On January 18, Colorado animal inspector Becky Robison walked into the Petco Animal Supplies store in Northglenn for a routine inspection.
As she walked around the store, Robison found a wall filled with sewage, cracks and holes on the store floor and rusted animal crates with misshapen metal.
An inspection showed a gecko hadn’t moved for two days and died after not being treated by a veterinarian. In another instance, a ferret died after employees didn’t provide treatment for a prolapsed rectum, a painful disease in which an animal’s inner tissue protrudes out of the anus.
The Northglenn store highlights more than 80 violations found by state inspectors at a dozen Petco stores across Colorado this year. State Department of Agriculture inspection reports obtained by PETA and reviewed by The Denver Post include examples of excessive amounts of dead fish in tanks, parakeet cages full of feces and various paperwork errors that showed several stores had no signed agreement with a veterinarian.
PETA has called for Northglenn police to investigate the local store for criminal cruelty for animals.
“One has to wonder how many opportunities you give any licensee, let alone a billion-dollar industry-leader, to follow simple rules before you take decisive action,” said Daniel Paden, PETA’s vice president for evidence analysis.
In a statement, Petco said it takes animal care seriously, citing “industry leading standards.”
“We are aware of opportunities for improvement identified by the Colorado Department of Agriculture related to animal care documentation and other simple animal habitat improvements — all of which have or are being addressed, and do not include issues related to illness nor death,” the company said in the statement. “We continually review our animal care procedures and standards; and train our teams on and reinforce the critical importance of following those policies at all times.”
The inspections were conducted by the state’s agriculture department, a licensing and inspection program dedicated to protecting the health and well-being of pet animals in facilities throughout Colorado. The law has been heralded as national model for state animal welfare regulation.
The 12 stores cited by the state include locations in Lakewood, Golden, Englewood, Northglenn, Highlands Ranch, Arvada and Lakeside. Many of the violations surround documentation errors: Failures to document dates of birth for certain animals; missing bird band numbers on sales records; and stores neglecting to have customers sign statements saying they received a rabies brochures at the time of purchase.
Seven of the 12 stores could not show inspectors that they had a current agreement with a veterinarian, records show.
At the Arvada store, inspectors found a lack of ventilation in the facility and no signed veterinarian agreement. Inspection documents also noted that the store was not giving medical records to purchasers when animals had been treated for illness or injury at the store.
The most severe violations occurred at the Northglenn store. In the January inspection, state officials found 22 violations, including:
- A large hole in the wall filled with sewage;
- Floor damage throughout the store;
- Large amounts of feces in the parakeet cage;
- Broken heat lamps for reptiles;
- Temperatures 20 degrees too low for iguanas and chameleons
Inspectors also found records of two animals dying from neglect.
In one instance, a gecko did not get treated by a veterinarian during the nine days it spent in isolation and “ended up dying as a result of this neglect,” the state report said.
The report also noted a November 2018 incident in which a store employee came back from vacation to find two sick ferrets. She rushed them to vet, but one died in transit from a prolapsed rectum.
The store corrected the fixable violations in February, state documents showed, and pledged to bring sick animals to the vet within 24 hours.
While Colorado is considered a national model for regulating the pet trade, Paden said, these documents depict a “massive corporation can’t be bothered to follow the rules.”
“In many instances on the paperwork violations, these stores were cited repeatedly for violating these very easy-to-follow rules,” Paden said. “Those violations might not be as shocking as leaving lizard to die or a ferret with her intestinal tissue protruding from hindquarters, but they’re as illustrative of indifference and profit-taking priority over animal welfare as are the other violations.”