How to Start an Ethical Pet Store

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If you have a passion for pets, but mourn the lack of reputable or ethical pet stores in your area, starting a pet store may be a fulfilling venture. The current pet retail industry is full of controversies involving the mistreatment of pets offered for sale, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make a difference through example. And you wouldn’t be alone, either. As concerns have been voiced, more and more pet shops have risen to the challenge of becoming more ethical in their business practices. As an ethical pet store owner, your goal will be to take on greater responsibility and accountability for your animals so that potential pet owners can bring home a healthy, happy pet.

Get a Location

If you want to start an ethical pet store, one of the first steps is to gather information such as market research, location possibilities, and legal and accounting requirements. Once you determine that your business idea will be in demand in a specific location, the next step is to decide if you want to start a new business from scratch or if you choose to buy a franchise. According to Franchise Gator, some examples of ethical franchises include Earthwise, The Healthy Animal, and Scales N’ Tails. New businesses are a blank slate with ultimate flexibility, but franchises offer the security net of structure, which can be particularly helpful if you’ve never run a business before.

Be Choosy About How You Source Animals

There is a rising concern about the way animals are treated before they show up in a store to be sold. As an ethical pet store, it is important to source animals ethically. Many pets at large, chain pet stores actually come from pet mills. Pet mills are facilities that mass breed pets who are then kept in overcrowded, unsanitary cages until they are sold to a retailer. Many times pet retailers may not be able to give their customers any specifics of a pet’s health if the pet came from a mill. Aside from mills, many exotic pets are imported from the wild, putting strain on wild populations. Plus, according to ReptiFiles, some wild-caught exotics are actually illegal exports from their countries of origin. When you choose not to stock your store with wild-caught animals, you discourage illegal collection and take strain off wild populations.

Instead of supporting pet mills and importers, an ethical pet store should source pets from small breeders, animal rescues, and local pet shelters. However, be careful with breeders, too. According to Ethos Veterinary Health, a trustworthy breeder should seek veterinary advice, makes sure that all animals are happy and clean, and has good breeding practices.

Provide Basic Care Information

Ethical pet store owners should make an effort to make sure that their customers receive basic care information for the animals being sold in the store. Pet care can vary greatly from animal to animal. The care of a hamster is vastly different than the care of a golden retriever. And exotic pets like reptiles, fish, and amphibians, need very specific care and equipment that replicates their natural environment. While animal lovers can understand the excitement of bringing home a new pet, having accurate care information on hand to give to customers may prevent buyer’s remorse or, worse, a dead pet.

One of the best ways you can help insure the welfare of the animals you sell is to be careful about which ones you sell. For example, reptiles are gaining popularity in the pet world, but not all reptiles make good pets. Some reptiles, like reticulated pythons and green iguanas, require advanced care and should not be sold in pet stores where they can be easily purchased by people who aren’t ready for that responsibility. It’s better to offer reptiles with easier care, like crested geckos and corn snakes, instead.

Take Sick Animals to the Vet

Proper care of sick animals is essential to a pet store’s reputation. When pets are observed to display symptoms of unhappiness, pain or discomfort, it is important to not offer them up for sale. Instead, it is extremely important to take sick animals to the vet for an examination. According to Animal Health Services of Cave Creek, general signs to look for include dulled eyes, changes in activity level, hiding/isolation, or appetite changes. Since there are many other symptoms that could be involved, it is best to make sure that employees are trained to notice abnormalities and take pets to the vet as needed. It can also be very helpful to have a vet visit your store on a monthly basis and do a general check of all the animals in your inventory.
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