Animal Abuse as a Social Norm

College kids are pretty notorious for not treating animals well.

It has often been speculated that many of the campus cats may have previously been cats that students owned during school, then abandoned at the end of the semester. There’s a great deal of students that fudge papers to get a “therapy animal” just as an excuse to have an oversized dog crammed into a residence hall and it’s all too common for students to have a fish or tortoise that they leave unfed over breaks. 

While I could talk for ages about how little the average college kid seems to care about animals, there’s another group that treats animals just as badly, though, they often go unnoticed: the Pet stores themselves. 

It’s easy enough to go into a pet store and see the tiny cups that depressed betta fish are shoved into. In reality, a single betta should have a 2.5 gallon tank. Many people also have a story of getting a goldfish from the pet store only for it to die within the month, even though goldfish have a lifespan of ten years. Interestingly, the oldest goldfish ever recorded was 43 years old. All of this is unfortunately too common.

The issue goes deeper than just fish, however. When at a pet store, it’s common for employees to push the sale of small cages for smaller pets like rabbits, guinea pigs, and hamsters. In reality, these animals often need large hutches that are a few feet wide at least in order to give the animals enough room to roam comfortably. On top of that, despite being sold separately, guinea pigs are not supposed to live alone. In fact, it’s actually illegal to own only a single guinea pig in Switzerland because it is seen as animal abuse. Speaking of guinea pigs, they are also not meant to use hamster wheels, despite advertising, as their spines are too long and are not meant to curve like that.

Animal maltreatment is fairly rampant in America, even down the ignorant decision to avoid spaying or neutering, keeping a dog in his crate all day, or declawing a cat. Perhaps it’s because extreme vegans and organizations like PETA have put a bad taste in the mouth of anyone discussing animal rights, but it deserves to be talked about, especially when so much of this maltreatment happens because of misinformation from pet store owners and employees.

While we wait for real change, remember: make sure you research thoroughly on your own terms before adopting any animal, no matter how small.