According to a new report from United For Respect, BC Partners, the private equity firm that owns PetSmart has provided poor working conditions in their stores. This report claims that stores were inadequately staffed, trained, and protected–putting animals and the workers’ lives at risk. The report alleges they have “cut corners on the staffing, training, supplies, and equipment needed to provide quality pet care.”
Even during the pet boom during COVID lockdown, stores were understaffed. A letter was written to BC Partners and signed by several employees. The employees asked for hazard pay, enforcement of social distancing practices, and personal protective equipment. However, a spokesperson for BC Partners denies these allegations. BC Partners, the firm in question, bought PetSmart in 2015 for $8.7 billion, according to reports.
US Senator Elizabeth Warren, a co-author of the Stop Wall Street Looting Act, has taken an interest in the new report. “We have long been concerned that some private equity funds implement severe cost-cutting measures after acquiring companies, aiming to boost profits for themselves at the expense of workers, consumers, and taxpayers,” Warren (D-MA) and Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI) wrote in the letter to BC Partners Chairman Raymond Svider.
Working Conditions In The Time Of Covid
Warren’s letter identifies issues that employees have faced while working for the popular pet store, including inadequate training and staffing. Other issues included the lack of personal protective equipment during the pandemic and excessive COVID exposure. PetSmart employees brought these issues to the firm’s attention, to no avail.
According to the report from United For Respect, “In July 2020, hundreds of current and former PetSmart employees wrote to BC Partners asking them to provide proper personal protective equipment, hazard pay, and to ensure store management effectively implemented recommended protocols in stores, like social distancing and mask mandates.” As of the report’s release in September 2021, employees had not heard from BC Partners.
Increase In Pet Deaths After 2015
Other cost-cutting tactics were used before the pandemic resulting in a “lower standard of care” for the pets. A recent analysis found that while in the care of PetSmart, dog deaths doubled since the buyout. Employees also reported severe injuries and medication mixups, leading to several emergency vet visits. Groomers also reported facing pressure to groom dogs at an increasingly fast rate. Finally, there is at least one case of having only a single overnight supervisor for 80-100 boarded dogs.
According to World Animal Protection, “worker well-being and training is closely linked to animal treatment because poorly trained, stressed workers will not be able to provide animals–whether in the store for grooming services, boarding, or for sale–with the care they need.”
While the claims made by PetSmart employees have not been substantiated, BC Partner’s lack of transparency is concerning. United For Respect is asking BC Partners to make changes to their policies and practices. They are asking for healthcare for all PetSmart employees, a $15 minimum wage, fair scheduling, an essential worker pay increase, and access to a safe working environment. United For Respect is also asking to prioritize pet safety. The advocate group is asking for “functioning equipment, proper supplies, and adequate staffing and training that allows employees to safely give animals the caring services they deserve.”