House Rabbit Society is hopping mad at PetSmart

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2007:

PHOENIX–Just as PetSmart Charities
should have been basking in success, the
nonprofit subsidiary of the PetSmart pet supply
chain found itself uncomfortably caught between
the parent company and the humane community.
PetSmart Charities on June 25, 2007 celebrated
the three millionth animal adoption through the
928 PetSmart in-store adoption centers since the
PetSmart chain started in 1987–five years before
PetSmart Charities was formed to manage the
adoption program and help fund the work of the
3,400 participating animal welfare agencies.
Within days, however, PetSmart
announced that it “is testing the sale of spayed
and neutered dwarf rabbits as part of the
selection of small pets we offer for sale,” at
25 selected stores.”

PetSmart sales of other small mammals,
birds, and reptiles have already occasioned
considerable friction with humane organizations.
PetSmart Charities was founded in part to ease
the relationship between the for-profit store
chain and the humane community–and all but one
of the five heads of PetSmart Charities to date
has recommended that PetSmart stop selling any
animals, each has told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
“Our decision to sell dwarf rabbits does
not change our relationship with adoption
agencies who facilitate rabbit adoptions,”
PetSmart claimed, mentioning that it “partners
with 40 rabbit-only shelters and many other
rabbit-friendly shelters in the U.S. and Canada,”
and has helped to adopt out 2,900 rabbits since
But House Rabbit Society president
Kathleen Wilsbach told PetSmart chief operating
officer Robert F. Moran that, “To say that we
are disappointed by PetSmart’s violation of its
own commitment to save rescued animals would be a
gross understatement.”
The House Rabbit Society statement was
soon seconded and amplified by the Best Friends
Animal Society, followed by many other leading
animal advocacy organizations. “Although
spaying/neutering does prevent reproduction, it
does not prevent–or even acknowledge–the myriad
other reasons why rabbits end up in shelters,”
Wilsbach wrote.
“Contrary to popular belief, rabbits are
not low-maintenance,” Wilsbach continued.
“Compared to dogs and cats, they are
high-maintenance. While you maintain that your
veterinarians will teach your staff about rabbit
care, pet store staff are generally short-term
or part-time employees, often teenagers, most
of whom have never lived with even one
rabbitÅ They simply do not have the knowledge,
skills, or inclination to properly educate the
public about these complex animals.”
“We were asked to provide our input on
the dwarf rabbit test,” PetSmart Charities
director Susana Della Maddelena told ANIMAL
PEOPLE. “We advised PetSmart that the
introduction of any new species into the stores
would invoke a negative response from the animal
welfare community. Our role is to advise in
these situations,” she said, “but we do not
have final authority over the decisions made. We
are planning to compile information regarding
rabbit relinquishment for PetSmart to analyze as
part of the test.”
ANIMAL PEOPLE found in a 2006 review of
data from 15 dog-and-cat humane societies that
accept rabbits that rabbits were about 3% of
their total animal intake. They received from
three to 76 rabbits, with a median and average
of 34.

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