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5 Warnings to Shoppers From Ex-Petco Employees

According to those who worked at Petco, employees might not be as knowledgeable as you think.

Petco is a one-stop shop for animal lovers. Whether you're looking to buy your child a pet fish or pick up a new toy for your dog, the retail chain has plenty of options. With more than 1,500 locations across the United States and Mexico, it's no surprise that their selection is top-notch. Plus, they have their own dog-grooming facilities, work with veterinary hospitals and adoption centers, and even recently decided to stop selling dangerous shock collars. But despite all these positive attributes, there are still some unsavory details lurking beneath the surface. Read on to hear from former employees about the biggest warnings you'll want to be aware of when shopping at Petco.

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Employees can deny you an animal.

Seattle, Washington, USA - August 21 2018: Entrance of a pet products and services retailer

Petco employees can deny people animals if they don't seem to have experience or knowledge about the pet they're hoping to bring home.

On Reddit, multiple people have complained about being denied animals, from snakes to birds. "When I worked at Petco I denied people who wanted to buy fish after questioning them. If you're putting a goldfish in a bowl with no filter, get one at your country fair where they're already neglected," @claireluvsbearz tweeted.

"Unless something major changed in the time since I left, you are absolutely allowed to refuse an animal sale if the person isn't buying the proper food and supplies. It's policy. Especially if they're trying to breed small animals," wrote former employee kindrex89 in a Petco Reddit thread. "I can't even tell you how many hamster sales I denied because people were convinced they could keep more than one together. Or how many reptile sales I denied because people say they'll 'come back and get the lights tomorrow.' Nah. No animals for you."

Check your dog groomer's experience.

groomer untangling dog hair
Focus and Blur / Shutterstock

Don't take dropping your four-legged friend off to be groomed lightly. All dogs are different, and it's an intimate experience (one that you're usually not present for). Unfortunately, some of the dog groomers at Petco might not have the background you'd hope for.

"they start you off as a bather and you are SUPPOSED to bathe dogs for 3 months before you get passed along to grooming school," wrote a former employee on SimplyHired. "At this location my salon manager actually tried to fast track me and wanted me to go sooner."

The ex-employee also complained about the training. "The salon manager is supposed to train you but the one here did not train me at all on the bathing aspect of the job."

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Don't stick your fingers in the bird cages.

colorful parrot in a cage
tanya_morozz / Shutterstock

It can be tempting to play with the birds at Petco, but very often they can be aggressive. One former employee explained on Reddit that he took one of the birds home because it was so hostile. "The staff tried to interact with him, he'd just always bite them hard, like he'd take chunks out… He really just wanted out of that cage I think."

The ex-employee's point about being stuck in the cage is echoed by PETA in an article titled "10 Reasons Never to Buy a Bird From Petco." They explain that birds are considered "undomesticated," meaning they haven't evolved to live indoors with humans in the way dogs and cats have.

"The constant stress of captivity and claustrophobia may cause birds sold as 'pets' to scream, bite, pace, repeatedly peck at the cage bars, or pull out their own feathers until their skin is raw and bloody," says PETA, which is why many of the birds at pet stores can be unusually aggressive.

Don't buy a fish on a whim.

colorful betta fish in tank
thanyathornS / Shutterstock

You probably think fish are the most low-maintenance pets of all, but that doesn't mean you should just get one on a whim.

First, keep in mind that, much like birds, fish are not meant to be kept in tiny confined spaces. In response to a question on Reddit about how long betta fish "stay in those little cup tanks," former Petco employee Particular-Guava-323 said they saw fish die in these cups.

"I don't recommend purchasing betta fish from chain pet stores for this reason," they went on to explain. "You're just supporting the cycle of abuse and creating a new opening for another sad fish to take the place of the one you 'rescue.'"

But if you do decide to get a fish, remember that there are probably more supplies you need to purchase than you realize.

"When I worked at petco, people would come in and buy fish along with the tank as a gift for their kids… if u want to do that, just get the tank and the supplies!! uncycled tanks will likely kill the fish!" tweeted @taylorndean. Similarly, user @rotarydials tweeted that he would try to convince customers buying betta fish to also get "tanks & stimulant items + plants."

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Take advice from employees with a grain of salt.

Various cat food on shelves at a PETCO pet store

It might behoove you to do your research before heading to the pet store. Reddit user 420goattaog explained that "Petco does minimal actual training on the animals. Everything that is taught is online and not even very educating." They went on to say that when they received customer questions, they'd often be searching on their phone for the right advice.

Likewise, in a separate Reddit thread about recommending dog food to customers, ex-employee Intelligent_Humor987 said, "During training we were basically told to push select brands. I remember doing a training that didn't say shame the customer but basically encouraged us to make the customer feel bad enough to switch foods."

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