Animal overpopulation

Getty Images

We all recognize that there are millions of unwanted dogs and cats in the United States and a growing number of other nontraditional pets as well. As a corporate veterinarian in the pet retail industry, you might be involved in programs that significantly impact the animal overpopulation problem, not just for dogs and cats, but for all animals. One of the most important policies PETCO has established in the last year is the program ‘‘Think Adoption First.’’ Every PETCO store has established a relationship with a local animal shelter or humane society to help those organizations find homes for the animals in their care. All of our stores have promotional programs that collect millions of dollars each year from customers in the form of donations. These donations are given to the local organizations associated with each store. There are two main differences in the new ‘‘Think Adoption First’’ policy that really stand out. First, every PETCO store associate is instructed to initially ask the customer who is looking to purchase an animal if they would prefer to adopt an animal instead of buying. This may be confusing to many reading this article, as we do not sell dogs and cats and the customer would not be shopping for a dog or cat. Let me explain further: to my initial disbelief, a large number of small animals are ‘‘given’’ to our stores every day of the week. In most cases the animals were not purchased from our stores but are either purchased somewhere else and ‘‘donated’’ to the store or left in a box at the front door of the store before opening. The PETCO company policy states that if any animal is donated or abandoned at any of our stores we will gladly accept the animal, provide it with veterinary care if needed, and find it a home. If it is a dog or cat or other animal (you would be surprised what is abandoned at our stores), it will be released to the local animal shelter. If it is a nontraditional companion animal and we can provide the care it needs, we care for the animal and adopt it out through the store. The animals that are ‘‘dropped off’’ or abandoned are not mixed with the animals we offer for sale. We nurture them and adopt them to qualified customers. You are probably wondering how we are able to take in so many animals without having major disease outbreaks. Part of my job was to help develop strict policies on how to receive these animals and how to care for them in our stores to reduce the likelihood of disease transmission. Although it is costly to maintain this program, it is the right thing to do for the animals. As a responsible corporate citizen, we have decided to not just fund the program, but promote adoption before purchase. The second part of the program that is quite astonishing from my point of view is that we promote the adoption of nontraditional companion animals as well as farm animals, and so on. PETCO has a good relationship with, which has an on-line, searchable database of animals that need homes. It is also a directory of over 7000 animal shelters and adoption organizations across the United States, Canada, and Mexico. With this database, customers can find almost any animals they are looking for either in our stores, their immediate geographical area, or anywhere in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. It is quite an experience to let customers know that we would rather have them adopt an animal than buy an animal from our stores. The reactions from the customers range from disbelief to tears.