5 reasons why we should talk about PetSmart’s new brand campaign
PetSmart recently launched “Anything for pets,” a new brand platform with a song and dance video featuring a parrot, snake and lizard. Here’s why this marketing campaign, embracing the exotic pet industry is anything but good for these animals:
1. It normalizes the idea that wild animals are suitable pets
Wild animals such as reptiles and amphibians can’t thrive in captivity. Animals must be able to engage in natural behaviours to be healthy and happy, but in captivity, behaviours like exploring, foraging, or even regulating their body temperature are restricted.
For example, veiled chameleons, currently sold by PetSmart, are arboreal lizards. Arboreal animals spend most of their lives in the tree canopy, bushes, and shrubs. They are shy by nature and would avoid human contact if given a choice. They don’t belong in cages.
PetSmart customers agree. Ninety percent of customers believe that reptiles and amphibians should not be kept as pets because they suffer in captivity.1
2. Many people give up their exotic pets, putting a burden on shelters
PetSmart is encouraging customers to adopt dogs and cats while at the same time continuing to sell exotic wild animals. By marketing reptiles, amphibians and other exotic animals as “easy to keep” and “beginner” animals, PetSmart is sending the message that these animals require minimal care. Forty-seven percent of first-time buyers spend a few hours—or no time at all—researching prior to buying a wild animal, and 43% bought their first wild animal on a whim.2
First-time pet parents are often completely unprepared for the level of care that reptiles and amphibians need. The result is that animals are surrendered to shelters that, in turn, struggle to find appropriate homes.
3. It disrupts ecosystems
Other unwanted pets don’t even make it to shelters. Instead, they’re abandoned outdoors into unfamiliar habitats. Some animals will die quickly, killed by predators or from starvation. Other animals adapt and breed, altering and threatening local ecosystems. Non-native animals can introduce new diseases and can outcompete native wildlife for food and habitats.
4. It drives the wildlife trade
Selling reptiles and other wild animals as pets contributes to the destructive wildlife trade. Whether captive bred or wild caught, animals will face hardship and suffering at every stage of the trade. Unfortunately, animal welfare and conservation do not appear to be priorities for PetSmart. PetSmart sells multiple reptile and amphibian species, including ball pythons, who are threatened in the wild.
World Animal Protection’s report, Suffering in Silence, revealed millions of Ball pythons have been exported from Africa over the last 40 years. The snakes are sold as pets in stores or reptile expos or used for breeding. Right now, an estimated 28,000 Ball pythons are kept as exotic pets across Canada, we’re considered one of the main importers globally.
Selling these animals as pets contributes to their decline by increasing demand and thus the pressure to take animals from the wild.
Captive breeding brings its own set of issues and isn’t necessarily an improvement. For example, there is evidence that exotic animals, like reptiles are bred in cruel reptile mills, which are similar to puppy mills, where a large volume of animals are purposefully bred as cheaply as possible.
5. Increases the risk of zoonotic diseases
Reptiles and amphibians can make humans seriously ill. Oftentimes, the infected animal doesn’t appear sick but is still shedding bacteria. The most common diseases associated with these animals are bacterial infections such as Salmonella. Salmonella can cause severe illness or even death in certain vulnerable populations, including pregnant individuals and young children. Yet these potential buyers are often actively targeted by the exotic pet industry’s marketing efforts.
PetSmart’s new brand campaign manipulates the love that people have for animals to increase company sales. By pushing the false narrative that reptiles and other wild animals make good pets, PetSmart is deceiving compassionate people into condemning a wild animal into a lifetime of misery.
If we want to do “anything for pets,” then the best thing we can do is to leave wild animals out of the equation. You can help protect wild animals from suffering. Tell PetSmart to stop selling reptiles and amphibians.