Pet store chain cuts ties with lab in wake of undercover video

Saturday, June 28, 2003

ST. LOUIS -- A national pet store chain took action against what it considered improper treatment of animals at a Missouri research facility.

PetsMart Inc., the Phoenix-based pet supply giant, said Thursday it made sure major pet food supplier Menu Foods of Canada is no longer using the Missouri laboratory.

A PetsMart spokeswoman said the chain was appalled by scenes of alleged dog and cat mistreatment filmed by an infiltrator posing as an employee of Sinclair Research Center in Hatton, Mo.

"We were absolutely horrified by what we saw," PetsMart spokeswoman Lynne Adams told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Sinclair Research Center has lost several clients in recent months, including pet food giant Iams, based in suburban Dayton, Ohio, since it was infiltrated by an undercover investigator from the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The spy worked as a research associate at the center for nine months last year and this year, using a hidden camera to document what PETA labeled "a hidden world of cruelty."

The facility's owner, Guy Bouchard, has admitted there were some problems in animal care but denied there was widespread abuse.

Menu Foods, a Canadian private label pet food maker with a plant in Kansas, was one of several companies that used Sinclair for various studies during the spy's tenure. Officials at Menu Foods could not be reached for comment Thursday, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Bouchard accused Menu Foods and other companies of dropping his facility only to avoid bad publicity from PETA, not because the animals were mistreated. "It's like admitting we're guilty," Bouchard said.

The spy's video included footage of a beagle with a severe wound on its left hind leg. The dog, appearing to be in pain, tries to keep its leg off the ground. PETA claimed dogs often got their legs stuck in the metal grates of the cage's floors.

Menu Foods supplies companies like PetsMart with pet food sold under a variety of names, such as SophistaCat.

PetsMart, which operates more than 600 pet stores, said the images showed treatment not up to company standards. PetsMart also said it didn't mind that it was a PETA spy that brought it to light.

"We're just glad this was brought to our attention and the attention of Menu Foods," Adams said.

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