15 June 2001


I donít know how serious you guys are about this, or how much youíd be willing to do, but here are some things Iíve noticed, and some suggestions.Keep in mind Iíve only worked at PW2, so a lot of this is specific to that store.Iíve tried to break it down into areas:animal handling, caging, and fellow employee- related.


Animal Handling


1.Bites.Everything bites.Points to consider:

††††††††††††††† a.Wearing gloves would help.Theyíd at least slow the teeth down.

††††††††††††††† b.Overcrowding often makes the situation worse.Animals like hamsters and parakeets really donít cope well when large numbers of them are kept in close confinement.Consider carrying fewer animals at a time.I understand weíre trying to give customers a good selection, but....

††††††††††††††† c.Certain animals are more likely than others to be aggressive:all the monitor lizards, many other lizards, some snakes, and some large birds, for example.Consider ceasing to carry animals that are known to be aggressive.People may like to see them in the store, but I donít think we sell all that many, compared to the possible damage they could inflict on employees and customers.

††††††††††††††† d.Train (or try to train!) employees to be more aware of animal behavior.Itís usually pretty obvious when a particular animalís going to be difficult.An African Grey whoís mantling, a snake that coils up, head drawn back, or a hamster standing on its back legs with its mouth wide open are giving notice that they donít want humans messing with them just then.Any person who insists on handling that animal is going to get bitten.Understanding the clues could help prevent that.


2.Thereís an additional hazard in animal handling -- a biohazard.This is partially a caging issue, and partially just a natural thing.Animal waste builds up.The more animals in the cage, the more bacteria, etc., grow and linger.Any scratch, cut, or bite can become infected with contact from animals living in cage that hasnít been thoroughly cleaned.Also, any bird or reptile can develop salmonella in their wastes -- which get all over the other animals in the cage, as well as the cage itself.Sometimes itís hard to get every single cage completely clean every day:there are so many cages, so many animals, and so little time.The Alco-gel dispenser is a good idea.So is plain soap and water.Encourage employees to use both.




Lord, where to start....


1.Letís consider cleanliness has already been discussed, in part.Other clean-cage issues:cages that are difficult to clean, because of their design or materials, and cages so full of animals itís hard to clean them well.

††††††††††††††† a.Several types of caging can be a real pain to clean.The rollabouts are convenient, but taking one apart to get it thoroughly clean takes two people, at least in my experience, and can be a little dangerous in itself, because of the large pieces of glass.Many of the metal small-animal cages in use have smallish doors, making it hard to get an arm in there to scrub the metal, and more difficult to clean the corners thoroughly.Some metal cages have multiple parts, which really should be separated for cleaning, like the floor grates, etc.I canít think of any solution to these issues, except to allow for more time to clean some of the caging.

††††††††††††††† b.As for having so many animals in a cage itís difficult to keep it clean for any length of time (like the parakeets), again, consider carrying fewer animals at a time.


2.Condition of caging in general

††††††††††††††† a.Some of the metal caging being used for small animals and birds is getting old -- a lot of pieces are rusty, and there are broken or bent bits that inflict scratches and cuts.I know it would be too expensive to replace the caging, so perhaps a little employee-awareness campaign?

††††††††††††††† b.The glass doors in the small animal caging chip and break fairly easily.In the lower two tiers, some of the doors can no longer be removed, because the weight of the sagging particle-board caging holds them in place.The plastic runners are splitting off, making it possible for doors to fall out.We tried a few acrylic doors, but their edges are sharp enough to cut fingers (and animals), and were poorly cut to fit, leaving jagged edges.Again, replacement isnít feasible.But employees could be more careful when opening and closing the doors, when replacing locks (many doors are chipped when the locks have been slammed home), and when removing doors to clean cages (which breaks the plastic strips, and can break doors).

††††††††††††††† c.In most of the rodent cages, the animals have been chewing on the metal strips on the inside of the door opening, resulting in sharp, trailing edges of metal -- lots of cuts and piercings.Perhaps metal shears could take off the existing points, but the rodents will soon make fresh ones.Employee awareness, again.

††††††††††††††† d.The filters in the companion habitats are a dust trap.Thatís what theyíre for, after all. If theyíre not tapped out daily, the next person to pull one out gets a face full of dust and feathers -- and a nose full, and eyes full.Thatís got to be some kind of health hazard.Possibly even a fire hazard.Stress daily maintenance on the filters.


Fellow employee-related hazards


1.The biggest one Iíve found:water on the floor, left from cleaning display tanks or from too-hasty feeding and watering.I once got a decent shock from answering the phone in the fish department -- the system had overflowed, somehow, and I was standing in water....Iíve slipped and fallen, Iíve slipped and not fallen but managed to pull muscles, Iíve caught customers as theyíve slipped.More care needs to be taken, to avoid making lakes in the first place, and to get them cleaned up quickly.

2.Bizarre as this may seem, some employees apparently get a charge out of upsetting the big birds.They walk past the cages, jump and shout at them, then laugh when the birds go nuts.I have seen this happen.Lots of times.Itís much more difficult to deal with birds whoíve been treated this way.We even had a guy who would walk down the row of small animal cages, knocking on all the doors.Several people asked him to stop it, but he always claimed he didnít even realize he was doing it.Once, maybe twice, that excuse could have been believable.The point is, upsetting the animals results in more bites.Encourage employees not only to control customersí behaviors towards the animals, but their own, as well.


3.There are probably a dozen little things:hoses and power cords strung out across the floor, brooms left on the floor, razor blades left laying around, improperly-stacked materials that could tip over at a touch, that sort of thing.I know we get busy.I know there are a lot of demands on our brains.But we need to pay better attention to what weíre doing, and how weíre doing it.