal species. (Petco Corporate states that this is policy, but the fact remains that sick animals are being sold in stores.) 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.
Stop selling inappropriate and dangerous products, or educate store staff (on a continuing basis, due to staff turnover and appearance of new products on the market). Many of the products being sold are worthless or dangerous. Examples of dangerous products:
I have offered to provide a list of product and discuss the problems associated with each of them if anyone from Petco would like to follow this up. In addition, there are many products not marketed to the reptile trade specifically that could easily be sold by Petco. I can provide information on these as well. Note: Rather than my trying to produce a comprehensive list that will likely include products not stocked by Petco, it would be a much more effective use of both Petco's and my time if the product acquisition manager at Petco were to send me a listing of the reptile-related products they stock.
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 your own staff. Information on most states, and on specialty societies, can be found linked to my Herp Societies page.
There is a Petco person in the northeastern U.S. who puts on talks at store openings, including, we were told, bringing large iguanas. When asked how large the iguanas are, we were told "3-4 feet". Both George and I pointed out that these were not large iguanas...and that there was a very real problem when Petco's "iguana experts", Corporate management, and sales staff have no idea just how big many of the reptiles they sell get, nor how fast they get that big. This includes some tortoises, pythons and boas, iguanas, and Nile monitors. True - if people keep the reptiles the way they are told by most stores and by the books sold by most stores, they won't get as big as they should, but surely intentionally mistreating an animal to keep it small, or smaller longer, isn't what Petco intends? For reference, the following is how green iguanas (Iguana iguana) should be growing, and will grow when housed and fed (with a properly constructed fresh food diet, not a commercial diet like those sold in your stores) properly:
Based on the above, one can see that the "large" iguanas used by the person in the northeast US are in actuality the size of a 2 year old iguana - and not even close to the size of a half grown iguana. When I was yelled at by the Santa Rosa manager "lying" to her customers about how big iguanas get and for saying that mine was the same species at that sold in your stores, my iguana at that time was only 3 years old... Perhaps a better resource to draw on for public lecturers would be reptile rescue groups. They are the ones that end up with the cast off monitors, truly large, untamed, male iguanas in breeding season, and 16 ft pythons with respiratory infections and mouthrot... I have offered to put together a sort of syllabus based on the lectures I do, if indeed there is any real interest on Petco's part in my actually doing so.
Petco said that they will be phasing out the sales of green iguanas, instead replacing them with more appropriate lizards, such as leopard geckos and bearded dragons. Petco also said that it will change their policy regarding Nile monitors: instead of selling them directly at the stores, they will be available for special order only. The question was raised as to whether they would order them for just anybody or if they would do some sort of screening to determine whether the person fully understood what a Nile monitor was. (For those of you who do not know, they start out as incredibly cute, soft-as-silk, 5-7" stl gold and yellow hatchlings....and by the end of their first year are able to inflict serious damage to most parts of one's anatomy. They are amongst the least "nice" of the monitors, with a "tame" Nile being a tiny exception to the rule. They are also blindingly fast when motivated...like when you stick your hand in to feed or clean their tank.)
Adoption Days for herp rescues was briefly discussed, with my mentioning the dilemma I and others face: advocating Adoption Days when the same animals the rescues will be trying to get adopted out are being sold in the store in which the Adoption Day is being held. It was at this point that we were told about Petco phasing out iguanas. Petco also said that they would take in unwanted iguanas they had previously sold, and would adopt them out "to whoever wants them." I asked if they would be screening prospective adopters or would, literally, adopt them out to whomever wanted one. Apparently, no thought had been given to Petco's making the same mistake over and over again: letting people who are ill-suited to the keeping of iguanas walk out the door with them. I offered to send my Adoption Application in the hopes that Petco will use it, or something very like it, to screen prospective adopters. It should be noted that, whether or not the person has ever kept an iguana before, they should be required to read an accurate, up-to-date iguana book (such as Jim Hatfield's Ultimate Iguana Owner's manual), or care guide (such as the 26 page guide at my Iguana Care page), or video (much as I hate to sound like I'm pushing a product I am involved in, it is one of the best rated videos out there - a review of the video is available at my website). An accurate video or care information guide (not a one-page summary sheet) should be reviewed at before the person fills out the application.
Example: I got word that a dance club was going to be raffling off an iguana. I contacted the club owner and talked to him. I found out that the iguana was from a local pet store (one that I knew had been subject to repeated complaints and visits by the local humane society for the condition in which they kept their animals) and that some store employees were going to be on hand to "teach" people about iguana care. The owner was not aware that igs were anything other than "easy" to care for, nor of the store's reputation. I sent him copies of my care article and adoption application form. They handed out 100 packets that night - and got only 12 applications back. Point: Once people start to realize what is entailed, it generally changes their minds. Better to change their minds before they get that animal rather than have it dumped on your counter yet again.
Summary of additional action discussed:
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