Exotic Animal Corporate Practice – Great strides

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When I initially arrived at PETCO there were several items on my personal ‘‘to do list’’ that I wanted to change. One of the top items was to discontinue the sale of antibiotics to the general public. Our stores sold four items that contained antibiotics for use with small animals, birds, and reptiles. The combined sales from these products were substantial, and it was evident that removing these items from our shelves would be a challenge. The first step was to identify the items and what their financial impact on the company would be if they were discontinued. The second step was to identify which people in the company the change would impact in a negative fashion. This was a learning process for everyone involved, especially for me, as I waded through the corporate world where buyers are expected to meet or exceed their sales quotas and removing products is taboo without prior planning. The change also involved educating the entire company on why antibiotics in the hands of nonmedical people was and is a situation ripe with danger. Fortunately, our buyers understood the need to remove the product after several meetings to discuss the ramifications of OTC antibiotics. They were understandably worried about the financial impact on their departments, but followed through on all their promises. Eventually, I presented the facts surrounding OTC antibiotics to our Companion Animal Strategic Committee. This group is responsible for ensuring PETCO makes the correct decisions regarding animal care company policies. During the meeting we discussed the steps a veterinarian would follow before choosing an appropriate antibiotic, the dangers of incorrect antibiotic usage, the burgeoning problem of antibiotic resistance, as well as the financial impact of the decision. We also talked about the introduction of a relatively new beneficial bacterial product to be used as a replacement item. After my presentation there was a unanimous vote to exclude the antibiotics from our shelves. This vote clearly showed the support I have been given at PETCO, even in the face of significant financial impact. Another of my pet projects was to remove corncob bedding from our store use program. It had been my contention that corncob bedding generally carries aspergillus spores, and can be responsible for infecting birds with this insidious disease. This product has been widely used in the bird industry by breeders, pet stores, and pet owners for years. As background information, the products used in the stores to care for the animals are termed ‘‘store use’’ products for obvious reasons. These products are many times subsidized by the manufacturers, because it has been proven that if an animal uses a product in a store, the product sells better. Once again, financial constraints come into play as subsidies are significant during contract negotiations. Changing subsidies impacts not only how much a store use product costs but also how much a manufacturer will make from a product. Although this change was not as substantial a change from a monetary viewpoint as the OTC antibiotic, it was still meaningful to the buyers and manufacturers. Again, the process was similar in it took both determining who would be affected, the financial impact, as well as education. The last item I will discuss in this section concerns ‘‘Painted Glass Fish.’’ As many of you know, the glass fish, which includes several species including Parambassis baculis and Chandra ranga, are transparent fish in which small pockets of dye are injected just below the skin using a largegauge needle, thus becoming ‘‘painted.’’ This process is not only painful but ultimately leads to the demise of the fish due to diseases such as a lymphocystis virus. When these fish were identified as fish we sold in our stores, I was asked to research the situation. Once the dye injection practices were identified and the morbidity and mortality issues were brought to the attention of the Companion Animal Strategic Committee we immediately stopped carrying the fish in our stores. In addition, we now have a company policy that states that we will not sell any animals that have been physically altered in anyway for cosmetic purposes. These three instances simply indicate the impact a veterinarian can make in a corporation, even when major dollar amounts are involved. In these instances, literally millions of dollars were under consideration. They also bring to light the support that can be given to a veterinarian in the corporate world when you join forces with a corporation that will always do what is right for the animals no matter what the cost financially.