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For Immediate Release: 01/11/06

Local PetsMart Accused of Starving Baby Bird

Store customers and employees say management mistreated animal

Hobart, IN — On the heels of a first of its kind undercover investigation into the live pet trade, the Animal Protection Institute (API) has been alerted to a complaint of animal mistreatment at a Hobart, Indiana PetsMart store.

In early January 2006, Victoria Karius put a down payment on an unweaned baby cockatoo at a Hobart, Indiana PetsMart. When she and her husband returned January 9 to visit the bird, they found him lethargic and unresponsive — in sharp contrast to his earlier outgoing behavior. Experienced bird owners, the Kariuses pressed store employees for details on the bird’s health and were told that the bird was literally being starved in an attempt to “force wean” him so he could be made available earlier. The Kariuses demanded the bird be fed and expressed concern over his mistreatment, at which point PetsMart managers reportedly returned their deposit and had them forcibly removed by police. Store employees independently confirmed this report though asked to remain anonymous fearing retaliation from store managers.

“We spoke with local avian veterinarians who confirmed this was an unacceptable and dangerous way to wean a bird,” said Karius. ”If this store is going to treat its customers and its animals with such irresponsibility and disrespect for their well-being then they should not be allowed to sell live animals. It’s better the animals not endure the mistreatment and families not be disappointed when they find out their new family member has been mistreated and is physically and emotionally unhealthy.”

While unfortunate, the Kariuses’ experience is not isolated. The substandard treatment of animals, birds in particular, in pet stores is a well-documented issue with complaints regularly filed in cities across America. In response to these complaints, API announced the results of its groundbreaking investigation into retail pet stores in California in October 2005. What API investigators found was that, even though California’s laws regulating the pet store industry are among the toughest in the U.S., the violations of them were widespread and pervasive.

“We were shocked by the illness, injury, neglect, and horribly substandard care our investigation revealed,” says Michelle Thew, API’s Chief Executive Officer. “The Karuises’ experience clearly illustrates the fact that laws must be improved and consumers must act to end the suffering of animals in pet stores.”

According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, sales of live animals in the pet industry totaled $1.6 billion in 2004. “The retail pet trade is a billion-dollar industry in the U.S. The sad fact, as this example and our investigation shows, is it’s the animals who pay the price,” says Thew.

API has created model legislation that can be used at state or local levels by interested citizens to improve conditions for animals. These models include regulating the sale of unweaned birds and ensuring minimum standards of animal care in retail pet stores. This information is available by request on API’s website www.api4animals.org. Those who witness mistreatment of animals in retail pet stores can also file a report with API through the website.

API is a national nonprofit animal advocacy organization based in Sacramento, CA. API works to end animal cruelty and exploitation through legislation, litigation, and public education. For more information, visit www.api4animals.org.


Zibby Wilder, Animal Protection Institute
916-447-3085 x205

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