The Hidden Cruelty of PetSmart

Photo of Hamster/CC0 BY 1.0 DEED

LOS ANGELES — The charming displays of adorable hamsters, vibrant fish, and exotic reptiles effortlessly captivate the attention of shoppers perusing the pet supply aisles. Any PetSmart customer would naturally presume that PetSmart prioritizes the well-being of its animals. 

Nevertheless, PETA’s undercover investigations and accounts from former employees unveil distressing instances of the cruelty these animals face.

According to PETA, in 2018, PetSmart managers in Nashville, Tennessee, declined to offer necessary veterinary attention to sick and suffering animals. This is so prevalent because PetSmart employees are encouraged to save money instead of offering veterinary attention to their animals. 

In a separate PETA investigation — this time conducted in Peoria, Arizona — an eyewitness discovered distressing instances of animal abuse. Hamsters, despite being solitary, territorial creatures, are often housed together at PetSmart locations, often resulting in brutal skirmishes and severe injuries. The eyewitness recounts that supervisors recommended for any hamster found killing another to be “squeezed as hard as you can.” 

Before even reaching the store, PetSmart’s animals are still grossly mistreated. To supply its store with purchasable pets at a low cost, PetSmart outsources to pet suppliers. Sun Pet, one of its past suppliers, was charged with numerous animal abuse allegations as stories of cannibalism, poor living conditions, and dehydration came to light. To PetSmart’s credit, the company did immediately suspend their partnership with Sun Pet and stated that “nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our pets.” 

Despite PetSmart’s proactive response, there remains a disconcerting aspect to the company’s operations: an apparent lack of active investigation into the living conditions of its pet suppliers. While the discovery of an issue with one supplier is troubling on its own, it raises broader concerns about the ethical standards applied to others. The absence of thorough scrutiny into its suppliers raises doubts about the sincerity of PetSmart’s claim to prioritize the health of pets above all else. Without a comprehensive examination of supplier practices, PetSmart’s commitment to the well-being of its animals appears more than questionable, leaving consumers and advocates alike questioning the true extent of PetSmart’s dedication to ethical and humane standards in the pet supplying industry.

Former PetSmart employee and whistleblower, Jose Martinez, shared his distressing personal experiences working for PetSmart on TikTok. While working at the PetSmart location in Bellingham, Massachusetts, Martinez witnessed multiple disturbing cases of animal mistreatment. His tales include heart-wrenching accounts of Beta fish left to die in the hidden recesses of the store, a chameleon enduring overheated and highly unsuitable conditions, and more. Martinez further explains that he dedicated a significant portion of his work days to rectifying the mistakes of his coworkers.

The shocking testimonials of eyewitnesses and former employees provide a window into the hidden world that PetSmart desperately attempts to keep concealed — a world filled with cruelty and neglect. 

The prospect of transformation remains a glimmer of hope for the animals under PetSmart’s care amidst mounting external pressure from the public. Through a combination of public outcry and legal action, PetSmart can be compelled to reform its practices to create a more humane, compassionate treatment of animals under its purview.

Given PetSmart’s past limited efforts to address allegations of animal abuse, the best course of action for those hoping to change PetSmart’s business practices is to boycott the brand and raise awareness about PetSmart’s extremely unethical practices. 

About The Author

Originally from Santa Cruz, Gensen DeLeon is a first-year English Major at the University of California--Los Angeles. She anticipates graduating in Spring 2027 and continuing her educational journey at law school.

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