Picture this:

You’re five years-old. It’s the last little bit of your shopping trip with your family at the mall. Walking back to your car passing all the stores, hand-in-hand with your parents, you come by the pet store. You catch a glimpse of the kittens, and if you look hard enough, you can see the birds, too. You halt in your tracks in efforts to pull your parents into the store for a closer look. After a few minutes of begging and tantrums, they finally give in and you get to go inside to see all the baby animals and poke around trying to pet one. It’s like the happiest place on earth. You’ve got your fish in one section, colourful birds in the next, tiny kittens up front, some puppies in the glass display, and finally the reptiles in their illuminated tanks – a whole adventure at every corner. There couldn’t possibly be anything wrong with this picture, right? Oh, you just wait…

As of 2011, Toronto officially banned the sale of puppies or kittens in pet stores. This ban was put in place due to the amount of suffering caused by pet stores selling cats and dogs. What most people don’t know is that back then, pet stores would get their animals from some not-so-pretty places (i.e. puppy mills). What’s horrible about these places is that their values and priorities revolve around profit and business rather than the animals’ well-being. This being said, when pet stores would sell their puppies, all that money they were making off of families who have really big hearts would actually go to support the puppy mills. So basically, that ban in 2011 was a REALLY GOOD MOVE! 

If pet stores these days wanted to provide customers with the option of getting a furry friend, it would now have to be done in partnership with a region’s humane society or a rescue. That really only goes for cats or smaller animals. Dogs can now only be either adopted from a shelter/humane society or bought from a licensed breeder. 

Typically, when people say "pets" you instantly think of dogs or cats – those are the most common fur babies! As much as some people hate to believe, there are other animals that are considered to be pets that still deal with some pretty traumatic experiences with pet stores. We can’t possibly forget about our rodent friends, winged-friends, fishy friends, or scale-y, crawl-y, creepy reptile friends! Although there’s been some great improvement on how pet stores handle their cats and dogs, the smaller critters are often forgotten about! I mean when you think about it, these little guys are still stuck in those glass displays. Whether it’s a gerbil, canary bird, gecko or guinea pig, no one likes being put on display for people to poke and knock on the glass. How stressful is that!? 

The bottom line is that even though it may be cute and fun to take a look around and buy a snake (yikes) or something from the pet store, it’s really not supporting anything genuine or good. It is instead feeding into the horrible treatment of the animals we don’t consider the cutest or cuddliest. Next time you walk into a pet store, try to notice how the little babies are being treated because after all, they are caged just for our entertainment.