PLEASE NOTE: On 12/16/98 I received a call from a representative of the Citizens for the Lakewood Animal Shelter and was informed that they no longer take animals to the Great Northern Petsmart for adoption. She indicated that another animal shelter was participating in Petsmart's Luv-a-Stray adoption program and that they were indeed leaving animals there in "off-adoption" hours. Unfortunately, she did not know the name of the organization so I will have to try and find out this information.

This means not only did the employee at the cash register have no direct information about the cats, the contact information he was giving out for the cats was incorrect as well.

December 14, 1998

Lakewood Animal Shelter
P O. Box 770894
Lakewood, Ohio 44107-0040

Dear Animal Caretakers:

I am writing you to make you aware of a situation which concerns me greatly. Let me preface my message by saying that a few years ago, I did adopt a kitten [Chestnut] through the Love-a-Stray adoption center at the Petsmart in the Great Northern Shopping Center. I am not certain whether or not she was from your shelter or another organization adopting out there at the time. She has been a welcome and loving addition to our family (2 felines already) and, we wouldn't trade her for the world. I believe that the adoption center at the Great Northern Petsmart is a valuable program for finding homes for strays.

Regarding the situation I mentioned, about two weeks ago (the Saturday right after Thanksgiving) I was at Petsmart buying litter and food for our three cats. At that time it was late afternoon, and there were no shelter volunteers manning the cages. I know that when we adopted Chestnut there, the animals left went back to the shelter with the workers at the end of the day, so I was surprised to see cats and kittens still there locked in cages.

What concerned me was a kitten whose nametag dubbed him Stuffins. His eyes were cloudy and gummy from discharge, he was laying in his litterbox and had feces matted in his facial hair (on one cheek). He seemed distant and was unresponsive. When we went to the check out counter, I asked the adolescent boy behind the counter about the cats. Before I could express much of a question beyond pointing in their direction and inquiring "who I might speak with about them," he answered flatly, "Lakewood Animal Shelter." When I tried for a follow-up, more specific question, he said the same thing that I should contact the Lakewood Animal Shelter.

Having already been rebuffed by some employees in the back of the store when inquiring about the dead goldfish floating in their "pond," I guess I wasn't prepared to confront anyone at the store about this cat who appeared ill to me. I regret that decision greatly and that cat has haunted me since then. I want you to know that I am not writing to place blame or accuse anyone (either you or Petsmart), but to communicate my concern and tell you about a situation of which you may not be aware. Further, I would like to suggest that while it may be difficult for the shelter, the volunteers may want to check up on their animals more frequently when left under the supervision of Petsmart and/or take them back to the shelter when they are not actively adopting out at the store. Perhaps an understanding of whom is to watch and care for the animals when they aren't being adopted out needs to be reached/clarified.

Lastly, I want to express my great gratitude to all of you at the shelter for all the hard and heart-breaking work you do for these animals. It is my hope and wish that every one of you has the kindness you show returned back to you. And, I hope that Stuffins is healthy and has found a wonderful family and home.

Sincerely,

Leigh-Anne Dennison


December 15, 1998

Sam Parker, CEO and President
PetSmart
19601 North 27th Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85027

Dear Mr. Parker:

As I am sure you are quite busy, you may or may not recall that I wrote you earlier this year [my July letter attached] regarding your newer policy about selling small animals. You personally responded to my letter, which in and of itself is practically a miracle these days and did not go unappreciated. I have attached a copy of that letter as well for your quick reference.

I had not visited a Petsmart since writing to you in July when--taking into consideration the sincerity expressed in your response--I decided just after Thanksgiving to return to Petsmart to make some bulk necessity purchases and maybe pick up some "holiday treats" for our cats. I witnessed two occurrences at your store at Great Northern Mall [North Olmsted, Ohio] which I am afraid confirmed my conviction that stores such as yours should NOT be selling animals. I am sharing them with you in the hopes that these situations will be improved.

The first observation was made when I visited the aquatic section of the store at a large faux "pond" holding goldfish and turtles. My husband and I were shocked to see close to a dozen goldfish floating dead in the pond. We pointed this fact out to the three young employees. They were gathered in that department, about 6 or 8 feet from us and the pond, talking with one another. None of them walked over to see check the pool but replied that there were turtles in the pool (which I might not see) that sometimes nibble on the fish and either kill them and eat them or mortally wound them.

I indicated that I did indeed see the turtles, and suggested that they would want to clean the fish corpses from the pool. The young man then indicated that they used to try and clean them out every time a few died, but it had become a hassle; they now only cleaned the dead ones out twice a day. I did not feel comfortable with his explanations but thought it would be unproductive to debate him any further.

The second observation occurred at the Love-a-Stray adoption center at the front of the store. As you will read in the (third) attached letter, which I have sent to the Lakewood Animal Shelter, I will be brief and say that a cat left in the care of Petsmart appeared ill and unchecked. When I inquired about the cats, a store employee told me that I should talk to the Lakewood Animal Shelter. I have sent the shelter and copy you on that letter in the hopes of encouraging a dialogue between the involved parties to will ensure the animals within the store, whether being sold by Petsmart or adopted out by an animal shelter, are properly cared for.

As I have stated in previous letters, I have a great respect for you and your organization in assisting with the Adopt-a-Pet/Stray program and consider it essential to helping shelters find homes for stray and abandoned animals. Please do not take this letter to mean I think you should discontinue this practice. I merely feel that the animals being presented for adoption should either be more closely checked and more often or return to the shelter after adoption sessions.

Mr. Parker, I believe that you are sincere about wanting to help people find the companion animals they need; however, your employees are not you. They may not hold the same commitment to the animals that you do. I feel the incidents I have mentioned to you confirm that a large establishment such as yours cannot guarantee the safety, health and happiness of the animals.

I urge you once again to reconsider your decision to sell small animals, and encourage you to ensure that any animals which are left in the care of store employees are cared for as…well…as if they were your own companion animal(s). Thank you for your time and attention. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these matters.

Sincerely,

Leigh-Anne Dennison

Enclosure
/lmd

cc:

Cindy Koenig, Manager
Petsmart/Great Northern Mall
26063 Great Northern Plaza
North Olmsted, Ohio 44070

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