Petsmart is Pet Stupid

Many people around the country report that they've found toads in Petsmart stores who were not healthy. I made it my business to investigate this myself. Normally, we use a privately owned pet store which is well stocked and has knowlegable owners, however, there is always that rare occasion when you need something in a hurry and your store doesn't have what you need in stock and you need to buy at a place like Petsmart. I've visited Petsmart stores in several cities in the US and in each case, the housing of the frogs and toads was incorrect. The toads are highly stressed, obviously thin and underfed and are being kept with other frogs, some of whom might pose a threat to the toad.

Understand that this stuff happens in Petco and many other pet stores, even privately owned. However, I am singling out Petsmart here because I have seen this as a common factor in several of their stores, from Dallas to New York. I even rescued a bufo viridis from a Petsmart, noting that she would most likely not make it, but I thought if she had any chance at all, it would be in my care and if nothing else, I could give her a peaceful place to pass on. Which she did. View her gallery here.

I recently saw a female tomato frog with a huge nose rub being housed in a tank with a variety of other frogs and toads, including a pacman frog. Tomato frogs are shy, delicate animals and although the pacman was much smaller, I'm sure there was still a stressful environment created by housing them all together. Nose rubs usually occur when a stressed animal rubs all the skin off their nose while trying to escape. Sometimes it heals on its own if the behavior stops, but other times it does not and continues and worsens. If the area doesn't heal and grow new skin, the frog risks an infection which can turn systemic and cause death. Tanks must be as clean as possible and the rub must be aggressively treated. The frog I saw was pale in color. When tomato frogs are happy, they tend to be bright red and when stressed, then get pale.I was too far from home to buy this frog and help it. I was visiting in Dallas, Texas and I live in New York. I had no practical way of transporting the animal and the trip would probably have finished her off anyway.

Another problem I noted in all locations was that t
he toads were forced to live in a tank that is very hot and tropical in the way it was set up. Generally, toads prefer warm but not hot, and dampish but not rain forest type settings. These tanks had heat lamps over them and few places for the toads to hide. Toads are usually nocturnal and not often found in daylight, much less basking in the sun.The sun will dry them out, so they avoid it.

Bufo Viridis is a primarily diurnal animal (is awake by day), which is a departure from the normal toad who is nocturnal. Never the less, they still shouldn't be housed in a tropical like environment and shouldn't be left in a 5 gallon tank with a huge basking lamp on it and nowhere to escape the heat.

Of course the other problem is that the cards on the tank usually say "common toad", which might be anything. Where ever you live, whatever the dominant native species is, that is a "common" toad, isn't it? Not only is this bad because it doesn't allow for fine tuned care of the individual species needs, but it also means you don't know if what you have might be safely released into nature or not. If somebody releases a non-native toad into the wild, it might be able to breed with local species and this creates a problem. Furthermore, if more than one non-native animal is released and they mate, there is a potential that they could dominate, as the Cane toads did in Australia (click here to learn the disastrous aftermath of the Cane toad's introduction to Australia).

So what can you do? Well for one thing, complain. Ask to speak to the manager. Tell them you are aware that toads should not be housed with other frogs and they should not be forced to live in a tank with a heat lamp or in substrate like bark that they can easily swallow and die of impaction from. Also, write to Petsmart's corporate office. Tell others not to shop there for anything if they can help it. If they tell you that they have vets who have approved of the tanks, ask who the vet is and try to find out his practice. Chances are, it's mostly cats and dogs and he rarely sees exotics. Even vets who claim to have an exotic practice often do not see frogs and toads. Some will see them as patients, but have little practical experience and might never have kept any as pets. Vets often have less experience with frogs and toads than amateur hobbyists.

Complaining probably does little good, however, if enough complaints came in, Petsmart might wisen up.