We love pets. Well, most of us. Many of us even own a few of them. Statistically, 67% of households or approximately 85 million families in the United States of America own a pet. The National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association or (APPA) for the year 2019-2020, stated that this was a rise of 56% over the past 10 years. The more startling figure has been from the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) which stated that the combined gross premium paid by pet owners in the USA and Canada for the year 2018 was $1.42 billion. It was $1.17 billion for the year 2017. The number of pets insured for the year 2018 touched 2.43 million, which was a rise of 17% from 2017.
Of the cumulated pet strength, dogs represented almost 88.9 per cent of it. These figures were accrued from 12 major pet insurance companies in the continent of North America.
The total pet Industry expenditure too has risen progressively over the past 10 years. The 2010 figure was $48.35 billion while 2020 one stands at $75.38 billion.
The frenzy to own a pet has been a long one and history suggests that this phenomenon isn’t a new one. The ancient world is replete with instances of kings, monarchs, emperors and Pharaohs owning pets and even honouring them. Bucephalus, the legendary horse of Alexander the Great, is one such notable illustration.
While there are rules and regulations which pet owners have to adhere to whilst owning a pet, it is much more stringent for pet store owners. The pet store owner has to ensure absolute pet store safety while running his or her business.
The Animal Welfare Act or AWA is the specific law that was enacted to oversee such an arrangement. It is a federal law which specifies “who may possess and sell certain types of animals and the minimum standards of care for these regulated animals.”
Inadequacy of the law
However, this is not an overarching law and does not cover quite a few species.
The ones who are left out from the law are:
Moreover, the Animal Welfare Act excludes retail pet stores from its purview.
However, there are a few conditions attached to the purview regarding the type of animals being kept in a retail store.
The law states that if a retail pet store is selling an animal which is exotic by nature and in the regulated list, then it becomes mandatory for the retail pet store to be governed by the provisions of the law. However, since a majority of the retail pet stores do not sell exotic or regulated animals, the law does not apply to them. In a way, this limits the reach and purpose of the law and makes it less stringent.
Even the state laws governing pet welfare is uneven. As many as fifteen states do not have any specific law governing retail pet stores. Hence, there are no regulations that may oversee veterinary care, food and sanitation of the animals. The narrow purview of the Federal Law is the only legal string that attaches a few of the stores.
Animal cruelty or improper attention to animal and pet store safety may fall under the state cruelty laws. These laws differ from state to state and are at best arbitrary. So an employee accused of animal cruelty in a state with inadequate legal recourses about animals may be charged with a Class B Misdemeanour. This too is dependent and conditional.
However, there are laws which govern the way a pet store should be operated. But even here there seems to be a lacuna. While the welfare of the store is taken care of, adequate measures to look after the welfare of the animals are missing.
A glaring example is the regulations which state that adequate food and water to be provided to cats and dogs. But it does not say anything for the rabbits, hamsters, birds et al.
One area which focuses on making pet stores safe are the housing laws. Most states have adequate coverage with regards to the enrichment of animals.
The regulation for animal and pet store safety states:
- Cages to be cleaned regularly and sanitised. A clean environment is a must for any animal. The regulation also suggests that proper pest control has to be undertaken to counter any rodent infestation.
- A clean and safe environment for the animal is the priority of the retail store owner and cannot be overlooked under any circumstances. This includes the building to be up to code as well as passing fire protection checks and have a working smoke control systems in place.
- The housing of the animal is one of the key premises of pet store security. The cages should be large enough for the animals to move around. For birds, there needs to be a perch, a mirror, preferably a toy or a companion bird. Lack of enrichment often leads to psychological degradation and that is quite evident from the repeated pacing of the animals.
- Veterinary care is a must for all animals, irrespective of the genus. The retail pet store has to be associated with a trained veterinary doctor or a hospital to provide its store animals with medical attention in the quickest possible manner.
- Every retail store irrespective of the location has to operate with a licence. This animal pet store business licence will have to be renewed annually. Any misstep on that will lead to legal action against the pet store owner.
There will be a periodic inspection of the premises before and after the licence has been issued. This is done to ensure all rules and regulations have been followed.
The license is issued by the state’s Department of Agriculture.
The license application asks the following question to the applicant:
- Waste management process and the method used to keep the store and environment around it clean
- Sanitization procedures
- The state of animal housing and whether the applicant is aware of the rules that need to be followed
- Whether veterinary care will be provided to the animals
The key to pet store safety is a holistic approach towards not just the welfare of the store but the animals too.
Apart from the usual safety regulation systems to guard the store, there needs to be a fool proof mechanism in place to ensure that the animals do not suffer.
The animal welfare law prohibits any sale of animals below the age of 8 weeks. While this law is not prevalent in all states, it slowly is being implemented.
Most states do not allow pets to be sold as research subjects. Failure to comply with such is considered to be a Class 1 Misdemeanour.
From an employee point of view, it is necessary to understand the nuances of the job and the responsibilities are given. A pet store safety depends a lot on its employees. They are first responders to any eventuality concerning the store animals and the store itself.
Here is a quick list that is recommended to make pet store safety a priority:
This is the most important aspect of any business. A cohesive team is an advantage as well as the driver for future initiatives. A team with a common goal will always lookout for opportunities to better customer service all the while looking after their assets, which in this case are the animals.
The challenges that come along the way will be dealt together and so will the successes be.
By far the most important thing that needs to be taken care of. Animal care is a must not just from the legal point of view but also because it is humane. An employee will not allow an animal to suffer, because as the adage goes, “a happy animal maketh a happy store.”
An extremely high ethical standard has to be maintained at all times. This is more applicable to those stores which sell companion animals.
It is pertinent to remember that the entire pet care industry is dependent on every individual pet store employee. People who come to buy pets look up to pet stores when it comes to pet care. They expect the best practices being followed whilst looking after the animals. As an employee of a pet store, the individual will have answer a lot of questions to new owners as well as veterans. Hence, a fair bit of knowledge is necessary to provide effective customer service.
It does not kill to become an animal care expert. One may not have the degree but experience always counts. Armed with the knowledge, the individual becomes an important contributor to the overall success of the pet industry.
Some of the oft-asked information are:
- Origin of the animal
- The history that specie has had in captivity and how well domesticated it can be
- The size to which they can grow
- How long would they live?
- The gender of the animal and its reproductive cycle and capacity
- The type of housing they would be needing and the general do’s and don’ts associated with it
- The diet that would have to follow in order provide the animals with adequate nourishment
- Animal behaviour is an important thing
- The permits and licences that would be required to own a pet
Pet store safety is directly affected by animal care practices. A pet store that does not look after its animals well generally has a store which is unkempt and ill-managed. The moral of the staff will be low and the animals will not be looked after well. This will push the animals into a dire psychological tailspin. This is a vicious cycle that is every retail pet store owners’ nightmare.
A guide for effective animal care:
- Housing animals is all about common sense, aesthetics and behavioural science. The enclosure of each animal will vary with type and size. Dogs and cats will have larger enclosures whilst birds and reptiles will be differently designed ones. Accompaniment is a necessity otherwise animals tend to lose focus quickly. Put in a toy and a perch respectively to keep the animals busy. Aquatic animals require a marine environment which has to be cleaned and sanitised frequently.
- Compatibility of animals is necessary for longevity. Place compatible animals in groups in the primary enclosure. They will bond over a period in time and this will lead to a healthier living condition and eradication of loneliness.
- The enclosure design has to be in a way that it does not end up causing injury or illness to the animals. They have to be tough to prevent a runaway animal. Strong enclosures also ensure that animals are not stolen from the shop.
- Constant supervision is required while handling of animals. There are two main concerns when it comes to animal care. Injuries caused by a fellow animal or excessive handling by customers.
- Every animal has its living conditions. There are temperature and humidity constraints that need to be looked into.
- Minimum stress needs to be given to the animals while handling them. The entire housing and supervision methodology has to revolve around the prime concern: animals.
- The store needs to have adequate lighting and ventilation. This is important not just for the animals but for everyone visiting or working at the store. Proper lighting and ventilation ensure that the store is fully functional It also prevents stale air settling and making both animals and people sick. Aquariums need to adequately lit too.
- There should be an adequate protective shelter of animals from the elements. Direct sunlight may not be conducive for most for a long period in time.
- As mentioned earlier, there needs to be provision for the animals in the form of toys and accompaniments.
- Strict observation is required for the overall wellbeing of the animals and pet store safety.
Running a retail pet store is one of the most complex operations. It requires knowledge of a whole lot of things, the foremost being animal care. Moreover, pet store security demands that state laws be followed to the hilt. Failure to do so often leads to legal hassles and fines and a loss of license to operate. Pet store employees need to be adequately trained in handling the animals while also being adept at handling customers and answering their queries.
A pet store is a marvellous place where one can buy their favourite animal and make them a part of their family. Despite certain loopholes and inadequacy, pet store owners are confident that their animals will certainly make a mark at any home. For a happy animal builds a happy home.