If you see a situation of abuse in a pet store, do NOT assume that you are helpless to do anything about it. One of the most important things to keep in mind is document everything when possible. When making complaints, do everything in writing, keep the responses you get from organizations, law enforcement, etc for documentation purposes. Try to get photographs of the abusive situation for proof, but do not put yourself in any danger attempting to do so.

  1. File a complaint in writing, and if possible back it up with photographs. Submit the complaint to the store and copy Pet-Abuse.Com on the complaint. Follow the next steps to determine if the complaint will need to move to another level involving the authorities.

  2. When writing a complaint letter, it should include as many details as possible, and the response received from the staff on duty when you expressed your concerns. Remember that if you attempt to negotiate before the concerns are documented, you may lose your chance to document the abuse because the bruises may have faded, wounds have healed or the establishment may have cleaned up their act in response to a verbal complaint. Get it in writing for future as well as immediate use.

  3. Once the complaint is given in writing to the store, attempt to resolve the issue with the pet store. Or work with the person who owns the facility. You can speak to the store manager or to the storeowner or both.

  4. In the case of poor customer service or animal care, you may simply have a bad employee that needs to be retrained or fired. However, it may not be an isolated incident or may fall under animal cruelty.

  5. Did you ask where the animals came from? If not, ask to try and find this out by asking, as sometimes the store will give the name of the supplier/dealer. This way you can try to determine if you are buying from an out-of-state breeder (puppy mill).

  6. If you have contacted the storeowner, what were the results? If you are unsatisfied with the results, do you wish to file a complaint with the authorities? If yes, see steps below.

  7. The type of complaint will determine whom you should file it with. The Attorney General's Office can handle complaints on services not performed, charges for services not received, etc. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) should be informed on most types of complaints, as they can act as an intermediary to correct the problem. For questions on business licensing issues, contact the Business Licensing Department for the County/City.

  8. Submit the original complaint letter and provide another document telling of the problems occurring with the animals. In the complaint, be sure to document the incident or problems seen with complete details (e.g. dragging puppies by your collars, handling kittens roughly, kennels not cleaned, inadequate water supply, etc.) Make notations on what their overall establishment is like. Note if the facilities are in poor condition. If the facility or equipment appears in disrepair, please add that to the complaint. Poor living conditions can contribute to poor health and medical problems. If possible, document with photographs.

  9. Send a copy of the complaint(s) and any correspondence that follows to Pet-Abuse.Com. We will add this to our files, and may be able to support your claim with history from similar ones. Send these to Pet-Abuse.Com, attention Advocacy Department, P.O. Box 2995, Del Mar, California 92014-5995.

  10. Also send a copy of the complaint(s) to the property manager/landlord that the business leases the property or building from.

  11. Remember that the Licensing Department often has the most power to act. And, the more complaints they receive, the more likely they are to act and investigate the store and its practices.

If you wish to contact authorities regarding the abuse, refer to the Reporting Abuse section and follow the directions from there. Also be sure to read the section on documenting your case so that you will be able to provide as much usable evidence as possible to law enforcement.