So I emailed Petsmart today...

Grim Crow

New Member
I hope it makes a difference, here is what I wrote them:

To whome it may concern,
This is not a hate mail or rant, I was hoping that this email might find its way into the upper food chain of petsmart. I know you have a business guideline and I'm sure petsmart is doing well enough with sales that making any changes are viewed somewhat as unnecessary, but I would like to point out some things about chameleon care and hope that you find it in your hearts to take this email seriously. I recently purchased a veiled chameleon from one of your stores in Atlanta. It is doing well. However I noticed the way the chameleon was being cared for and it was pretty inadequate. It was in a small glass terrarium with standing water beside adjacent to some other reptiles. Some things to know about Chameleons:
1. they do not drink from standing water
2. they are stressed very easily and this results in premature death
3. they are arboreal
4. they require high calcium diet and uvb lighting

Most young chameleons won't even drink water and will hydrate off of their food and the humidity level. Standing water will just create bacteria and along with being immunocompromised due to stress they will be subject to illness. In order to hydrate a chameleon properly they will need a misting or drip system. Most people use the drip system by simply poking a small hole in a plastic cup and placing above their cage in order for it to drip on leaves. Chameleons are stimulated to drink by the movement of droplets of water on the leaves. Most owners will also mist their chameleon pets about 3 times a day for 3-5 minute sessions to increase humidity, and some chameleons learn to drink while being misted, but do not spray the chameleon directly unless it is accustomed to it.

Chameleons are very solitary creatures and when placed in a glass terrarium the site of their reflection is enough to create high levels of stress. Also being placed near other reptiles will have the same effect. You have in your store the reptibreeze cage enclosure that is suitable for chameleons, I myself purchased one. If a chameleon is highly stressed it will become immunocompromised and will most often not eat or drink, and of course being more susceptable to illness which is one of the leading causes of death to a chameleon for inexperienced owners.

Being arboreal creatures their enclosure requires more height then width or depth in order for them to feel safe and not become stressed.

The most horrible and most common chameleon deaths are attributed to Metabollic Bone Disease. Most chameleon owners will dust their feeder foods (most often crickets) with a calcium powder that also contained vitamin D3. They also require UVB lighting in order to metabolize the calcium properly. Your store carries the reptisun 5.0 uvb flourescent which is used by many chameleon owners. However they will still need a basking lamp. Also, chameleons do not sleep well at night and can become immunocompromised due to lack of sleep if a night light is used, so most chameleon owners do not use a night lamp.

My setup is a reptibreeze cage (18 wide x 18 deep x 20 tall) with some vines and leaves to climb. I also have the reptisun 5.0 uvb lamp and a zoo med 75w basking lamp, with infrared night lamp attachement which I only turn on durring the day if the tempature is too low (75-85 farenheit day, 65-75 night). I powder crickets as a feeder, as well as gutload my crickets with a high calcium diet. I use the "Big Dripper" system and placed a SHALLOW bowl to catch the dripping water and empty often. Most people also do not use a substrate as chameleons will rarely venture to ground and if it accidentally catches some substrate with its food it can cause stoppage. I mist 3-5 times a die depending on humidity, which I strive to keep above 60%, close to 80% being nominal. I also keep handling to a minimum as this causes chameleons alot of stress.

Perhaps it is possible for you to make some changes to help increase the health of your current chameleons in store by heading to my please. At the very least some small changes could be:
1. Remove from glass enclosure and from the vicinity of other animals
2. Remove water bowl and apply a drip system (this is incredibly inexpensive)
3. Provide UVB lighting and make it store policy to dust feeder insects (if not store policy alread)
4. Keep handling to a minimum
5. Ensure new chameleon owners of the high maintenance a chameleon requires (this could help improve sales by encouraging costumers to purchase all the required equipment for proper care)

I'm sure with at least these 5 changes your chameleons will be alot better off and will gain a much better reputation with the chameleon owner community. It is too often seen by experienced chameleon owners the poor treatment of instore chameleons and because of that, often choose to purchase their chameleons online as mail order, which is not an easy ordeal for chameleons. If you could make these changes, Petsmart could become the best place for chameleon purchases in the future. One last thing is it is best to purchase chameleons from captive breeders, as wild caught chameleons tend to have higher stress levels. I do not know how you get your chameleons now and if it is wild caught at the moment I understand this would be a difficult change but perhaps something to look into for the future.

Here are some links for additional info:

Thank you in advance for reading my lengthy email.
Concerned chameleon owner,

I didnt proofread it as I was in a rush, but hopefully they take me seriously regardless of grammatical/spelling errors.
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Reactions: Hoj
I think it is a great letter. Kudos for trying to make a change. Now we need the rest of the forum to get behind this and send letters after going into a petsmart seeing a cham so they can say when and where so they will know we all really saw the chameleon. Also we can say we are members of the largest cham forum in the world and maybe that buying power will get their attention.
good job GRIM CROW,at least you took the time to send them an email,I sure do hope to see these changes,it is heartbreaking to see the lack of care these huge chains offer to their chameleons,maybe "knowledge" contained in the email you sent will help..and I will also be doing the same the next time I venture into the city to the big pet store chains..I will be armed with a list of "helpful" hints on the correct care for chameleons...and i do agree that if all of us who are on this forum act in this "helpful"manner and let them know that we all belong to the worlds largest chameleon forum then maybe they will start to accept the help we are offering..all we can do is try and try again in the hope that all chams sold commercially in a chain store will bennefit immensely by our efforts,lets all keep our fingers crossed and also keep on offering our "helpful advice":)
i say good job i have recently been working with my local pet store to improve their chams quality of life, and so far it has been well recived. they are now maintining a much better setup in store as well as proporly supplimenting their chams while livin in the store. they have also agreed to hand out a care sheet that I provided.

best of luck and be sure to keep us informed as to how it goes
press 1 if you think the person who recieved that email put it in the junk or trash folder after reading the first line of that notice without a second thought.

somebody has to do something about it.
Petstores abuse animals they dnt care about anything but money. I wanted to sell my baby jacksons and saw their chameleons were in a small glass terarium that would b fit for a bearded dragon:mad: and just one heat bulb.
good job HOJ,we all have to do something,every bit helps,at least we know that particular store is accepting your help..i say we keep trying,:)
Re: Petsmart

Hi guys, just a word... Petsmart really does care about the pets that are there at the store employee level. I worked in the pet care dept and the care the pets get is actually good. There are some things that CAN be better on a larger scale (company wide) such as UVB lighting (Vitamin D3 supplements provided)... but I think that the Chams DO have adequate water supply. Our store never had standing water in the Cham cages (others do) but we also had 3 of us that specialized in reptiles. The policy regarding watering Chams is this: Mist heavily 3 times per day. Mist between misting times if humidity isn't what it should be. All water is treated with reptisafe. You are also supposed to have a little bowl of water but I think that's for overall humidity purposes because it specifically tells you in the pet care manual that you must mist heavily and take care that the Chameleon has access to leaves big enough to hold water droplets. We never had a dehydrated Cham or even an unhealthy one :)

We dusted crickets daily, and fed daily as we only kept baby Chams. Though a glass enclosure isn't ideal... the sides are black so they can not see other animals right beside them. They were heavily planted (fake plants though) and were also on the very top shelf in the display case so only tall people could peek in on them. Our babies were actually quite curious. One we had for a long time would cruise over to your finger the moment you put it in the enclosure and climb all around your shirt as you cleaned the cage. He would try to climb on your face or head. Such a cutie! Usually the policy is not to disturb them if possible and just kinda leave on a branch as you scoop out the bedding. Though a Cham can be stressed by this, we had to change the bedding weekly. I guess they were just kinda used to it, I never saw signs of stress and we monitored these sorts of things in all our pets from. If they seemed stressed we had a quiet room in the back (for any animal that seemed to be "off" or too nervous/stressed). Anyway though not ideal, in some ways the Chams do get adequate water/heat/food. As for new owners, first time reptile owners in our store were recommended to get leopard geckos or ball pythons :) we did our best to educate our customers or those who called because they got some wayward advice from another pet store :) We would not sell a Cham as a child's's really the staffs discretion so i guess it depends how dedicated of a staff you have in your store? Usually a threat to not give a health guarantee was enough to discourage someone you felt was definitely not a good match for a specific species. Petsmart doesn't make much if anything off the pets, it's really the supplies and accessories that make the money. There are some pets believe it or not that cost petsmart money to carry as opposed to make money (I've seen the order forms) so we do try to sell all the necessary supplies/equipment. For instance if I person wanted to buy a Cham with no UVB light..I'd flat out refuse to sell it and our Pet Care manager would back us on that decision 100%.

Also, a tid bit about Petsmart... did you know if a pet gets sick there that they will, despite any cost incurred, take care of it? Our store spent over $1000 nursing a guinea pig back to health when it was sick, had a Chinese water dragon get an amputated leg...egg bound finch...turtles came in with worms and spent months trying to get them back to health...countless trips to the vet (a vet that specialized in reptiles not just the in house banfield vet). I'm glad you sent them the letter, it really seems they TRY to provide the best care. Like I said it's totally the people that work there that make the difference. If an employee specializes in a certain animal they are in charge of their care and the guidelines provided by Petsmart are "tweaked" a little to provide better care.... :) The Pet Care manager that I encountered in our store and a few sister store were more than willing to accommodate a pet's needs. Hopefully, it'll continue to get better and better, but in the mean time..please know that there are caring and knowledgeable people in pet stores too.
Not to sound argumentative but the petsmart I bought my veiled from had a pretty decent setup. There were a lot of branches and leaves and and things for her to climb on and she was so small that I couldn't even find her in there at first! The enclosure also looked to be very moist on the walls and the glass indicating the humidity was probably about right as well. The only downside I saw was the fact she was being kept in one of those standard reptile things they have that're like 8 feet high with like 9 small cages. I also couldn't tell if there was a uvb or not but she looked super healthy when I took her home and is looking just as good still. :)

Instead of just generalizing your city maybe you should get a specific store number to tell them where this is happening. It seems to me they'd be more likely to investigate maltreatment at a specific location than just getting a generalized area.
black background on glass make it more reflective. Yeah it could have been the store I went to but I think it honestly depends on the people working there like chamelonaire said. I'm sure there are plenty of petsmarts with people who really care about the animals and thats why you get some that do decent jobs at taking care of their chams. Then there are others who probably just have people working there because they needed a summer job, or just need a job. The purpose of my letter was for them to send out a company wide letter or policy on chameleon care, from what chameleonaire said it seems they already do, or maybe it is store dependent, and if it is the latter, then the goal would be to make it company wide.
I don't think all stores are able to/will carry chams. I had to look up and call all the stores within 50 miles of where I live and finally found one like an hour away. Out of the 6 stores I called 4 of them told me to call a store that had sold out and the last one actually had one. From what they were telling me the "smaller" branches don't usually wind up getting chams at all. I'm not sure how true that is.
I believe it because I could not find one here in my town and had to travel to Atlanta for it, and up there only one store had one. They also said though that the season for chameleon was just starting so that could also be why my cham was so hard to find.
I agree you did I good thing. But, after about a paragraph I couldn't finish reading the whole thing. Which is what in turn I think a large company like that would do. Props, but I don't think it will make a difference because others on the forum I read have taken it to a very high level with no results.
Ive seen worse, I've seen a chameleon in a small pet shop (mom and pop store) that was in a small tank that was long length wise but maybe 12" tall and only a heat lamp facing sideways into the tank. This was quite awhile ago before I had any reptiles (3 years ago maybe) but i knew what a chameleon needed and that for sure was hell for it I bet. Needless to say that shop went out of business not too long after I saw that :D
I can say, at least at the PetSmart I work at, the Chameleons we receive *do* receive supplemental Vitamins, UVB, plenty of sprayed water and plants to climb/hide in. It has to stay in glass, but I damn well make sure they get ventilation the best I can(and I don't let people handle it). I'll let you guys know that there is great sway on a store by store level that managers can have: it just so happens I have a great manager who wants all the animals to be happy and healthy(even if all our Veileds, being veileds, are fairly grumpy).

I do, however, think you're doing the right thing by writing this. I've become increasingly disturbed by the care that so many pet stores give to their animals(the worst was a savannah monitor in a 10 gallon tank!) Chameleons are no exception to this, and I do not want to come off like I'm defending PetSmart at all(merely to say not all are horrible--some are simply acceptable yet not ideal). Their corporate rules, and other businesses' policies, are geared towards making the animal healthy enough to leave for a little while so that they can wash their hands of the business.

Like, for instance, we have a 14 day guarantee on all animals, no questions asked. This leads to situations where people bring back sick animals that they made sick--Rats with URI, or whatever--but it is *usually* sufficiently long enough that we can get people to keep reptiles alive through that distance. And, ultimately, that's all corporate cares about: a degree of plausible deniability so people will continue to shop and buy at our stores.

I have a very negative opinion of most reptile (and animal) dealers, and it has only been reinforced working here. I try my best, but I do think there need to be, first of all, better trained Pet Care managers at these stores and, furthermore, better set up cages for specialty reptiles like Chameleons. These are all decisions made at a corporate level, sadly, so I do think your idea is good, even if it will likely not amount to anything. Thank you for trying. And know, in some small way, that I'm working with chameleons on a day by day basis and making sure they get the best care I can possibly provide. It's not much, really, but I do my best. :)
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