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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Brief Rant About a Sad Place

For those of you who don't know a lot about me yet, let me just state that I'm not really an animal lover.

I had a dog (Bichon Frise) growing up, and I did love her with all my heart, right up until that li'l girl passed away on February 13th, 2001. There will never be another like her, and I accept that. Every animal is different; not necessarily better nor worse. The next day, February 14th, 2001, I had all four wisdom teeth removed and then learned I'm allergic to penicillin. But that's a different story. This is a story about animals.

Later that year, I moved off to college. My experience with pets since then has been off-and-on; mostly off. I joined a fraternity and we had a community dog (American Bulldog) named Miller who was a decent creature. Others were more attached to him than I was; I accepted him for who he was and we had a few moments together but nothing that made me feel too attached to him.

I had a brief ownership of a newt, who I believe was suicidal. He refused to eat his food and instead ate one of his arms off. It was a short-lived experience and put me off of pet ownership for a while.

I moved out and into an apartment. It was several years later and I took in two red-ear slider turtles from Chinatown. I'm going to rationalize the decision with "I was young enough to be stupid enough to make such a decision." Their names were Tank and Tardy. Tank lasted a month. Tardy lasted a little over a year. That was the end of my pet ownership for a long time. I had enough friends to keep me socially occupied, although they all had CATS.

Eventually they had four cats, all female, living in their apartment. It was a big enough apartment, and a few of them stayed away from people (for the most part). I'm not a cat person. Never have been, probably never will be. Visiting their place and seeing the cats, it just reinforced my mindset that I'm not a cat person. I never had any malevolent thoughts about them (except for ONE time involving a window and what some could consider "dangling" but I still maintain was "prolonged rescuing"), but I knew I'd never really like them in any capacity.

It's about at that point I resigned myself to the belief that I was probably not a nice person because I really don't care for animals much.

And then we fast forward a few years. Those friends and I lost touch, I eventually wound up with a girlfriend, and she moved in with me. She made a decision that we were going to own rats as pets.

Now I have other friends who were also rat-owners. I knew a fair amount of stuff about it; I'd played with them on occasion, and I wasn't completely adverse to the idea.

So we got our first pair, Moose and Reese. When Reese passed away, we knew Moose shouldn't be alone, so we went with a rescue group and adopted Bubsy and Scampi. Moose passed away a while later (he was my favorite rattie and the one I've really connected with the most), and we planned on getting two more to join Bubsy and Scampi. An unfortunate situation arose and Scampi passed away recently. Our idea to adopt two more then became a decision to get three - and this time we went with a breeder so we'd hopefully have less random problems by not knowing their genetic history. So now Bubsy has three young'uns to play with (or get annoyed by): Michelob, Bailey and Guinness.

So now that you know the full story, and hopefully you understand that while I'm still the guy who'll propose that we eat all the overpopulation of dogs and cats to solve both the overpopulation and the world hunger problems at the same time; I'm not a completely heartless individual.

Except for cats. I still remain fairly heartless towards their kind.

And this brings me to The Sad Place. I live in the city of Chicago, and near the Orange Line, which is on the south side. I've done my exploring, and around the Pulaski station, I found this place called the "Super Mall". I was expecting to find something akin to a mall like in Los Angeles, but bigger. Instead, I found what can only be described as (and FourSquare has it labeled as) a "flea market". A mishmash of 4' by 6' stalls where an almost-entirely Spanish-speaking populous have set up their little shops full of overpriced trinkets, gewgaws and outrageous clothing. Also it contains at least TWO different tattoo parlors / piercing stations. And deep in the heart of this claustrophobic nightmare, there sits The Sad Place.

The Sad Place is a "pet store".

Now, the entrance to Super Mall clearly states "No Pets" are allowed, so it's curious to see a store selling pets inside. It would suggest that anyone buying a pet is in violation of Super Mall rules and needs to be punished. Well, the owner of this "pet store" needs to be punished more.

For starters, you know you're approaching The Sad Place because you can hear the unmistakable cacophony of about 200 parakeets trapped in about 5 different cages. And that's where you can feel your heart start to ache. I'm not ever going to agree with PETA on pretty much anything, but seeing a bird in a cage just makes me as angry as it makes me sad. Bird ownership just seems like a completely rotten thing to exist in the world, except in circumstances where it's allowed to exist outside of a cage. If a bird can't fly, you had better be fattening it up to eat, because keeping it in such a sad existence is just abhorrent to me. I'd rather EAT a parakeet than be responsible for having it live and die in a flightless caged existence.

Now I've been to The Sad Place a few times, and the only things he used to have there were the multitude of Pitiful Parakeets, and some tanks full of Doomed Fish, and maybe a cage of feeder mice and some snakes in terrariums. But today on our visit, it looks as though his business has expanded.

Well, it's still the same 4' by 6' space, but now there's a wider variety of animals suffering and waiting to be taken to a possibly-better life.

The first thing I saw (because I recognize them now from a distance) was the Rat Tank.

They were all black hooded (that I could tell, since there were about 8 to 10 in there, all huddled together on one side of the tank) and it took me a visit to the other tanks before I made some realizations. At first glance, it just looked pitiful, seeing them squished together and looking depressed. No activity, just a clump of animals banding together and possibly trying to sleep (don't know how anything can sleep near the incessant squawking of the Pitiful Parakeets). I moved on to see they now have a tank of gerbils, a cage of guinea pigs, and a cage of rabbits.

My girlfriend pointed out when she saw the rabbit cage that it's hovering over a pan that catches the droppings, and there was a ton of poop just sitting there, technically in the open air. That's when my eyes went to the water bottle hooked up to the rabbit cage: EMPTY. I saw one attached to the guinea pig cage: EMPTY. Then I went to see if the rats had water. Well, you can't strap a water bottle to a glass tank. And there was no water dish inside the tank, so I'm now under the assumption they had NO WATER. My girlfriend pointed out that it looked like the wood chips used for bedding/lining in the rat tank looked to be pine, which she knows better than I do is a not-good thing for rats. I was more concerned over the lack of water, the absence of food in ANY of the cages (though we're used to having free-fed rats and maybe I can give him the benefit of the doubt and accept that he might have feeding times for them - none of them looked particularly underfed/malnourished, but I'm not a vet), and the general inactivity of almost all of the creatures.

This is where we started whispering to each other about what constitutes as "animal cruelty" and if it would be better to contact the ASPCA or the BBB to make a report against The Sad Place.

Just to confirm one of my suspicions, I asked the guy running the place how much he was charging for the rats. Once he understood my English, he told me they are $7 apiece. I asked if they are all boys, and he replied that "It's a mix." I didn't need to ask if they were all spayed/neutered because I am 100% certain the answer is no.

I took another long look at the poor ratties, and saw one of them with its paw out on the glass. As if it were reaching out for someone to notice and rescue it from this existence... I couldn't stop myself from getting in one last photo...

It wasn't until I got home and took a closer look at the photo that I realized why I was subconsciously drawn to that paw, reaching out. Take a look at the fingers. You'll see that one of them is missing. I can't jump to any conclusions about how it happened or place any blame on anyone or anything for that particular circumstance. I just know that it affected me and has made me that more depressed to this about The Sad Place.

As we walked away from The Sad Place and off to try and find something less depressing to fill our Saturday, I told my girlfriend that if it weren't for the fact that I know there's nothing I could have done for those ratties, I would have bought them all and considered it a rescue. She reminded me that 1) it's not a rescue if it's just putting more money into that guy's pocket, 2) we don't know anything about them and don't have quarantine space for them to keep our current pet rats safe, and 3) maybe there's something else we can do to help.

She reached out on Facebook and got some suggestions to call 3-1-1 and make a report against them. She's already done so tonight, and I know her particular complaint includes a lot of more-specific things about The Sad Place, like the fact that they're keeping a bearded dragon in the same tank as iguanas or something and that they're non-cohabitable species.

(There's also a tiny tank with a scorpion and one with a tarantula. There's nothing reportable about it, I just don't care for either of those things.)

So I'm asking for some reader support and if you're in the Chicago area, please also call 3-1-1 and file a report about them and their deplorable conditions. The address of the Super Mall is 5220 S Pulaski Rd, Chicago, IL 60632. The phone number for the Super Mall is (773) 581-9200.

Maybe we can complain to the Super Mall, since these little spaces for vendors don't seem to have much by way of shop names or phone numbers or anything.

If you don't want to believe me, or call the city to address a problem you haven't seen for yourself, I suggest you go and see for yourself and maybe it will affect you the way it's affected me. I consider myself to be a fairly-heartless individual when it comes to animals, but even a monster like myself doesn't believe that animals deserve this kind of life. (Except maybe for cats, but that's something to address another time in more detail.)

So that's my story about The Sad Place. If you want to help, please do so and reach out to me and let me know we're not alone in this. If not, I don't really blame you. I've scoffed at my fair share of boo-hoo animal stories, especially the ones on TV where they show you the sad pictures and try to make you give money.

Well I'm not asking for money. Just maybe a call to 3-1-1. Or a comment of support. Or a comment that I'm a monster anyway - at least I'll know you read this.

Oh, and if you are a person who 1) disagrees with my statements about bird ownership, 2) finds me to be a worthless shell of a human being for my loathing of cats, or 3) thinks that rats are disgusting and not actual pets, then let's agree to disagree for now and maybe we can address those issues in future posts.

Other types of comments are more than welcome. Please comment and let me know you've read this and also have an opinion about it.


Unknown said...

I mentioned mostly the lack of food and water and the animal waste and the disgustingly over crowded cages not about the lizards being house together.

Unknown said...

In my report I mentioned mostly the lack of food and water, the large amounts of animal waste and the disgustingly over crowded cages. I didn't mention the lizards.

Kuroloki Roku said...

That does sound really sad! I really dislike pet stores, particularly shady ones like that, because of the conditions the animals are kept in. I also really dislike birds as pets. Not because I think they should be able to fly, but because their skwawking is obnoxious and they like to bite me.