Pets at Home – Where pets come first?

Owning a dog and two cats means I’m always popping in and out of Pets at Home and I have to say I have found their customer service to be spot on. They don’t leave you for ages but approach at just the right time to offer their help when you look like you are struggling. And their advice has been useful so I was disappointed to watch the BBC1 programme Watchdog last night and discover that things are not quite right with their stores across the UK. Watchdog featured a couple of personal stories, one being the guinea pigs Batman and Robin bought by Christina Sage from Pets at Home in the Cardiff Ty Glas store as a present for her 4 year old son Dylan. Unfortunately after three days Robin became ill and lost all the hair on the side of his face. It was later confirmed by a veterinary that both he and Batman were infected with ringworm. The problem with ringworm is that it is a highly infectious disease and can spread easily between animals. However, it can also be passed onto humans as 12 year old Chloe Cameron discovered. She bought two guinea pigs from the Pets at Home store in Carlisle. They too fell ill, and shortly after their diagnosis with ringworm, Chloe was diagnosed with the condition. Her father also contracted the disease.

In another case featured on the programme, two rabbits bought by Caroline Parkes from the Pets at Home store in West Drayton sadly died within 11 days and Caroline believes that they were ill when she bought them. Watchdog decided to launch an investigation and sent a team of Watchdog secret shoppers on visits to eight of Pets at Home’s stores across Britain. In every store the team visited they saw fish that appeared to be suffering from disease. In four stores, fish were seen with ‘white spot’, a parasitic and infectious disease of the skin that could have affected all of the other fish sharing the tank. Seven of the eight stores tanks contained dead fish with a total count of 50. The vet employed by Watchdog, Mike Jessop was so worried about the condition of two of the rabbits for sale that they were purchased so they could be taken away for treatment. Later examination confirmed that one was underweight, while another had an obvious skin condition. A guinea pig bought in Cardiff Ty Glas store was later found to have the condition of scurvy, a disease you get through lack of vitamin C. There were also misleading signs about the welfare of certain types of animals and in some stores the staff were not giving out proper care information when customers had purchased pets.

So what do Pets at Home have to say and are these isolated incidences?

Nick Wood, CEO of Pets at Home said;

Watchdog’s report is a huge concern to everyone at Pets at Home. We take pride in putting pets and their welfare at the heart of everything we do, and we always deeply regret any upset to our customers caused by a failure to meet our own exacting standards. If we become aware of standards not being met, we will take it very seriously.

However, we find ourselves disagreeing significantly with many of the points raised by your vet. As a result we have invited him to meet with our specialist vets to discuss his concerns.

Not only are all our colleagues trained to a very high standard, 92% are pet owners themselves and care passionately about the pets in our stores. The, more than anyone, will want tobe certain that we are providing the very best advice to ensure our pets’ welfare.

It is however an inevitable fact that a small number of pets may sadly become ill. We are confident that instances such as these remain rare.

What’s more, we are proud to count the RSPCA as our partners. They have expressed their confidence in our commitment to animal welfare and we will continue to work together to find ways to improve the lives of pets in the UK.

We strive to get better everyday. Based on the information we’ve received before the programme, we have immediately taken the following steps.

We are reviewing our health check training, and have increased the frequency of the checks on our fish tanks.

We have already replaced the two confusing signs in all stores and will continue to monitor and improve every aspect of our stores and our colleague training.

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