Tonawanda News

April 22, 2013

CRITTER COMPANIONS: Obtaining and giving away pets

By Kenny Coogan
The Tonawanda News

— I have acquired pets from traditional pet stores, specialty pet stores, county fairs, markets, poultry shows, the Buffalo and Western New York Poultry Association, the Western New York Herpetological Society, the Internet, magazines, wildlife rehabbers, Petfinder, SPCA, breeders and through friends, all of which had their positives and negatives.

The health of the animals is what I valued first. In addition to the overall health of the specific animal I was interested in, the enriching environment and the well being of the animals in the surrounding area, was also important.

Many pet stores — though not all — and professional breeders are at the bottom of my list when I decide to make a new acquisition. I have visited both an exotic animal and dog breeder’s house, both of which made me feel a little uneasy.

Seeing all of the animals for free or low cost at the local SPCAs and companion rescue groups, I can’t help but think that these people’s time and energy could be better spent on caring for the animals that need help currently.

Pet stores usually give me the same feeling. I wonder how they acquire their animals.

Usually one or two birds are looking a little under the weather or at least a few fish are floaters. If they are not in the business of keeping their animals healthy, then they do not need my business – this includes the sale of toys and food.

Online and magazine orders can be tricky because you can’t see their facilities. The reason I have used these venues, though, was because the breed of ducks I was interested in was not located in Western New York. I used two companies based on friends’ reviews of their past orders, the size of the company — mom-and-pop size — and online reviews.

If I am not adopting an animal from a rehab/rescue facility or a friend, specialty stores are a close second. If I go to a bird-specific store or a tropical fish store and I notice they are always busy, I can assume they are doing something right. Knowledgeable staff, concentrating on one taxonomic group of animals will make your experience enjoyable and end in a healthy acquisition.

No matter where you acquire your next animal, getting a free veterinarian visit with your adoption, plus a file on the animal’s life history (birth/hatch date, vaccinations, food, favorite toys, etc.) should make you feel more secure in your new critter companion.

Giving up your pet can be very emotional. Depending on your circumstances you can be fussy about who adopts them. I have sold pets to friends, at poultry shows/fairs and through newspaper ads. After keeping a pet snake for years, I went abroad for college and the original person who gave me the snake gladly took her back.

Selling or giving a pet to a friend has a lot of benefits. In your clause you can state that you can take that animal back at any time and find it a new suitable home, you can check in on the training/well-being of that animal, and you might be able to visit and play. Whenever I sold an animal I tried to make a connection to that person, so I could see how the animal was doing later on.

One of the most positive experiences I had was placing an ad in the paper selling baby cockatiels when I was a freshman in high school. The calls quickly came in and I made a few appointments for people to visit first and then decide when they were ready.

A women and her adult daughter came to the front door one day. They adopted a baby cockatiel after saying how beautiful they all looked and that they were impressed with their caging, toys and overall well-being. A few days later they adopted another one. We stayed in contact and I was given monthly updates.

Several months later, I made a house visit to clip the cockatiels’ toenails and found that they had their own room to fly around in and they were being treated better than I could ever imagine.

Georgia and I have been friends for over ten years now and she even gave me a high school graduation present.

Talk about customer service. Literally the customer’s service was incredible.

Kenny Coogan has a B.S. in animal behavior. Please email your questions to, or search for "Critter Companions by Kenny Coogan" on Facebook.