Saturday, December 19, 2015

Pet Shop Thoughts

My granddaughter and I took a picture to the shop to have the frame repaired and down the street was a pet store that said 'reptiles and birds.'  As a kid, I learned a lot about animals by going to the zoo with my parents.  It was a big deal for me to watch the animals and learn their names and the differences between different kinds of animals, to watch how they moved, to hear their sounds, to smell their smells. I was totally taken by them.   As an adult, I have problems with zoos, but I also recognize they give people an opportunity to connect with animals, and for many, like me, learn to understand emotionally and biologically their importance in the natural world.  And the zoo I went to was an old style zoo and you can see a picture of me there when I was little at this link.

So I entered the pet shop with mixed feelings, and the powerful smell - which I'm pretty sure was from the mice and rats for sale as snake food - didn't help.

A tangle of boas

All these little birds in little catches was disturbing, but fascinating to my granddaughter.  For ten dollars you can buy a female zebra finch.  And lock it in a cage.

I looked up these Gouldian finches, just because their coloring is so remarkable.

Gouldian finch from Wikipedia:
"The Gouldian finch (Erythrura gouldiae), also known as the Lady Gouldian finch, Gould's finch or the rainbow finch, is a colourful passerine bird endemic to Australia. There is strong evidence of a continuing decline, even at the best-known site near Katherine in the Northern Territory. Large numbers are bred in captivity, particularly in Australia. In the state of South Australia, National Parks & Wildlife Department permit returns in the late 1990s showed that over 13,000 Gouldian finches were being kept by aviculturists. If extrapolated to an Australia-wide figure this would result in a total of over 100,000 birds. In 1992, it was classified as "endangered in the wild" under IUCN's criteria C2ai. This was because the viable population size was estimated to be less than 2,500 mature individuals, no permanent subpopulation was known to contain more than 250 mature individuals, and that a continuing decline was observed in the number of mature individuals. It is currently subject to a conservation program.  .  .  . 
The number of Gouldian finches has decreased quite dramatically during the 20th century. Their habitat has been reduced or altered. Early research indicated a parasite called the air sac mite was responsible for the decline of the species. This is no longer considered to be a major factor. In general, Gouldian finches are susceptible to diseases and viral infections. Their beautiful colours mean that they are easily caught by predators. Fires are listed as the primary threat to the natural populations. The total number of Gouldian finches altogether is not low, however, because they are among the most popular pet birds, and are bred in captivity for the pet trade."
Zoos often justify keeping the animals in captivity because they preserve a species that is endangered in the wild.  I don't know enough to weigh the pros and cons.

There's a post at about Ethics in Aviculture which portrays most breeders and brokers as good, decent folks, but does acknowledge there are problems.
"As time goes on and bird keepers gain experience, many decide to breed birds to help pay for (at least) the bird food. Bird breeding isn't a get-rich-quick scheme; so if you are thinking along those lines right now, stop. Most new to breeding are very excited about selling the babies and making a few bucks. So much so, that they have been known to pull chicks from their parents too early. This can often lead to the death of the chick shortly after being sold. If the breeder is a good one, he/she will admit fault and replace the dead bird(s) with more mature birds. If the breeder isn't so good he/she may accuse the bird buyer of making some grave mistake and killing the birds. This practice really bothers me but I see it happen now and then. Granted, anyone buying a bird for the fist time should do their homework first, and would, therefore, know that they weren't at fault, but alas this is rarely the case. In the end the bird(s) and the unsuspecting bird buyer suffers."

Then there are all the turtles.

Here's a discussion on a turtle forum about how some pet shops treat reptiles

At least this store publicized that it is illegal to sell turtles under 4 inches, though they don't mention that the reason is to prevent the spread of turtle salmonella and other health problems.

All the turtles in this tank were under four inches.  Presumably they are raising them to be above four inches, but what about the health issues of having them in the shop?

And then there were all the lizards.  I looked up Bearded Dragon and the first four or five pages of the search results were from businesses and groups promoting their sale and telling people how to care for them.  For example,  These, too, are from Australia.

I don't have pictures of the mice and rats or the tarantulas and various frogs.  But here are some goldfish from a tank that said 'feeder fish.'  This account of someone who worked for Petco talks about how these fish are sold to feed other animals like turtles.  This account goes much further, but it is on a PETA site, so keep that in mind.
"PETCO also sells live “feeder fish” for turtles and reptiles people keep as captive “pets.” These small goldfish are kept by the hundreds in huge, severely crowded tanks with no enrichment. The death toll was so high at the store I worked at that part of the closing procedure every day was to take out the dead “feeder fish” who had been sucked into a filter, wrap them in a plastic bag, and place them in the “dead” freezer, along with dead rats, mice, hamsters, birds, and other casualties."

There are lots of sites that promote exotic pets and give advice on how to care for them.  But there are also some sites that tell a different story.  For example:

The Dirty Side of the Exotic Animal Pet Trade which says, in part,
"The illegal trade in wildlife is second only to that of drugs in the United States, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). A former FWS chief of law enforcement said, “There is no stigma attached to being an animal smuggler. If you get caught illegally transporting animals on a first offense, it’s possible you won't even do jail time. You can’t say the same for running drugs.”
Animal Planet's Facts About The Exotic Pet Trade

Live Science's Owning Wild Animals:  Stats on Exotic Pets (Infographic)  lists four levels of state regulations and I'm pleased to say that Alaska is in the most restrictive category, though I'm not sure how restrictive that is.  Just better than the other three levels.  Here are the five worst states, according to Cap Times in Madison, Wisconsin,
"Wisconsin is one of just five states that allow residents to keep almost any animal they want as a pet. The others are Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina and South Carolina."

The Human Society asks "Should Wild Animals Be Kept as Pets?"

I don't know that there were any animals in the pet shop that had been captured in the wild.  I'm guessing most, if not all, were from breeders.  But there are other issues, including health, and introducing exotic animals into the local eco-system, which is, apparently, a particularly big problem in southern Florida, where the climate and terrain are hospitable to tropical reptiles..

I did mention some of these issues to my granddaughter, but I also let her absorb the beauty and wonder of the animals.

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