Petco drops small-animal supplier amid federal probe

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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 U.S. Department of Agriculture spent several days at Holmes this month after an animal-rights group shot video purporting to show substandard conditions at the dealer’s 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,” said Dan Paden, associate director of evidence analysis at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

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 agriculture department’s investigative unit recently spent five days at Holmes, according to Paden.

Tanya Espinosa, spokeswoman for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, confirmed the agency has an open investigation into Holmes but declined further comment.