Pets at Home, the country’s largest pet supplies retailer, has branded a report about animal welfare conditions at its stores by BBC consumer affairs TV programme Watchdog as “misleading and, in many cases, simply wrong”.
Following “more than a thousand” complaints from viewers, Watchdog sent undercover shoppers into eight Pets at Home stores to see whether welfare conditions had improved since it carried out a similar exercise in September 2012.
Then, the investigation team, which included former BSAVA president Mike Jessop, found evidence of mistreatment of small animals, dead fish in tanks left to rot and being eaten by other fish, and sick animals for sale.
The new programme concluded little had changed, the company had failed to fulfil the pledges it made to improve conditions in 2012, and it also raised fresh concerns.
Investigators claimed sick and dead fish were found in tanks at all eight Pets at Home stores visited, and animals were sold without six-point health checks. Staff at two stores also supplied incorrect vivarium temperatures for lizards and an official company information leaflet gave the incorrect size of vivarium required for bearded dragons.
One staff member was filmed suggesting a vivarium temperature of “50 degrees centigrade” would be okay. Mr Jessop, who was again involved and described by the programme as a “forensic vet”, said he thought the animal would be slowly cooked at that temperature.
Despite the fresh allegations, a spokesman for the retailer claims all improvements promised in 2012 “and much more” had been implemented and it had detailed, independent audits to prove it.
Pets at Home chief executive Nick Wood said: “We have looked in detail at every single claim put to us by Watchdog, which are misleading and, in many cases, simply wrong.”
Mr Wood added: “Viewers don’t have to take my word for it. Our stores are open every day and our colleagues will be happy to explain the care we provide for our pets. You don’t need to go undercover; it’s in full view for our customers to see because we have nothing to hide and plenty to be proud of.”