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Have you ever wondered where pet shop animals come from? - Here's the nasty truth.

We'd all be lying if we said we've never walked into a pet shop and cooed at the cute baby animals. But the reality of their existence is horrifying and one that is unknown to many.

It is highly unlikely that you've never heard of puppy farming. It has been featured numerous times on TV documentaries, shared on social media and the Lucy's Law campaign managed to have the third party sale of puppies and kittens banned as a result. As a nation we were horrified by the idea of our family pets coming from establishments where dogs are bred back to back in horrific conditions just to produce puppies which would be sold via pet shops and dealers. Unwell, uncared for, scared of human contact and confined to very small spaces, usually in dark and dingy barns. We should have been horrified by the conditions many hundreds of dogs were being kept in, just to keep our desire to buy a puppy satiated.

But what about the Nation's 3rd favourite pet, the rabbit? Or guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, rats and so on. Where do these animals come from? Rodent farms that's where!

It's a large breeding facility where animals are bred back to back, kept in very small spaces, scared of human contact, unwell and injured and if they are very lucky culled or otherwise just left to die.

It is absolutely no different from a puppy farm, animals bred on mass to keep pet shop shelves filled with cute baby animals. Like puppy farming, no selection is made for health and temperament. So hereditary health issues are passed down from generation to generation. It is common for mistakes to be made during sexing and young females become pregnant while waiting to be purchased. Animals are often unwell with ringworm, pasteurella, E. cuniculi, and for breeding stock, suffering from dental issues, sore hocks and fur loss.

When breeding animals become unproductive they are simply culled to enter into the pet food market. Their short and miserable lives are completely exploited to satisfy our desire to buy their offspring from pet shops. We do so in droves, with thousands of rabbits and rodents purchased every year. For the animals on the shelves, which grow too big to be considered cute, the farm has the stores covered there as well. Many offer a sale or return policy for the older, less desirable animals to be swapped for cuter younger versions, with the older unsold animals being culled on return to enter the frozen food market.

The whole system is rigged towards maximum profit and minimum cost, just like puppy farming. However, the government has concluded that the welfare issues experienced by dogs and cats do not apply to rabbits and rodents.

Lack of socialisation applies to rabbits and rodents, as much as it does to dogs and cats. So much so that Pets at Home staff will not let you handle a hamster, rat, gerbil, before you purchase them. You have to choose based on appearance not personality. This is because they are terrified of human contact, will bite, jump, scratch and do anything else they can to escape. If these animals received regular human contact from a young age this would not be the case. How many of these animals become labelled as aggressive and become neglected by owners as a result? How many end up being given away to the first person to come along? How many end up in rescues?

Rabbits and rodents are sold unwell and suffering from health problems. This has been well established and Pets at Home have admitted to previous problems with animals arriving in stores with ringworm.

Unlike puppies and kittens, which take much longer to mature, small rodents are regularly sold pregnant and unsuspecting owners suddenly get a lot more than they bargained for. It's generally, already struggling and underfunded, specialist rescues which are forced to pick up the pieces. With frequent incorrect sexing, it's common for male / female pairs to be sold. This leads to unexpected and unwanted litters, which once again put a heavy strain on rescues.

In addition to these, all too common, problems there's then the terrible advice given out by staff. This has a massive negative impact on the welfare of the animals but also negatively impacts owners. 'House rabbits don't need vaccinations', 'Two male rabbits will live together peacefully for life as long as they come from the same litter', 'Litter mates won't breed together as they know they are related'. All of this lands on the plate of rescues, who are expected to provide endless free advice, and solve the problems. Rescues can't keep up with the demand for their services and it's all because, for pet shops, it's always going to be profit before welfare.

So what can we do, the average person, to make a difference. These animals are mass bred because there's a market for it. Take away the market and there is no longer any profit to be made. Stop buying these animals! There are thousands of rabbits and rodents sat in rescues all across the UK, some wait for years, many small animals die in rescue as no one is interested in adopting them. There are plenty of other options which don't involve a third party sale!

Stop buying anything from pet shops which sell animals! There are plenty of pet stores which only sell pet supplies, and loads of online stores. No matter where you live, you can make that change and still keep your pets happy with their favourite foods, toys and treats. Show these stores that you don't support pet farming and hurt what they care about most… profit.

Register with us to receive a postcard you can send directly to the CEO of Pets at Home asking them to reconsider the sale of rabbits and rodents in their stores nationwide.

Write to your local MP, asking them reconsider their decision to exclude rabbits and rodents from Lucy's Law on differing welfare grounds. Highlight the problems caused from incorrect sexing and unexpected litters, under socialised animals and animals being sold unwell or injured. Here's a link to a great guide to help you write the perfect letter.

Whatever you do, don't do nothing! For evil to prevail, it only requires good people to do nothing. These animals have no voice and very little support, so let's help change that by coming together and being their voice!

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