Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters
September 11, 2007
Dear Dan Urbani,
The Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC, Pets In Need Society, and Pacific Animal Foundation would like to present you with the results of a short on-line petition http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/948517927 regarding Petcetera’s recent decision to withdraw rabbits from sale in BC locations, and replace these rabbits with adoptable rabbits from BC SPCA branches.
As our brief petition overview indicates, signatories from worldwide were overwhelmingly in support of proactive measures to work toward improved or enhanced animal welfare by halting the sale of rabbits.
As part of the current trend toward ethical consumerism, several respondents cited the need to broaden the scope of your current arrangement to include all provinces and locations, stating they do not shop at, and do not encourage their clients to shop at, sites that sell live animals. Social responsibility and socially responsible consumerism were a repeated theme in petition comments.
Outside of responses that focused on ethical consumerism, many of the signatories from throughout Canada, including provinces where Petcetera locations exist, clearly supported the presence of satellite adoption centers for rabbits, given the large numbers of rabbits already in shelters and rescues.
In light of the clearly demonstrated and persistent support for cooperative arrangements between shelters, rescues and socially responsible pet retailers, we ask that you accept the following signatures and further that you extend the scope of your satellite adoptions to other provinces in which your business operates.
THE PETITION: A BRIEF OVERVIEW
Pets in Need Society, the Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC, and Pacific Animal Foundation decided to host a short petition on The Petition Site in order to:
gather information on the level of support for initiatives regarding the presence of satellite adoption centers in pet retail locations;
show evidence of concrete support for animal welfare initiatives that include socially responsible retail measures in the pet industry;
and to get some idea of the reasons why consumers support/do not support these initiatives.
Our petition is only one of a number of petitions regarding the sale of pet livestock on the site, and elsewhere and thus forms part of the broader context of growing concern about the pet livestock industry. Of note for this discussion is that, shortly after our petition was launched, a related petition regarding PetSmart’s decision to reintroduce rabbits for sale in a select number of locations throughout the US was also launched.
The Best Friend’s petition garnered over 29,000 signatories who were significantly opposed to this trial measure. According to information from the House Rabbit Society, Best Friend’s and PetSmart, the petition results have already resulted in a significant reduction on the number of stores chosen for the trial, (40%) with further reductions anticipated and little or no guarantee of success for the trial anticipated.
While a majority of the signatories were from Canada and the US, the petition also gathered responses from the UK, Netherlands, Denmark, Romania, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Belgium, Australia, Germany, France, Switzerland, Croatia, Argentina, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, New Zealand, Sweden, Mexico, South Africa, Bulgaria, Poland, Ireland, India, Hungary, Singapore, Malta, Finland, Malaysia, the Netherlands Antilles, Portugal and Indonesia. The significant breadth of the petition suggests that interest in rabbit welfare is not merely a cultural phenomenon of the West, but rather exists worldwide.
A significant number of responses were from people who identified themselves as working with established rescue groups and shelters, including a number of SPCA locations, as veterinary professionals, or pet store employees.
An analysis of a sample number of responses shows a number of themes that lead consumers to support the overall goals of the petition. For the purposes of brevity, we focus on 5 key themes that emerged from the petition.
1. The surplus of companion rabbits in shelters
Foremost among these was the question of why breed, sell or buy when there are already an overabundance of rabbits in shelters and rescues everywhere. People frequently cited the fact that while many remain homeless, others are "put to sleep" because of lack of homes, and still more are abandoned outdoors. Some suggested that people simply adopt; others stated categorically they were completely opposed to the sale of all pet livestock.
2. Impulse buying
Related to the issue of a surplus of adoptable rabbits in shelters, we most frequently found the issue of “impulse buying”. Impulse buying was seen a contributory and significant factor in rabbit neglect, suffering, and abandonment. Concerns were also raised as to the effects on the environment when pet rabbits were "set free" to reproduce and form colonies.
3. Misleading perceptions of rabbits
Given this, it was not surprising that respondents also cited the misleading perception of rabbits as starter pets. At least one veterinarian cited the poor health conditions of the baby rabbits when they arrived at pet stores for sale, in combination with lack of awareness on the part of consumers on the necessary and appropriate care for rabbits. Others mentioned inadequate conditions in the stores themselves.
4. Inadequate information at point of sale
Significantly for the pet livestock/retail industry, respondents also sited that staff inexperience and awareness in stores was, in most instances, highly limited. Thus inappropriate, insufficient or non-existent information provided at point of sale was seen as a contributory factor in rabbit abandonment, and is clearly an area that must be addressed by the pet retail industry either alone or in collaboration with informed rabbit welfare groups. Consumers feel that it is the pet industry’s responsibility to guard against impulse buying by providing all the appropriate and necessary information regarding rabbits in store, irrespective of whether or not the pet industry sees it as their responsibility.
5. Socially responsible marketing/consumerism
Perhaps the second most significant area of response was related to ethical consumerism. A large number of the responses we looked at indicated that offering satellite adoption centers was the “right” thing to do given current pet overpopulation. Respondents saw the presence of pet livestock in stores as contributing to a livestock industry that was ethically unacceptable. A number of respondents stated that they will not buy from stores that sell any livestock. Other mentioned the presence of satellite adoption centers would enable them to buy, or thought that it would enable others to buy at retail centers.
Comment: A similar cover letter, along with the overview, was sent to the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and the House Rabbit Society, among others.
Comment: Petcetera was to stop selling rabbits in all its BC outlets effective September 1st and instead, stock its stores with sterilized rabbits provided by the SPCA. Checks of stores outside the Lower Mainland (end of Sept.) indicated that this isn't the case. Letters and phone calls to both the BC SPCA and Petcetera regarding this matter have gone unanswered.
Feb 26/08 Petcetera announced in March 2007 that rabbit sales would stop in all BC stores by September 1, 2007. So why haven't they? For quite some time we've heard that this new project with the BC SPCA hasn't been going smoothly. Information from Petcetera's head office has confirmed that a review is expected within the next few months. At that time, the issues, problems and logistics of expanding the program to the other BC outlets will be examined.
Not satisfied with this explanation? Neither are we. There's been one excuse after another, rather than doing what's right, and that is to stop rabbit sales. Please let Petcetera know your thoughts and don't forget to copy us.