Big news in the pet world this week is the growing partnerships between Pets At Home and animal charities - the RSPCA, Battersea Dogs & Cats and now Cats Protection.
It has been reported that in April Cats Protection is to open its first rehoming centre at Pets At Home, Newbury branch.
Cats will be displayed in pens provided by Pets At Home to the charity's specifications. Shoppers will then be able to choose a cat and after paying an adoption fee - presumably only after the 'are you prepared' "talk" and completion of any paperwork - return the next day to collect their pet.
Cats Protection also hopes to sell its own branded merchandise in the store. If successful the scheme could be rolled out to at least four other Pets At Home stores.
The RSPCA and Battersea Dogs & Cats have both opened rehoming centres at Pets At Home stores over the past 18 months.
Cats Protection have said it hopes the move will 'bring the message of responsible cat ownership to a wider audience', adding, 'The cats will be safeguarded in the same way as the cats in our care, ensuring people cannot buy on impulse.'
Meanwhile Pets At Home have said, 'We always put pets before profit and make no money from this partnership. We offer store space free of charge to certain charities to allow them to carry out their much-needed rehoming work.'
Pets At Home also boast raising tens of thousands of pounds in donations for animal charities every year.
As a high street business Pets At Home have had to diversify over the years. Included in their stores now you will find vet practices, aquatic centres, and dog grooming outlets, with plans to expand from their present 371 stores to more than 500. New services also include - Nutrition consultations and weight check clubs; a VIP club; a food subscription service and pet insurance - as Pets At Home are having to compete with other online pet suppliers who can undercut their prices and offer free delivery too.
Pets At Home - owned mostly by US private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, who bought Pets At Home four years ago for £995 million - earned £600 million last year and was last week floated on the stock market for £1.23 billion, although £280 million will be used to repay debts and cover transactions costs.
However, the partnerships have also been slammed as irresponsible by a former president of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association and vet. 'Selling animals from a pet store is an appalling idea. Animal welfare organisations have fought for years to keep dogs and cats out of pet shops and you no longer see puppies and kittens in shop windows. So this is a huge step backwards. I am also very concerned that shoppers will be encouraged to buy a pet on the spur of the moment. And I feel uncomfortable about cats being kept in pens in what will surely be stressful conditions. Confined to a pen for too long, they can become depressed.'
In my opinion, however, what else are these animal charities supposed to do. They are being overwhelmed with dogs and cats and if they do not find other ways to get the animals in their care noticed more and more dogs and cats will end up confined for longer periods in rehoming centres just because there just isn't enough people visiting and therefore adopting, which can be as stressful for the animal concerned.
The next step is even worse to contemplate - a time limit for adoption before perfectly innocent animals are destroyed.
The RSPCA and Battersea Dogs & Cats even have successful TV advertisement and programmes to promote their work. If they still need more . . . well, you must be wondering, like me, is there an even greater animal problem in this country, we, the public, are not aware of ???
If, however, dogs and cats - very importantly NOT puppies and kittens - are presented to the public who wouldn't necessarily ever visit a rehoming centre, isn't this a good thing ??? The question is would these people want to visit Pets At Home either ???
Pets At Home already have in store adoption centres for smaller animals - rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters etc, which they run on behalf of charities generally close to that stores particular location. It was only a matter of time before the idea progressed to include larger animals.
I am reasonably hopeful everyone involved put tremendous thought followed by endless discussion about the pros and cons of such an alliance, because the consequences could be disastrous.
In my opinion, what Pets At Home should do now is gradually reduce to eventually stop selling altogether all new small animals that are being produced/farmed to sell. These are the animals that are often bought on impulse. And this is the one policy more than any other that would help so many animal rescues.
Extracts courtesy of 'theguardian' online - Wednesday 12th March 2014 and 'MailOnline' - Wednesday 19th March 2014.