SPCA looking into Palmerston North WetPets pet store following raft of allegations from ex-employees

The SPCA said enquiries are being made at WetPets after concerns were raised.
The SPCA said enquiries are being made at WetPets after concerns were raised. Photo credit: Supplied

The Media Council has upheld a complaint about this story after it ruled Newshub did not deal fairly with Wet Pets.

The SPCA is looking into a raft of shocking animal welfare claims made against a Palmerston North pet shop by ex-employees.

A Palmerston North local shared pictures from inside the WetPets store and expressed their concern about animal welfare on Facebook, sparking several ex-employees to come forward with more allegations.

The local, who Newshub has agreed not to name, said they visited the store after hearing about concerns for animal welfare at WetPets. 

"I was absolutely shocked with how the pets were stored and I guess kept in the shop. There was a cat enclosure that I couldn't get close to because it absolutely reeked of urine."

The local said the blanket the cats were lying on "looked wet", and their shock continued when they saw six to 10 dogs kept in a small pod of kennels. 

"They were all barking in despair as soon as you sort of approached the gate," they said. 

"It's vile, shocking and questionable in terms of how this store is still trading and operating."

An ex-employee at WetPets made similar claims.

"There were dogs and cats who were very underfed," the ex-employee claimed. 

"There are cats in cages behind the fish tanks that don't get fed or water for the whole day." 

The ex-employee sent a video to Newshub showing several dead fish individually packed into zip-lock bags hanging up on a wall. 

"I think they do it for a little laugh, because there's a post-it note that said 'oh you girls make me laugh' so I think they were doing it for a laugh." 

They claimed employees were encouraged by management not to fill up the water bowl for the puppies after the dogs tipped them over and emptied the water out. 

"One of the employees said we aren't allowed to fill them up because he's already tipped it out so that's enough for [the dog]. When [the employee] walked away I filled it up anyway because he was dehydrated," they said. 

"We had a couple of people complain about the dogs not having any water and panting quite a lot, they were like: 'we will take care of that' and they never did."

Another ex-employee claimed in the time they worked there, the pet shop lacked a process for dealing with dead animals. 

"If any other animal passed away like rabbits or guinea pigs we would put them in the skip bin," they said. 

"We would just get told to bin them." 

The ex-employee claimed when it came to hygiene and cleaning enclosures, staff were forced to rush as quickly as possible before the store opened. 

"Just trying to quickly clean out the enclosure area, doing a half-arsed job and not actually cleaning it at all," they claimed.

"It's mainly just like dirty newspaper, not cleaning the walls of the puppy pens." 

"I'm not doing this to get at the owners, it's purely for animal welfare," they added. 

A recent employee claimed the owner yells "shut the f*** up" when the dogs would cry. 

They added each morning dead fish are pulled out of the tanks.

The SPCA said enquiries are being made at WetPets after concerns were raised.

"SPCA is concerned by the allegations and are making enquiries," Inspectorate team leader Ben Lakomy said in a statement. 

The SPCA couldn't go into detail about their investigation but said "pet shops must ensure that they can continuously and adequately provide for the physical, health and behavioural needs of animals in their care". 

WetPets responds

Newshub put the allegations to the pet store's owner. The questions were passed on to his wife Debbie, who categorically denied the claims.

She said staff have previously been rushed to clean animal enclosures because they were taking too long.

"You need to move, you cannot doddle. You have to hurry up and get the job done."

Debbie said the hygiene and cleanliness of enclosures aren't an issue. 

 "The paper is taken out [of the pens]. They've got bleach, boiling hot water that you cannot touch and the walls are scrubbed with disinfectant," she said.

Debbie said there is no issue with the SPCA making enquiries and is confident animal welfare is up to standard.

She strongly denied claims that employees were encouraged not to refill the puppy's water bowls.

"That's absolutely ridiculous, that's the dumbest thing I've heard in my life. Why would you do that for?" she said. 

Debbie couldn't explain why dead fish were put in zip-lock bags and hung up on the wall.

"Sorry I don't know. I can make a phone call to see where it is, but I have no clue. I can get them [employees] to send me a photo because there would be no reason for fish to be on the wall."

"It's not a wall full of fish it's one fish. I think one of the girls has a warped sense of humour. This photo could be 20 years old and I wasn't there."