Animal abuse is alarmingly common in pet shops

Imagine you are going to adopt a dog. However, once you walk into the adoption center, your heart freezes in your chest. The dogs are all kept in tiny little cages, ones they have spent their whole lives in because they can technically survive in such a small space. Wouldn’t you protest? Wouldn’t you raise hell and demand that something be done about such blatant animal abuse?

That’s what it’s like for me every time I walk into the Petco in the Interstate Shopping Center in Ramsey, or any pet store, really. Except there is nothing I can do, no one who will care unless they have the proper knowledge — because instead of dogs, this is happening in real life to betta fish. 

No animal is a decoration, and it should be unacceptable that betta fish are treated as such so commonly.

You may know these as Siamese fighting fish, a popular aquatic pet known for bright colors and beautiful flowing fins. They are also quite small, which has contributed to the most common and awful misconception about them — that they can live in tiny amounts of water. While it’s true that betta fish can survive for a good while in even a puddle, that does not equate to living. Bettas need at least a five-gallon tank to live in, although the ideal minimum is 10 gallons.

And yet, every time I walk into that Petco, I see countless betta fish lined up in tiny plastic cups, which is the amount of space they’ve likely spent their whole lives in. Many of them barely react when I go up to say hello. This isn’t simply a matter of big chains and their greed. I went into a shop once that specialized in aquatic pets, and most of their bettas were living in tiny, dirty bowls.

There’s something many people don’t know about fish — they’re intelligent. Betta fish can recognize different people and learn to perform tricks. They think and feel just like other animals. And yet, fish seem to be the most socially acceptable animal to mistreat, both in the pet industry and in how we farm them for food. There are no animal rights groups I can think of that will spare the same emotional outrage over the mistreatment of fish that they would with other animals.

Now, keeping fish isn’t easy, even a small one like a betta. The water they live in is their whole world, so you need to carefully prepare and maintain it, as well as everything else about their habitat. But in my experience, it is absolutely worth it. My betta fish, Lacey, went from living in a tiny Petco cup to a 10 gallon tank full of plants and hiding spots, and you can see the difference.

While many may just see her and other fish as lesser in emotions and intelligence than other animals, I see a companion that swims up to the side of the tank to greet me when I get home from class, who watches me while I work, who stubbornly refuses to get into her travel tank whenever we have to move her between college and home. She’s just as much of a pet as any other, and I love her to bits.

No animal is a decoration, and it should be unacceptable that betta fish are treated as such so commonly. Fish need as much love and care as any other pet, and what you get from them in return is just as rewarding in my opinion. 

If you’ve read through this, I implore you to educate yourself on what bettas and other fish have to go through and be one of the voices that demand it to stop. Hopefully, in the future, people will fight for their rights as much as any other animal. But for what we can do now, let’s call out pet stores for how they house their betta fish and call it what it is: animal abuse.


Featured photo by Abbot Arts