Petco, one of the biggest pet retailers in the country, severed its relationship with a Pennsylvania small-animal dealer amid a federal investigation into conditions at the facility where it keeps thousands of hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, and other species. Petco said in a statement Tuesday that Holmes Chinchilla Ranch and Other Small Animals Inc. is no longer a supplier after the retailer concluded "they did not meet our animal care standards." The USDA spent several days at Holmes this month after PETA shot video purporting to show substandard conditions at the facility in Barto, about 50 miles northwest of Philadelphia. "You have roughly 20,000 animals in severely crowded bins, competing for food, competing for water," says a PETA rep. He said a PETA employee got a job at Holmes and worked there, undercover, for three months, collecting evidence that PETA presented to the USDA.
The video, which PETA shared with the AP, includes scenes of bins with dead guinea pigs; dishes filled with what appears to be foul water; live rats stuffed in a plastic bag and placed in a freezer; and a "waste-filled cooler" where dozens of small animals of varying species were dumped and gassed, per PETA. Holmes passed its last several federal inspections, according to online records going back three years. PETA, in a letter to the USDA, requested the inspector who gave Holmes a clean bill of health as recently as January 2015 not take part in the current probe, citing evidence the staffer warns facilities of impending inspections. A Petco rep says the retailer ended its relationship with the supplier "as a result of our own recent inspections ... which are a regular part of our strict vendor oversight protocol." Holmes declined to answer questions about its operations, though it said in a statement it's cooperating with the USDA and believes it "will satisfactorily resolve any concerns that they have now or arise in the future."