Cummings: Petco’s large chain store brings better pet options


Caitlin Ellingson/Iowa State Daily

A new location for Petco has opened up in Ames right next to Target on SE Fifth street, where people can stop in for a wide variety of pet supplies, toys and food, as well as other services such as dog grooming and training.

Kelsey Cummings

With the passing of Petco’s opening weekend, Ames residents welcome a new pet store into their city. As the second largest pet retailer in the United States, Petco will have no problem attracting customers, but some might worry that the addition of the large chain store will put the smaller pet companies of Ames out of business.

Although I’m usually a proponent for the success of small, locally owned businesses, in this case, I must admit that I’m not too disappointed by this possibility for failure. Though I’ve had only brief experience with the pet stores of Ames, after visiting them, I knew I didn’t want to have much more.

When I first moved to Ames my freshman year, I, like many other lonely freshmen who were used to having pets around, sought out the local pet stores to buy myself a companion. I was in the market for a betta fish, and after visiting a few options (all with an extremely limited variety of fish), I chose one I had bonded with at the first store I visited.

This store, though not perfect by any means, was definitely the cleanest. The bettas, despite being wrongly housed in tiny plastic containers, were swimming in relatively clear water and at least had enough space to swim around a bit. After picking out the largest tank in the store (a small glass bowl) and a few accessories, I found the sales associate to be very helpful and willing to provide me with as much information as possible.

Unfortunately, after I went home and did some fish research myself, I found that what she had to offer was, for the most part, completely incorrect. And this was not the only time I had difficulties with a sales associate.

While at another small Ames pet store, I found myself yet again in the betta section and was shocked at what I saw. The bettas were housed in perhaps the smallest containers I have ever seen them in. Some of the fish barely had enough room to turn around, with their head touching one end of the container and their tail fins touching the other. The water was not at all clean, and some of it was so filthy that it was actually turning a light brown color.

Sadly, upon close inspection of a few of the bettas, I was able to determine that a number of them were sick and some were actually dead. When I told the man in charge about the state of his fish, he tried to assure me that they weren’t dead at all, that all I had to do was “shake them a bit.”

No, they were dead.

Moving out of the betta section, I could see that the other fish tanks were dusty and entirely covered in algae and scum. The other animals were crammed into cages barely large enough for one, let alone the 15 that resided in them. Rats were crawling over and lying on top of each other in a too-small plastic bin. The snakes were kept in similarly filthy habitats, and I could sense an overall feeling of sluggishness and unhappiness among all the animals there.

As a member of an ISU organization which fights for the humane treatment of animals, I am familiar with the protests that go on outside these stores and the general feeling of dissatisfaction with their services. One would hope that small businesses would have much more time to care for their animals than big chain stores, but this seems not to be the case.

Although Petco is no stranger to protests and dissatisfaction, I have found myself, thus far, much happier with their services than I have with any other pet store in Ames. Granted, Petco still keeps their bettas in small containers in slightly dirty water, but generally, I found their animals to be housed in much cleaner and well-maintained environments.

Petco has been working to change its name over the years, and has recently launched WholePets, a campaign to get pet owners to care for their pets’ needs on all levels: physical, mental, social and emotional. Petco as a name brand has the resources to promote adoption and proper pet care, and is using those opportunities to help give itself a better reputation as a big chain company.

Although it has a long way to go, Petco has so far trumped the other pet stores in Ames in the ethical treatment of animals. And now that Petco has provided us with a better option for shopping, I think I’ll be moving my business there very soon.