Tuesday, April 4, 2017

PetSmart: Mistreatment of Animals (2016)

PETA: An eyewitness reports not one sighting of a
veterinarian in three months.
The well known and generally loved company PetSmart has recently lost most of its credibility in the public's eyes. What was once a company loved by children and their families for their cute animals and clean stores is now being seen as a supporter and funder of animal cruelty. Not only was PetSmart caught doing business with Holmes Farms, whom had become publicly known for their cruelty to animals, but the company was also caught performing similar acts within their own stores. What is the case in many PetSmart locations, if animals were to escape, the stores would leave out glue traps to capture them. Now catching them is one thing, but a lot of those animals were left there for days at a time causing them to thrash about and injure themselves. Reptiles were found with broken limbs, rotting limbs and limbs literally torn or cut off by people and wire cutters. Some workers were instructed to treat those wounds with Neosporin which is not clinically proven to heal a torn off limb of a lizard. Some animals were put into tubing without food or water to be put down at a later time, and then dumped into a bag and gassed by the managers (Ref. 5). Any incidents as large as these ones getting out to the world can do a number on the business. People are not going to buy their pets from a place known to raise them so poorly. This is not only a problem because people are typically against animal cruelty, but because animals raised in those conditions may be unfriendly, diseased and sickly. Paying for a sickly, likely to die pet seems like a poor investment for pet owners. Additional to that, having a pet die, new or old, is heartbreaking. PetSmart is aware of a lot of the issues, but mostly those with the suppliers. They claim they take these allegations very seriously and are investigating the issues, and if their standards are not met than they will deal with it. As of current, PetSmart has not publicly released an action plan to deal with such allegations although this incident hit the public more than a year ago.

Household animals such as dogs are
available at many PetSmart locations.
A clear cut definition of who is considered to be a companies stakeholder is basically any person or party that has interest or concern is an organization, and can also be affected by the organizations actions. One important group of stakeholders are the animals sheltered by PetSmart. As some managers are being instructed to deal with their unwanted animals in unethical ways, not only are the animals affected by the fact that they are suffering and being killed inhumanely, but the managers and staff are being forced to act in a way that may make them incredibly uneasy. Some staff were even instructed to ignore the animals in need of water and clean in preparation of a supervisory visit. The consumers are also a group to suffer greatly. As mentioned previously, poorly treated animals in most cases will not make good house hold pets and therefore be a poor investment to any consumer. 

The theory of individualism is one of the main ethical theories and it's main focus is to maximize profit for the owners or the stockholders while staying within the law (Ref. 7). Under this theory, an action within the company that is committed without the goal in mind of maximizing profit would be considered unethical. In the case of PetSmart and their act of animal cruelty, the company made the decision to cut corners and go with a more shady dealer with the knowledge that they were possibly breaking the law. The company themselves were also caught performing unethical and cruel acts to animals within their own stores. Prior to this situation, PetSmart was seen as a clean and caring home for the animals in the eyes of the public. Now after what has been said through the media, the company's image has taken a major blow with many consumers choosing to no longer support their business. In the end although the company did act under the premise of maximizing profit, they did not act within the law and the negative impact it had on their stockholders and public image has had too large of an inverse effect on their business and under the theory of individualism would be considered unethical.
In utilitarianism, it is important for pleasure
to outweigh pain.

Utilitarianism has a simple goal, to maximize happiness in yourself and others. This ethical theory also takes into consideration the costs and benefits of each of its main stakeholders. In the eyes of a utilitarian, pleasure must outweigh pain and this goes for all sentient beings which includes not only humans but animals as well. In a case where only one party can feel pleasure while the other must feel pain, the greater happiness would be considered the right course of action. PetSmart chose to take a more selfish route caring only about themselves and the immediate benefits it would give to the company. In doing so they caused a great deal of harm and unhappiness to all of the animals involved. When the story became more public, consumers also became displeased by the cruel acts of the company which further weighs down the scale on the side of pain. Maximizing profit is important for a company, but if you fall too deep into that mentality than you end up forgetting about the other stakeholders involved. The PetSmart employees may have experienced positive effects from the companies upward climb in profits but it would be at the cost of their own comfort and happiness. An alternative approach to what the company was doing would be to investigate your suppliers further before conducting business with them. It would also be in the best interest of everyone involved if the company kept in mind their multiple stakeholders when they make major decisions. This way the benefits can be more spread across the board creating a higher level of happiness instead of being focused on one central party. With that being said, the majority of the companies stakeholders remain unhappy and the acts in question would be deemed unethical. 

The theory of Kantianism was created by a man named Immanuel Kant. His theory focuses on the basic principles of acting rationally, consistently, with free will and being able to respect others. In the case of PetSmart and their cruelty to animals, the company did in fact act consistently. They chose to support a supplier known for their cruelty to animals, and then continued that course of action into their own stores with their own acts of cruelty. The major problem with that is they may or may not have considered themselves exempt from the rules. They knew they were clearly breaking the law, but there has been no evidence that they expected to be exempt from that law. Kant also explains that one should help others make their own rational decisions and respect their individual needs. With that being said, PetSmarts forcing of their employees to do things that made them uncomfortable and not giving them the choice to take their own course of action would be heavily disagreed with within the theory of Kantianism. Kant himself believed strongly in something called Good Will. A solid representation of its meaning is "Having a good will necessitates that people have good intentions and use good reasoning to come to conclusions that will make their good intentions effective" (Ref. 7). The company should have been motivated by their own Good Will and chosen a more trustworthy buyer and a more humane way to operate their stores. One of the main roles in the Kantian belief is the Formula of Humanity. This belief states that every person should be treated as something valuable in and of it self, and not as a means to achieve something else. To do this, a person must be able to respect the humanity of each other person. In this specific case it would be believed to be unethical because of how the employees were treated. Kantianism believes in free will, which requires self consciousness and animals do not have an applicable level of that. Therefore the animals would be considered a means to an end and unimportant. 

Aristotle declared that a virtuous person has
ideal character traits.
Virtue Theory:
Virtue Theory is an ethical theory that takes a different approach than the three we previously reviewed. This theory focuses on the virtues of a person in place of a company or a business. The four major virtues relating to business are Courage, Honesty, Temperance, and Justice. Courage is the ability to take risks, and to stand up for what is right. PetSmart was fully able to take risks, but they were for all the wrong reasons. The company is seen with cowardice and in order to change their image to being more courageous they would need to go against the industry average, take the risk to set a standard, and treat their stakeholders properly. When it comes to Honesty, there may not be a poorer word to describe the company. The decision makers within the company had actually denied the allegations sent upon them by actual employees and former management and denied their knowledge of what had been going on in the stores. Although there is no hard evidence that either side is telling the truth, PetSmart would need to prove themselves as being trustworthy for their word to hold meaning in any situation. When it comes to the third virtue of Temperance, it means to have realistic expectations and desires. Realistically PetSmart could have or was achieving the profits they were expecting. When it comes to the employees on the other hand, expecting someone to gas, dismember and kill innocent animals although it would be considered as breaking the law is an unrealistic expectation. The final virtue is Justice. Justice refers to the hard work, quality products, good ideas and fair practices of the company. As this at one point may have been a selling point for the company PetSmart, they have since then altered their course of action and can no longer be seen as providing any of those. According to Virtue Theory, in a business scenario PetSmart would not be seen as a virtuous or ethical company.

Justified Ethics Evaluation:
After closely analyzing the case of PetSmart and their acts of animal cruelty by using the four major ethical theories it is very easy to make a decision. I personally would say that just about everything PetSmart has done in this situation would and should be deemed as unethical. They failed to meet the majority of factors needed to be ethical according to each theory. When reports were released by both PETA and the media PetSmart did not do much in the way of responding to the allegations. Their response was that if standards were not met, than they would deal with it (Ref. 11). Since that was their response, what does it mean when these allegations pop up and the company chooses to not deal with it? PetSmart has not done what an ethical business would typically do. Instead of hastily working to find a solution they chose to ignore the problem and try to cover their tails in the process. In my opinion the company had tried to cut corners regardless of if it was the right thing to do and got caught doing something wrong. Cruelty to animals no matter what circumstance is wrong by both majority opinion and state law. I don't fully support pets being sold in mass quantities as it is, but I hope for the sake of all stakeholders involved that PetSmart makes the right decision and fixes their mess.

  1. "Reptiles Suffer, Left to Die at Another Massive PetSmart Supplier Mill." PETA Investigations. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2017.

  1. "Dog Abuse at Petsmart Stores Review 383140 Oct 19, Animal Abuse @ Pissed Consumer."Pissed Consumer. N.p., 19 Apr. 2015. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.

  1. 10152652173065943. "Open-source framework for publishing content." The Dodo. N.p., 07 Oct. 2015. Web. 04 Feb. 2017.

  1. "Animals Frozen Alive, Crudely Gassed at Petco, PetSmart Supplier." PETA Investigations. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2017.

  1. "Inspectors Find Sick, Filthy, & Frozen Alive Animals At Petco & PetSmart Supplier Ranch! Read The Unsettling Report!" PerezHilton RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2017.

  1. "Raining (on) Cats and Dogs." Snopes. Snopes, 07 Oct. 2015. Web. 04 Feb. 2017.

  1. Salazar, Heather. The Case Manual . N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
  2. PETA. "PetSmart Stores Cruelty to Animals Revealed." N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2017.

  1. "Our Mission." Beliefs and Values | Careers at PetSmart. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.
  2. "PetSmart, Inc." Google Finance. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.
  3. Bitette, Nicole. "Petco supplier accused of torturing, freezing live animals." NY Daily News. N.p., 21 Jan. 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.
  4. PetSmart. "PETSMART CORPORATE." PetSmart® Company Information Company History. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.
Based on a paper written by Devin Wesolowski

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