Response to Matters raised by Watchdog
17.09.12

Watchdog has made a number of allegations which everyone at Pets at Home takes very seriously. Their 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.

With any complaint, we would seek to establish the full facts behind the problem before addressing it. On this occasion, that has not been possible, as we have been granted limited advance detail and will only see the video footage as it airs live on Wednesday evening. However, based on the information we have received, we find ourselves disagreeing significantly with many of the points raised by Watchdog’s vet.

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. An even larger number work with us because they love animals. They’re people like you; people for whom animal welfare is massively important. They, more than anyone, will want to be certain that we are providing the very best advice to ensure our pets’ welfare.

We’ve been caring for pets in this country for over 21 years, and it is an inevitable fact that a small number of pets may sadly become ill. Despite this, we are proud to say that instances such as these are rare. We have over 300 stores and we remain convinced that our animal care is second to none in our field.

What’s more, we are proud to count the RSPCA as our partners. This is an organisation who set the very highest standards for animal welfare. 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 every day. With that aim in mind, and based on the limited information at our disposal, we have immediately taken the following steps.

  • We will review our health check training
  • We will increase the frequency of the checks on our fish tanks.
  • We have already replaced the two confusing signs in all stores.
  • We will continue to monitor and improve our colleague training.

All identified stores have also been inspected by our fish and pet experts and we can confirm that all the required processes and procedures are in place and that no health issues were seen.

Our full responses to all the points that have been raised are outlined in the document below. It is quite a long document as we aim to be as transparent as possible, given the information we have available. We have provided Watchdog with a copy of all training programmes referred to and the Pet Care Trust independent audit.

In summary, our objective, every day and in every single one of our stores is to ensure the health and wellbeing of our animals. We are continually striving to improve our training and knowledge so that our colleagues can deliver the best pet care.

Please read on for the detailed response to the points raised with us by Watchdog.

Case 1. Two Guinea Pigs with Ringworm - June 2012

We know how distressing it can be when a family pet becomes ill and we apologise for the upset that this has caused. Ringworm is a skin infection caused by a fungus, growing on skin and nails and hair follicles. The infection and skin condition may have been present prior to sale, however, the difficulty with ringworm is that it can be present in animals but dormant for years. It is difficult to prevent as the fungus is contagious even before symptoms appear. Unfortunately, its spores are common in the environment where animals live and it can be carried in the air or be present on fence posts in farms. It is more common in cats, dogs, horses and cattle than in small pets. Guinea pigs are prone to this condition, especially if there is a lack of vitamin C in their diet. It can also sometimes be misdiagnosed as scurvy. To keep our pets as healthy as possible, we feed our guinea pigs three times a day with human grade fresh fruit and vegetables. This is specifically chosen for the high vitamin C content and the nuggets we use in store have added vitamin C. We also use a beneficial supplement in our guinea pigs’ water bottles. Our Care Leaflets which are given to our customers free of charge when they buy a pet give further details about how to care for their pet when they arrive home. These Care Leaflets are also available on our website www.petsathome.com/petcareadvice

Pets at Home enforces a strict code of conduct that covers all the animal breeders who supply our pets to our stores. This code has been reviewed and approved by Tim Wass, an independent animal welfare consultant and retired Chief Prosecuting Officer of the RSPCA. The RSPCA also reviewed our codes as a pre-cursor to our partnership with them and have begun the process of inspecting our breeders.

We only source pets from breeders who fulfill the 5 basic freedoms laid down in the Animal Welfare Act 2006. We regularly inspect our breeders to make sure they meet our extremely high standards (which are above and beyond the standards required by law) and that they have the right attitude towards animals.

Case 2: Father and Daughter contracting ringworm - April 2011

We have already expressed our sympathy to the family and we apologise again for the distress this has caused them. Ringworm is also a common skin disorder in people and can be passed from one person to another and from pets that carry the fungus. It does not have an incubation time like viral diseases and can take hold whenever a chance presents itself, especially during times of stress.

Since historically there have not been many cases of ringworm passing to people, partly on the basis of this specific case, an independent audit was carried out on our policies and procedures. This concluded that we have good procedures in place to minimize the risk of ringworm, and these procedures are constantly reviewed. It also stated that it was difficult to see what else we could do to prevent the occurrence of ringworm.

Case 3: Two rabbits with health issues - May & June 2011

We are extremely sorry for the distress that this has caused the family. From the description of what happened, it appears that the first rabbit was suffering from E. cuniculi although there are numerous other reasons that could have caused its back legs to stop working after it was taken home. Unfortunately, without a vets report, we are unable to conclude definitively on the cause. Some rabbits carry E. cuniculi and the stress of moving to a new home could have triggered this in which case the rabbit would have appeared healthy when purchased and the E.cuniculi could not have been detected by a colleague health check.

Rabbits also have very sensitive digestive systems and they can go from normal to upset in a matter of hours. Rabbits are so sensitive that a pre-existing digestive problem would have manifested shortly after arriving home and not 10 days later.

When our rabbits arrive in our stores they are kept off the shop floor for a number of days after their arrival in a specially built, air conditioned, quiet area. This is called the “quiet period” and it gives our rabbits the opportunity to adjust to their new surroundings.

It also gives the chance for any stress related conditions to manifest themselves and so this is why we think it is unlikely that the condition of the second rabbit was pre-existing.

Our Care Leaflets highlight the need for customers to ensure that their new pet is fed the same food as in store and that any changes to their diet should be introduced slowly over a period of 10 days, phasing out the old food completely. The Care Leaflet provides further details on the type of food that can be fed to the rabbit. This leaflet has recently been reviewed and endorsed by the RSPCA (see our website at www.petsathome.com/petcareadvice who have also reviewed our pet care routines in store. A change of diet or inappropriate food is the most common cause of digestive upset, but can also be caused by stress in any form. This is why our Care Leaflets also advise that our rabbits are likely to be nervous when they are first taken home and so it is best not to handle them for a few days and give them the “quiet time” that they receive when they first arrive in our stores. Immediate veterinary treatment should always be sought when a pet appears unwell.

The questions that Watchdog have specifically asked us to answer are below:

What training do you have in place for members of staff dealing directly with pets?

At Pets at Home, 92% of our colleagues own pets of their own so come to the business with an underlying level of pet care knowledge. Pet welfare is so important to us that all store colleagues, irrespective of their background or previous animal related qualifications has to complete our training programme, to ensure that we offer consistent knowledge, the latest thinking and advice to our customers.

Pets at Home’s training is underpinned by the Steps programme which comprises:

  • Step 1 Welcome to Pets
  • Step 1 New to Pets
  • Step 2 Healthy Pets
  • Step 2 You and your Store
  • Step 2 Remarkable Reptiles
  • Step 2 Delightful doggies
  • Step 2 Fabulous Furries
  • Step 2 You and Your Team
  • Step 2 Marvellous Moggies
  • Step 2 Amazing Aquatics
  • Step 3 Paw Perfect

Watchdog have been provided with a copy of all of the training materials referred to above.

We research the latest thinking and use the resources available to us such as our Pet Team who are all qualified experts in their field and are headed up by our Head of Pets, who is an experienced vet.

The Pet Team comprises:

Head of Pets
(MVB MRCVS)
Veterinary Surgeon
with over 20yrs experience,
Operating Board member of
Pets at Home
Director of Pet Care Trust

Veterinary Nurse Assistant

Qualified Vet Nurse, 12 yrs experience incl. working in a referral Exotic Vet Surgery

Veterinary Nurse Assistant

Qualified Vet Nurse with over 12yrs experience incl. working with a specialist Exotic Vet

Aquatics Operations Manager

BSc.Hons in Marine and Freshwater Biology over 20 yrs qualified City & Guilds Zoological Animal Management NVQ Level 3: Retail Operations (aquatic retail)

Pet and Reptile Operations Manager

BSc Hons. Biology, MSc Environmental Sciences (on coldwater fish topic)
BTEC City & Guilds Pet Shop Management,
OATA Qualified

Pet Supply Manager

OATA Qualified,
SQP Qualified

Field Pet Manager

BSc Hons Biology,
OATA Qualified

Field Pet Manager

First Class Hons. Masters in Science.

Field Pet Manager

PCT Animal Management,
OATA Qualified,
SQP Qualified.

Field Pet Manager

HND Zoological/Behavioural Studies,
BSc.Hons. Animal Behaviour/ Welfare,
Post Grad Diploma Aquaculture,
OATA Qualified,
PCT Small Pet/Fish/Reptiles/Birds,
SQP Qualified

Our External Animal Welfare Consultants

Peter Scott
(MSc.BVSc.FRCVS)

Veterinary surgeon with over 35 years experience
RCVS Specialist in Fish Health & Production and RCVS Specialist in Zoo & Wildlife Medicine
Member of the Companion Animal Welfare Council
Member of the Defra Sector Council Forum

Tim Wass

Independent Animal Welfare Consultant
Retired Chief Prosecuting Officer of the RSPCA

We also use our colleagues in Companion Care, our veterinary business with almost 100 surgeries in Pets at Home’s stores across the country, to help us develop the training. On top of this we look for academic verification. Steps 1 and 2 have been accredited by Reaseheath College which specialises in animal management and for some of our colleagues Steps 1 and 2 can form the basis of a level 2 NVQ in Pet Retail. To gain this accreditation the training materials had to be endorsed through a challenging verification process with Reaseheath College, including all the pet related training that are included within these sections.

Step 1

Step 1 is a compulsory level of training for ALL store based colleagues. Step 1 covers core induction areas such as Health and Safety, Customer Service and Store Operations but a key part of Step 1 also relates to animal training. NO COLLEAGUE is permitted to sell a small animal or fish to a customer until they have completed Step 1 and have been signed off by an experienced manager as able to do so. Step 1 takes at least 16 weeks to complete. By the end of Step 1 colleagues are able to

  • Carry out in-store pet routines with confidence
  • Comply with the law and our own stringent standards relating to the sale of pets
  • Explain alternative housing and feeding
  • Give advice and recommendations to customers
  • Ask and answer common small animal and fish questions
  • Carry out the small animal and fish health checks

Following completion of Step 1, colleagues are able to complete the six point health checks on small animals and the general health check on fish. Colleagues are also trained how to sex the various animals that we offer to customers.

To complete Step 1, colleagues need to complete 2 workbooks consisting of 340 pages. They then complete a test which has to be signed off by an experienced member of management to confirm that they have gained and have demonstrated the knowledge and understanding required. As this training is compulsory, any colleague who does not successfully complete Step 1 will be supported with their training but ultimately, if they continue to fail the programme, their employment with the company would cease.

Whilst Step 1 has been in the business for many years, we regularly review the content to ensure that the information in the training is up to date and reflects the latest thinking and best practice.

Step 2

Having completed Step 1, colleagues are then required to complete Step 2, another compulsory level of training. Step 2 is made up of 8 separate workbooks amounting to 850 pages, all of which need to be completed successfully to complete the programme. Step 2 generally takes a further 9 to 12 months to complete on top of Step 1.

  • Fabulous Furries
  • Amazing Aquatics
  • Healthy Pets
  • Marvellous Moggies
  • Delightful Doggies
  • Remarkable Reptiles
  • You and your store
  • You and Your Team

Again, colleagues need to complete all the workbooks and complete an online test. It also has to be signed off by an experienced member of management and an Area Manager.

Colleagues who have achieved Step 2 will be required to complete an annual update at the time of their annual review to ensure that they keep up to date with their pet care knowledge.

To recognise the value we place on training and the importance to our business of highly trained colleagues, a salary increase is awarded when a colleague successfully passes Step 2.

Step 3

Step 2 completes the compulsory elements of our training but many colleagues are keen to learn more. For colleagues who want to develop a broader knowledge, we offer Step 3 as a pet specialist level of training. Colleagues who study Step 3 (which generally takes a further year to complete) are asked to complete a project, which can be specifically pet related but often involves training and supporting less experienced colleagues. However, the main part of Step 3 involves taking on a pet specialism. This involves attending off the job training courses, passing a test on

their subject area and then going back into store to demonstrate practical use of the skills that they have gained, again requiring sign off by an Area Manager and a member of our Training Team.

Specialisms currently available to our colleagues at Step 3 include:

  • Nutrition for Cats and Dogs – an off the job course developed with Reaseheath College.
  • Aquatics – a distance learning programme run and tested by OATA (Ornamental Aquatics Trade Association).
  • Small Animals – this is a new programme, currently being piloted which has been developed internally but with input from Reaseheath College.
  • Reptiles – an off the job course again developed with Reaseheath College.

To recognise the value we place on training and the importance to our business of highly trained colleagues, a salary increase is awarded when a colleague successfully passes Step 3.

Step 4

To take our level of knowledge and expertise even further, we have launched Step 4 which is designed to develop highly knowledgeable, true experts in their field. Often these colleagues will already have significant qualifications in their chosen field and may have a related degree but our aim is to create a small population of highly qualified colleagues that managers and colleagues can turn to for advice and coaching and support. As this is a new programme, we have no qualified colleagues yet but anticipate 25 to 30 colleagues per specialism and that it will take 12 months to complete. This further demonstrates our commitment to training our colleagues.

Additional Qualifications

Whilst the Steps programme underpins all the training that we do, Steps is not all that we do. We give our colleagues many other opportunities to develop their pet knowledge and skills. Some examples include:

  • SQP (Suitably Qualified Person) - We have more than 1000 colleagues who are qualified as SQPs who can therefore sell deregulated medicinal products that were previously prescription only, for example Frontline and Drontal flea and worm treatments. All of these colleagues have attended a 4 or 5 day programme at Harper Adams University and have had to pass a challenging academic exam to gain this qualification.
  • CPD (Continued Professional Development) – we run CPD sessions for our SQP qualified colleagues which is a compulsory part of their qualification. We also run CPD sessions for all qualified nutrition consultants, supported by many of our suppliers and we are just launching CPD for ALL Step 2 colleagues. The launch of on online training platform over the last 12 months allows us to ensure that everyone keeps their knowledge up to date.
  • All Colleague Roadshows – for the last 2 years we have given all our colleagues the chance to attend off the job Roadshows (approx. 93% of colleagues attend) and these include a Pet related training topic. This ensures we keep our colleagues up to date on vital knowledge areas.
  • 2

We invest a significant amount of time and money to ensure that our colleagues receive the training and development they need to keep their pet knowledge and skills up to date. It is important to us that our training is created in a way that ensures its validity and we are constantly reviewing the content, to make sure we are reflecting the latest best practice and thinking.

Please can you explain the correct sales procedure?

We first find out about our customer and help them to choose the pet which is right for them. They are then given advice about the specific needs of the pet to ensure that the pet is kept happy and healthy once it arrives home. At the time of purchase, one more visual check of the pet will be carried out.

In a store with a Companion Care vet, a free health check will be offered, typically by the Veterinary Nurse in the Practice.

At the final stage of the process, just before the customer buys the pet, the Petscribe is completed. The Petscribe is the form used to record the essential details of each pet sale and includes a checklist of key information. Both the colleagues and the customers sign the form and the customer is given a copy to take home. This is where we also record that we’ve health checked the pet and hand over a Care Sheet to the customer.

The Petscribe is a generic document that we use for the sale of all pets and there are a number of questions that may not apply depending upon the type of pet bought for example, we don’t explain about vaccination to someone who is purchasing a guinea pig.

We have to be sure that our pets are going to good homes and our stance is that if we aren’t sure then we won’t sell – it’s as simple as that. In fact, we receive numerous complaints from customers over our refusal to sell pets where our colleagues are not happy that they will be looked after responsibly.

An additional area that has been specifically highlighted by Watchdog is that our signage is sometimes not as clear as it could be. We have reviewed the 2 signs mentioned and have changed some of the wording to make the information clearer to the customer.

For example, we have signs on our Syrian hamster housing stating that they must be housed alone but we will often have a few living together. This is because, Syrian hamsters, when young can live together, however, once adult, they naturally become more territorial and should not be kept together. Our signs are intended to let our customers know the long term needs of the pets which are explained to them at the time of purchase. However, we have changed this sign.

Another sign that is not as clear as it could be states that ‘Aquatic Dwarf Frogs should not be kept in a tank with small fish’ yet you will see in our stores that we commonly keep them together. We agree that this sign is misleading and it has been changed. It is intended to mean tiny newborn fish which cannot be kept with Aquatic Dwarf Frogs. Small adult fish can be kept with frogs which the colleague would explain to the customer at the time of sale.

Do the fish tanks run on the same circulation system or do you have tanks with separate circulation systems?

The welfare of our pets is at the forefront of all our activities, and as such we have invested in sophisticated filtration systems to ensure that we provide the best environment for our fish. Our aquariums are not filtered by one large centralised system that has the inherent flaw of allowing disease to spread easily. Instead, we use separate mini systems per aquarium bank (5-9 tanks) which has combined with a high power Ultraviolet Germicidal Steriliser and a dedicated drain and fill per aquarium, ensures that we DO NOT get any cross infection of disease from one aquarium to another, as 100% of the water from each aquarium compartment passes through the UV before it re-enters another tank in the bay.

We have installed the AquaWave professional bay system which is one of the most sophisticated commercial fish retail tank systems available. In addition, we pay for an external specialist aquatic company, to service all the systems in all our stores once every 6 months to ensure that the systems and Ultra-Violet sterilisers are working correctly. During the visit they check that the systems are being maintained correctly but most importantly perform an audit on “fish health” using the experience of their team who are all Aquarists. A report is then issued to the Pets at Home maintenance team for action if necessary.

What measures do you put in place to ensure the pets you sell are healthy at the point of purchase?

We carry out frequent health checks on our small animals and fish at the following stages. We are reviewing our health check training and have increased the frequency of the checks on our fish tanks.

1. At our breeders
2. Upon arrival in our stores
3. During “quiet time”
4. Before being placed for sale
5. During our care
6. At the time of purchase
7. After they have left for their new home

1. At our breeders Small Animals

All of our breeders of small animals constantly monitor the health and well being of our pets whilst they are within their care and we have strict codes of practice in place with our breeders to make sure that these checks are carried out. A final check is given by the breeder before the pets leave for our stores. The RSPCA have also started on their programme of inspecting the pet welfare standards at our breeders.

Fish

Over the last few years, we have worked with our fish breeders to target improvements in the supply and quality of the fish that arrive at our stores. Our fish are sourced and supplied to our stores using guidelines which are extremely stringent and in many cases go above and beyond the rest of the industry. We regularly visit our fish breeders and are continually monitoring every species of fish we sell.

2. Upon Arrival in Our Stores Small Animals

When small animals arrive at our stores they are given a health check by a colleague who has completed Step 1 training and then they are housed in a specially designed air conditioned quiet room off the shop floor where they can settle and “acclimatise” to their new environment.

Fish

Fish will also be given a visual health check for signs of disease, damaged fins, eyes or scales, cloudy eyes and trailing clear faeces. We will also check how active they are. The fish are then given a quiet period during which they adjust to their new tank. During this period, the fish are kept off sale and their tank is kept in darkness which helps them to acclimatise.

3. During the Quiet Time Small Animals

We keep a record of all small animals that are resting in the quiet rooms so that we can be sure that they are ready to move to the shop floor. As part of this log we will record the visual daily health check that is carried out.

Fish

Fish will also be monitored during their period of acclimatization to make sure that they have established normal routines such as feeding when offered food. Any fish that do not show natural behavior will be kept off sale until we are confident they have settled into their new environment.

4. Before being placed for sale

A further health check takes place on all of our pets before they end their period of acclimatisation and if everything is okay then the animals will be placed on sale.

5. During our care

We want to keep all of our pets health and happy which is why Pets before Profit is our number one value and we carry out daily visual health checks on our pets on the shop floor.

Small Animals

Our small animals are housed in units which are designed above and beyond the guidelines issued by the Pet Care Trust in relation to the cage sizes and stocking levels for retail premises. This housing is cleaned out at the start of each day to make sure that our pets live in a clean and safe environment. We also have both hot weather and cold weather policies to ensure our pets are kept in the right environment throughout the year.

Our small animals are provided with food and regular fresh water every day. Our feeding routines are based on veterinary recommendations so for example, the diet that we provide to our guinea pigs is designed to ensure that they do not suffer from scurvy which is a vitamin C deficiency. Guinea pigs need a certain amount of vitamin C a day which our complementary nuggets food provides. Human grade fresh fruit and vegetables are provided to our small animals three times a day. We also add a beneficial treatment to the water that our guinea pigs are given. Having high levels of vitamin C and then lowering the dosage can increase the risk of scurvy which is why we stress to our customers both at the time of purchase and in the our Care Leaflet , the importance of maintaining the same diet at home.

If any small animals become sick whilst in our care, our store colleagues are empowered to seek immediate veterinary care and provide appropriate treatment, whatever the cost and we have a special room at the back of our stores for any small animals undergoing treatment.

Fish

Our fish are carefully monitored whilst they are in our stores and they are fed ‘Love Fish’, a food which we have developed ourselves to aquarium standards and has added vitamins to help them cope better with the stress of moving to a new home.

We have clear procedures in place for the treatment of poorly fish and when illness is spotted such as whitespot, our policy is to treat the whole bay for that disease to ensure that it does not spread. All treatments carried out are recorded on the Water Test and Treatment Record on the Daily Fish Routines and normally there would be a sign indicating any fish under treatment and so not for sale, however, sometimes this is omitted.

We have invested heavily over the last five years to upgrade all of our aquarium systems on a regular replacement cycle, to ensure we are providing the very best equipment for pet welfare.

Our colleagues are trained to use a dedicated net per Aquarium bay to ensure disease cannot travel from one bay to another via a shared net.

Unfortunately, the health of a fish can deteriorate quickly and where we suffer losses, it is our policy to remove any dead fish immediately so we don’t jeopardize the health of the other fish. We therefore check for losses every morning before the store opens and hourly throughout the day. We have now increased the frequency of the health checks.

To maintain consistent standards across all of our stores, our field pet managers complete reports on the stores on a regular basis to ensure that they are following the correct procedures. We also work with our consultant veterinary surgeon Peter Scott, one of the most respected exotics vets in the UK. Each store is also independently audited on an annual basis under the Pet Care Trust Assurance Audit and separately by each local authority at the time of licence renewal.

We have colleagues in our stores to care for our pets, 365 days a year, even Christmas Day when our store is closed.

Any colleague who has a concern about the care of pets in our stores can call a confidential telephone number at our Support Office, where immediate action will be taken to address the issue.

6. At the time of purchase

The final visual health check is carried out by colleagues at the time of purchase. Our colleagues are trained to carry out a six point check of small animals, observing the pet’s nose/mouth, eyes, ears, coat/body, feet/toes and bottom. They also look for signs such as eye discharge or scratches which can indicate fighting or stress and they look for these factors in every animal.

At the time of purchase, both the fish being sold and all the fish in the same tank will be checked for visible signs of illness, fin, scale or eye damage, cloudy eyes and trailing clear faeces.

7. After they have left for their new home

Our customers and their pets are important to us even after they have left the store.

Unfortunately, sometimes pets may suffer from illness once they are taken home. For example, rabbits are particularly prone to stress related illnesses such as digestive or respiratory problems which can be brought on post-purchase due to the trauma of moving homes.

We pride ourselves in supplying healthy pets and never knowingly sell one that is sick or injured. We ask customers to contact us if a customer needs any help with their pet. We also ask customers to contact us immediately if their new pet appears unwell soon after purchase and if necessary we will contact our own vet. This information is also on the Petscribe, a copy of which a customer takes home.

We are always looking to get better everyday and we are reviewing our health check training and have increased the frequency of the checks on our fish tanks.

Animal Welfare Act

The vet, who has helped Watchdog with their investigations, has also made some serious claims that we have breached some of the animal welfare codes. Under these codes, their vet is under a duty as a vet to report any concerns immediately to the owner of the pets. He carried out his investigations in July this year yet we have only just heard about these matters. We have also not been made aware of any such issues by our licensing authorities or through our independent store audits carried out under the Pet Care Trust standards. A copy of such audit has been provided to Watchdog. Our in-store animal welfare standards were also recently reviewed by Tim Wass, an independent animal welfare consultant and retired RSPCA Chief Prosecuting Officer. Mr Wass was impressed by what he found and the passion that we have for the welfare of the pets in our care.

Their vet claims that the fish seen in our stores were suffering without treatment being administered. We have clear procedures in place for the treatment of poorly fish and when illness is spotted such as whitespot, our policy is to treat the whole bay for that disease to ensure that it does not spread.The treatments are added to the water at the end of the day so the colour has dispersed by morning. Since their vet would have been unable to tell if treatments were in use, we do not see how he validates his claim that an animal welfare code was breached. Normally there would be a sign indicating fish were under treatment and so not for sale, however, this may have been omitted.We have re-issued new signage to our stores.

Their vet also makes a number of other claims that we have breached further animal welfare codes. Some of these are:

Our Pets are Overcrowded

We are surprised that their vet seems unaware of the legislation governing pet shops. Under the 1951 Pet Animals Act (and subsequent amendments) we can only keep a certain number of pets in each of the pet villages. These can be found in the Model Licensing Conditions that are adopted by the local councils who grant pet shop licences. In addition, we also follow the guidance provided by the Pet Care Trust. None of the occupancy levels of our pets are above these. These occupancy levels are for juvenile animals in temporary accommodation and would obviously not apply to adult animals.

Our Syrian Hamsters are not kept alone

Syrian Hamsters are born in litters. Litters of youngsters are fine together since aggression between individuals comes as they mature. This is why our advice to owners is to keep them singly.As we only house juvenile Syrian hamsters in stores, there is no need to keep them separate. We are surprised that this comment has been made by a vet since this is well known.