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Pet Store Economics

Posted on 10 May 2011

I am involved in animal rescue– specifically, Ferrets North Information and Rescue Society. It’s an organization set up by my partner. The intention is to raise awareness about the care and treatment of ferrets. They are quickly growing in popularity but there is still a lot of misinformation about them (more details here). Another aspect of the organization is trying to provide foster and permanent homes for animals that are given up.

Unlike cats or dogs, there are rarely stray ferrets. Every animal that has come into the organization’s care was, at some point, sold. A few came directly from breeders, most were distributed through pet stores.

Every time a new group of ferrets comes into a pet store in Prince George, there’s a bit of dread. If it’s someone who can’t handle them as a pet, it’s a new opportunity for them to make an impulse buy. Then they hopefully either find a good home or surrender it to us or a rescue. If the ferret does find a new home, or is sold to a good home, that’s one less place for animals already in our (or another rescue’s) care to go. If they come to us or another rescue, that’s additional resources being taken from volunteers. I don’t know what happens to ferrets who don’t get sold.

Either way, pet stores are playing supply-side economics with living creatures that need care and attention. If they get ferrets and they all sell, they are encouraged to bring in more. They will continue to do this until ferrets stop selling. From what I’ve seen, they’ll rarely make the decision to under-supply. In that case, they’ll eventually have excess ferrets. Again, I don’t know what happens to them after that. I hope it’s good, but it’s probably not ideal.

Obviously, we don’t want to do away with ferret suppliers altogether. Someone somewhere needs to be breeding them, or they would disappear. And they have to be distributed somehow. But it doesn’t strike me that pet stores, at least as they are currently set up, are the best way to do this.

Note: It probably doesn’t help my views that a lot of the pet stores don’t seem to know how to look after ferrets. Like I said, a lot of people don’t know much about them. It’s a growing market. But it would be nice if companies making money off of them would make more of an effort to educate themselves and their employees about basic things like health concerns and proper housing.

Note 2: Most pet store employees in Prince George have been very responsive to any concerns raised by Ferrets North about the care of individual animals, and have adjusted their treatment of animals based on advice coming from the organization. But it would be better if the companies were making the effort to educate their employees, especially when they have multiple stores across the country/continent.

Note 3: I wonder if anyone can tell me what happens or is supposed to happen to unsold animals in BC/Canada.

Filed under: pets

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