U.S. Marshals Raid Rat-Infested PETCO Distribution Center

The FDA sent U.S. Marshals to seize “various animal food products” stored at a PETCO distribution center in Joliet, Illinois yesterday, because the storage conditions had been deemed unsanitary twice in a row:

During an FDA inspection of a PETCO distribution center in April, widespread and active rodent and bird infestation was found. The FDA inspected the facility again in May and found continuing and widespread infestation.

The feds say nobody’s reported any pet illnesses so far, but it looks like they’re not taking any chances.

“We simply will not allow a company to store foods under filthy and unsanitary conditions that occur as a direct result of the company’s failure to adequately control and prevent pests in its facility,” said Margaret O’K. Glavin, associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “Consumers expect that such safeguards will be in place not only for human food, but for pet food as well.”

The distribution center in Joliet, Ill., provides pet food products and supplies to PETCO retail stores in 16 states including Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.

FDA has no reports of pet illness or death associated with consumption of animal food distributed by PETCO, and does not have evidence that the food is unsafe for animals. However, the seized products were in permeable packages and held under conditions that could affect the food’s integrity and quality.

As a precaution, consumers who have handled products originating from the PETCO distribution center should thoroughly wash their hands with hot water and soap. Any surfaces that came in contact with the packages should be washed as well. Consumers are further advised as a precaution to thoroughly wash products sold in cans and glass containers from PETCO in the 16 affected states.

If a pet has become ill after eating these food products, pet owners should contact their veterinarian and report illnesses to FDA state consumer complaint coordinators.

“FDA Requests Seizure of Animal Food Products at PETCO Distribution Center” [FDA]
(Photos: Sister72 and Getty)

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  1. wickedpixel says:

    it’s nice to see the FDA intervening BEFORE something happens for once.

  2. anaisnun says:

    Oh my, this is terrible. A very close family member is employed by this company, but not one affected by this distribution center.
    He is going to be so upset. The Petco he works for is staffed with animal lovers, they take awesome care of the animals and actually get attached to them. The employees that I know there are very compassionate and gentle people, but I don’t know all the employees of course.
    I feel sick.
    Petco recently made an agreement with PETA, I was so proud to say that. All I can say is For Shame.

  3. Pro-Pain says:

    That is awful. For shame Petco.

  4. Aphex242 says:

    Yikes.

  5. sean77 says:

    Petco was also infested with cats and dogs!

  6. Ex_EA_Slave says:

    They don’t call it Joilet for nothing.

    @anaisnun: Before you go heaping praise on PETA, read the following:

    1) PETA president and co-founder Ingrid Newkirk has described her group’s overall goal as “total animal liberation.” This means no meat, no milk, no zoos, no circuses, no wool, no leather, no hunting, no fishing, and no pets (not even seeing-eye dogs). PETA is also against all medical research that requires the use of animals.

    2) Despite its constant moralizing about the “unethical” treatment of animals by restaurant owners, grocers, farmers, scientists, anglers, and countless other Americans, PETA has killed over 14,400 dogs and cats at its Norfolk, Virginia headquarters. During 2005, PETA put to death over 90 percent of the animals it collected from members of the public.

    3) PETA has given tens of thousands of dollars to convicted arsonists and other violent criminals. This includes a 2001 donation of $1,500 to the North American Earth Liberation Front (ELF), an FBI-certified “domestic terrorist” group responsible for dozens of firebombs and death threats. During the 1990s, PETA paid $70,200 to an Animal Liberation Front (ALF) activist convicted of burning down a Michigan State University research laboratory. In his sentencing recommendation, a federal prosecutor implicated PETA president Ingrid Newkirk in that crime. And PETA vegetarian campaign coordinator Bruce Friedrich told an animal rights convention in 2001 that “blowing stuff up and smashing windows” is “a great way to bring about animal liberation.”

    4) PETA activists regularly target children as young as six years old with anti-meat and anti-milk propaganda, often waiting outside their schools to intercept them as they walk to and from class-without notifying parents. One piece of kid-targeted PETA literature tells small children: “Your Mommy Kills Animals!” PETA brags that its messages reach over 2 million children every year, including thousands reached by e-mail without the permission of their parents. One PETA vice president told the Fox News Channel’s audience: “Our campaigns are always geared towards children, and they always will be.”

    5) PETA has used a related organization, the PETA Foundation, to fund the misnamed Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a deceptive animal rights group that promotes itself as an unbiased source of medical and nutritional information. PCRM’s president also serves as president of the PETA Foundation.

    6) PETA runs campaigns seemingly calculated to offend religious believers. One entire PETA website is devoted to the claim-despite ample evidence to the contrary-that Jesus Christ was a vegetarian. PETA holds protests at houses of worship, even suing one church that tried to protect its members from Sunday-morning harassment. Its billboards taunt Christians with the message that hogs “died for their sins.” PETA insists, contrary to centuries of rabbinical teaching, that the Jewish ritual of kosher slaughter shouldn’t be allowed. And its infamous “Holocaust on Your Plate” campaign crassly compares the Jewish victims of Nazi genocide with farm animals.

    7) PETA has repeatedly attacked research foundations like the March of Dimes, the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, and the American Cancer Society, because they support animal-based research that might uncover cures for birth defects and life-threatening diseases. PETA president Ingrid Newkirk has said that “even if animal research resulted in a cure for AIDS, we would be against it.”

  7. Bladefist says:

    Seriously Petco? How much does it cost to call the pest guy. Wow. This could have been very cheaply avoided. We’re dealing w/ morons here.

  8. puffyshirt says:

    this doesn’t surprise me… i dated a girl that worked at a local petco, and their ‘policies’ on cleaning were a bit relaxed. she once took me into a locked room that just had sick and dying animals. it was the saddest thing i had ever seen, and their cages were in horrible shape. i’ll always remember her as smelling like hampsters after work.

  9. WalrusTaco says:

    Actually, the rats are for sale too: $2.99 for one, or $29,000 for all of the rats in the warehouse.

  10. Mudpuddle says:

    Ex_EA_Slave @ have you ever gone to PETA website or seen any of the unimagainable cruelty that is cast upon animals in the name of experimentation? There is alot of “experimentation” that could have easily been done without causing harm to any living creature. If these experiments were done to humans you’d be outraged? If these experiments were done to you or a son or daughter the picture would be very clear.

  11. sir_pantsalot says:

    That sounds almost as bad an a McDonalds kitchen.

  12. sir_pantsalot says:

    Any organization that wants more protection for animals than for children is full of crack-pots.

    -standing up wind and looking at you PETA

  13. Balisong says:

    @Ex_EA_Slave: Indeed. Scary that some people haven’t heard about this stuff. For shame, anaisnun.

  14. zentex says:

    @Ex_EA_Slave: amen

  15. SpdRacer says:

    @Mudpuddle: That is true, animals are treated horribly by some companies/industries. But, PETA values animal life more than human life, and goes about proving it in every way possible.

  16. @sean77: I know, I kind-of giggled. Rats IN cage = pets. Rats OUT of cage = vermin.

  17. @SpdRacer: What really did it, for me, is the pets they euthanize (as per your point 2) — lying to the owners, and operating an illegal facility. They have dozens of criminal animal cruelty counts pending in Virginia from the Norfolk case.

    When it was just the radical anti-any-animals-ness, I was like, “well, whatever, I think they’re nuts, but they’re entitled, and they frequently make good points about animal experimentation, etc.” When I read about the Norfolk operation, I was like, “They’re a bunch of filthy stinkin’ animal-abusin’ hypocrites and they SUCK.”

  18. MelL says:

    @SpdRacer: Maybe that is why they are called People for the Ethical Treatment of *Animals*

  19. bohemian says:

    This does not surprise me at all. Petco was an old style pet store in CA in the 80′s. They got in a ton of trouble for animal neglect and buying from puppy mills. They kind of went into hiding and re-emerged as the big box store focusing on supplies rather than pets (except small ones).

    I personally think much of the animal experimentation isn’t needed. The cosmetics industry comes to mind. Some scientific research is needed and most facilities do try to keep some sort of humane standards in their practices. I have no time for PETA. They are pretty much nonsensical low level terrorists.

  20. bohemian says:

    I heard Petco is having a big sale on rats next week.

  21. SaveMeJeebus says:

    @Ex_EA_Slave: At least give credit for your source that you copy/pasted from. For a minute there, I thought you came up with that stuff.

  22. mavrick67 says:

    @Mudpuddle: “If these experiments were done to humans you’d be outraged? If these experiments were done to you or a son or daughter”

    This is an Apple, and this is an Orange.

  23. Ein2015 says:

    @Mudpuddle: This makes PETA right… how?

  24. dry-roasted-peanuts says:

    All those rats and birds and they never thought to just turn a bunch of cats loose?

  25. mikelotus says:

    Michael Vick is in jail for dogs fighting. Who went to jail for the deaths caused in Iraq? New Orleans?

  26. Oh, awesome. I just bought, and have bought, all my pet box turtle’s food from Petco here in Illinois. The last thing I bought came in a plastic canister. I usually buy the “live” mealworms and waxworms, though I’ll have to say that describing them as “live” is usually inaccurate. I usually have to dig for a container that isn’t half filled with dead worms, but Petco is the only place I can find these things to buy, what else can I do?

  27. 3drage says:

    FDA recently retracted their raid, commenting they did not realize the animals in cages were supposed to be there.

  28. Concerned_Citizen says:

    So a dog is clean and ok, but rats and birds are dirty and disgusting and must die? I wonder what Peta says.

  29. Nick1693 says:

    @wickedpixel: I think its nice to see ANY branch of government intervening at all.

  30. anaisnun says:

    Thank you for trying to heap shame near me.

    I am NOT a PETA member because I have been told directly by members that I and my family support animal abuse by employment with the company.
    I was trying to state that I was proud that Petco had made the public effort and made public statements that they vowed to go the extra mile to not abuse the animals that were warehoused in the animal distribution center.
    Exexslave, I’m sorry you got a little heated, but I already know EXACTLY what PETA is about.
    My short sentence with the P word wasn’t specific enough, however since I didn’t say enough, I have already been insulted. I am not the enemy.
    I am a vegetarian, tolerance-driven, environmentally conscious, and full of love and empathy for my fellow inhabitants of the earth -all the inhabitants. I make my own clothes, drink fair trade coffee, I grow plants and produce for my own use, own bicycles and do everything I can to avoid supporting companies that become wealthy on cheap foreign and underage labor. I love my life and my lifestyle.

    Yet I’m not good enough for PETA. I’ve been involved in activism for various causes over many years and I’m not naive in this area, I can say PETA has resulted in some good despite its inherent tendency to be a big bully.
    Earlier there was a terrible problem in the Petco pet distribution warehouse that did result in documented abuse and Peta was the catalyst to remedy that.
    PETA bad or PETA good?
    I definitely disagree with the bully mentality and the insulting, I will never join.
    There has been some good that has come from the undercover investigations, though.
    Nothing is black and white, characters of individuals are not “just good” or “just bad”, this is not a tv show where everything is cut and dried so as not to confuse viewers.
    Even president Bush’s children love him terribly, so they must have good reason -but do I? Oh, hell no!
    Having an open mind means your own ideaology, not full embracing or fully rejecting a set of ideas so you can “belong”.
    I also know exactly what ELF is about and reject their philosophy, I am in the pacific northwest and ELF arsons are commonly talked about here.
    …And now I’m lecturing.
    Why?
    Because at nearly 40 years old and a long time activist, I am so weary of the “my org is better/more ethical/superior to your org” bitterness between otherwise reasonable and kind people.
    Namaste.

  31. anaisnun says:

    *About ELF- I do reject their extremism but their hearts are in the right place.
    I’ve known a few of them, great people but damaging other people’s livelihoods through fire is not ok.
    That’s all.

  32. Speak says:

    @anaisnun: The anti-PETA stuff seems to have originated from the Web site Peta Kills Animals, a project of the Center for Consumer Freedom. The Center for Consumer Freedom describes itself as a “nonprofit coalition supported by restaurants, food companies, and consumers, working together to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices.” Big donors to the nonprofit (as of 2002) included Monsanto, Tyson Foods, and Wendy’s according to records on SourceWatch. So I’m not sure I’d say the information presented earlier is entirely free of bias.

  33. Speak says:

    @anaisnun: I’m sorry to see this thread hijacked by people who want to discredit PETA. Whether or not their claims are true, the issue here is PETCO and the deaths that might have resulted if someone’s pet had died from tainted food. I’m glad to hear that the PETCO your family member works at is well-staffed. I know unfortunately that isn’t always true with pet stores.

  34. SacraBos says:

    @Ex_EA_Slave: PETA runs campaigns seemingly calculated to offend religious believers. One entire PETA website is devoted to the claim-despite ample evidence to the contrary-that Jesus Christ was a vegetarian.

    Hey, Jesus may have been a vegaetarian, but his disciples were cannibals. Okay, I need to go to Confession now…

  35. anaisnun says:

    Like I said, I’m not naive about these things.

    Peta members do bully people, though, even if Peta itself doesn’t quite endorse it. Or maybe they do, I’m not sure.
    Like I said, they have also done good things.
    I don’t have an anti-Peta agenda, but I don’t like being insulted.

    Thank you, though.
    Bad thread, hurt feelings, I’m getting out of the house.

  36. Trai_Dep says:

    But aren’t rats – err, “extreem m1ce” – pets too?
    If they spin this charitable act correctly, I smell PR bonanza!

  37. Trai_Dep says:

    Chris – love the graphic!

  38. AdamG says:

    PETA’s agreement with Petco was just for them not to sell large birds. That company is still in the Dark Ages in so many other regards. Employee training is horrible, Management training is even worse, and the possible diseases that can be spread through their distribution of live animals is alarming (who knew birds carried chlamydia?) Mind you, it’s the distributors, not Petco, that bring them to the stores. but abandoning sale of all live animals could be a step in the right direction.
    Okay, back on topic, their distribution centers are not supposed to have any live animals, so their outbreak of rats is due to poor storage practices. Grocers rely on the practices of rotation and warehouse maintenance, so why should that be different for pet food?
    If you’re in the Southwest, most, if not all, of the food product comes out of San Diego, so this might not effect your local Petco, but do pay attention to the condition of the packaging and expiration dates if you still choose to shop there.

  39. Froggmann says:

    @Mudpuddle: “If these experiments were done to humans you’d be outraged? If these experiments were done to you or a son or daughter the picture would be very clear.”

    It would be if animal experimentation were illegal.

    Just because something isn’t pleasant doesn’t mean it’s not necessary.

  40. sean77 says:

    @SacraBos: I guess that whole fishes & loaves story really pisses PETA off. Never mind the fact that half the apostles were fishermen.

  41. Doug Nelson says:

    The Petco by me is only 3 years old, yet is already very dark and looking threadbare. The employees are nice enough, but have that defeated look to them. Lots of clearance and discontinued signs all over.

    All in all, I wouldn’t buy stock in Petco, Inc.

  42. twonewfs says:

    The FDA inspects petfood? Who knew? I thought they weren’t keeping up with people food inspections all that well!
    I’ve found Petco’s in the Northeast to be much more expensive than the competition. A bag of biscuits was selling for $9.99 at Petco, and $2.99 down the street at the other chain store, PetSmart. $7 bucks difference? Wow! Maybe the midwest stores hire animal lovers, but the Petco’s I’ve seen are shabby, dirty, and have lots of animals jammed into little smelly cages.

  43. KRF says:

    I stopped shopping at Petco once I realized that Petsmart is much cleaner. There’s something wrong when the smell that hits you is the smell of dirty cages.

    I wish I could say that it was just the Petco I went to, but it seemed to be a theme among the area stores.

  44. christoj879 says:

    Hate to say it, but they’re just dogs and cats. I mean, these are the same animals that eat/drink out of the toilet, eat their own shit, kill and eat/bring in dead birds and rabbits, and this is bad?

  45. BankOfFees says:

    PETA is bad — they have killed well over 10000 animals

  46. arl84 says:

    @Mudpuddle: Really though, apples and oranges. Unless researchers started body-snatching in the middle of the night, I’m sure human testers would be allowed to consent to what they would be going through. Animals don’t have a choice.

    Anyway, this is a pretty embarrassing thing to have happen, but think about it – are the animals really going to care that their food was around rats and birds? That’s why there haven’t been any reports of sick animals. Animals can take a lot more than human bodies can, they aren’t as fragile, not as easily affected by bacteria.

    Not that I’m saying it’s okay to have rat and bird infestations in these pet food distribution centers, I just think this is being blown a little out of proportion.

  47. hamsangwich says:

    @christoj879:

    Dude, you could make the same argument for humans. They’re just humans, they kill each other, smoke toxic chemicals into their lungs, drink alcohol with carcinogens, elect the Bush administration, use up a large majority of the planet’s resources within 150 years and eats a ton of fast food that has no redeeming nutritional value. We don’t sound so smart either…

  48. failurate says:

    Holy cow! How exactly did this become Bush’s fault?

    Stay focused people… the topic was Petco and their nasty warehouse.

  49. nygenxer says:

    I buy my six month’s worth of pet food at a time in case of a recall since it usually takes a month or two for a recall to be made public, and I won’t even have opened the package.

    I tape the receipt to the bag and store it until needed.

    It’s really the only way to protect your best friends.

  50. nygenxer says:

    @failurate: No one would say this is Dumbya Bush’s fault directly, but cutting the budget of food inspectors and appointing industry insiders to oversee the companies where they were once (and will again be) employed and appointing corporate-friendly judges and appointing corporate-friendly district attorneys and fighting pro-consumer legislation and pro-consumer regulations while helping to pass industry-friendly legislation and shareholder-friendly deregulations does add to the “Bush’s fault” column.

  51. nygenxer says:

    @dry-roasted-peanuts: That’s true!

    Without any sense of historical irony whatsoever – if only they had cats living in the warehouse, as were the same reasons and conditions that felines were originally domesticated – then they wouldn’t have had the rodent and bird problem in a warehouse full of CAT FOOD in the first place!

  52. nygenxer says:

    @LastVigilante: There are mail order services that you can use that you can all sorts of live insects from.

    Also, if you’re the hobbyist-type, you can try your hand at insect-rearing. I saw a special on pbs or the discovery channel on where farmed crickets come from. It was interesting and definitely low tech.

  53. Ironically the Petco sells rat and bird food. Really people, I think we have bigger things to worry about than if a petco distribution center has a rat problem. I’ve seen what my dogs, if left to their own devices, will eat. sticks, mice, dog poop, cat poop, cow pies, horse poop, charcoal, dead birds, grass, legos, etc. I’m not too worried. Plus, who buys over priced animal food from petco anyway. I go to the grocery store and scan the tags for lowest price/qty.

  54. ByeBye says:

    I used to be a member of PETA, but they want to me to pay more dues and encourage me to be vegan. The only thing I am against is the murder of animals in public places, like birds at hospitals, or piegeons at airports…they can get rid of them in non-violent ways.

    That is all.

  55. Birki says:

    This has got to explain why we found rat droppings and chewed styrofoam in the cat tree box from Petco. Gross.

  56. SinisterMatt says:

    @Ex_EA_Slave:

    Surely you can’t be referring to the People Eating Tasty Animals? No way…

    I’m kidding, by the way, before I set off a flame war.

    Anyway, back to the post. I didn’t know that the FDA monitored animal food too. Interesting. Rats are going to happen anywhere, but it should have been up to PETCO to take care of the problem.

    Cheers!

  57. anaisnun says:

    I’m not trying to defend Petco, but this occurred to me-
    I somehow don’t think Petco Corporate knew, the offices are in San Diego. Yes, warehouses and stores get walk throughs from bigwigs periodically. I also know there is almost always prior notice of this with Petco.
    Drawing from my own work experiences, it sounds like the buck should stop at the warehouse manager. It is a warehouse manager’s job to make decisions about things like pest control, also their duty to report potential issues to Corporate. I have definitely seen potential hazards on sites (fish cannery, vegetable cannery)iced over and omitted when they should have notified a higher up.
    I’m so happy to not do the type manual labor/summer jobs that I did in my youth.

  58. newfenoix says:

    @Mudpuddle: Let me explain…animals are not human beings and therefore they DON’T HAVE RIGHTS!!!

  59. pollyannacowgirl says:

    All’s I can say is that the Petco near me is a pit. It’s filthy and smelly and disorganized and everything is broken. The bird section is usually quarantined because of sick birds (!!!). They refuse to sell me goldfish because I don’t have a tank with an aeration system. (Which I think is bull, because the last goldfish I had lived for THREE YEARS in a plain glass bowl). Yet THEIR fishtanks are always dirty and full of algae and dead fish.

    It’s utterly depressing.

  60. MisterE87 says:

    @Bladefist: Maybe they are such animal lovers, they just couldn’t help but to let the poor rats eat their fill. Seriously though, I’m sure the government did take this seriously. My dad used to work as a forklift driver for a division of Del Monte Foods in a distribution center for their animal foods. I remember my dad telling me that the sanitation requirements for pet food was the same as that of human food. The forklift operators even had to wear hairnets, when they were just moving shrink-wrapped pallets of finished product.

    Just a quick aside to the people saying Petco and other chains are just overpriced and they buy the cheapest food from the grocery store – that’s fine. However, some people like giving their animals food with actual nutrition. Good pet food gives animals better coats, includes ingredients that prevent joint problems, and improve health. Would you be happy eating only corn your whole life? Cheap pet food is gross.

  61. Skankingmike says:

    Dogs and Cats = Human created for Human needs. I wonder if PETA evens knows anything about Beasts of Burden. i suppose they don’t.

    and people who are stupid enough to be vegetarians (non medical conditions aside) because they think this is how nature intended us.. are just plain ignorant.

    we are Omnivores, we eat both! so eat both stupids.

    and you know PETCO is where the PETS go.. so maybe rats can read now.. i mean the ones in NY are bigger than some Dogs. maybe they’ve evolved!

  62. AddisonMavenue says:

    aren’t rats pets too?

  63. lex2712 says:

    @Ex_EA_Slave:

    lets not forget how they run incredibly sexist ad campaigns. I am all for animal rights but peta goes about it the entirely wrong way.

  64. @nygenxer: Yeah, I know… ironically I once purchased from Petco.com a 500 waxworms box because they are much cheaper ($5.00 per 50ct. in store, $20 per 500ct. online) but over half of them arrived dead! If you’ve never experienced the smell of 300 dead, decaying waxworms, believe me, its about as close as I can imagine what 300 miniature rotting human carcasses smell like. The UPS driver even complained when he delivered them. Petco refunded all my money, but I’ll never do that again.

  65. mczolton says:

    PetCo is a deplorable company and I refuse to shop there.

  66. Truthie says:

    Guess I’ll be shopping at PetSmart now.