Teen improves conditions at pet store

November 13, 2009 2:43:10 AM PST
A teenager took on a Fortune 500 company, and her voice was heard.The 19-year-old Katy woman said she worked in a Petco store where the conditions for the animals were dirty. So she demanded change and it paid off not only for her, but for the animals, too.

Alexandra Reyes believed working at a pet store would be the perfect place for her.

"I've always had a passion for animals," she said. "(I want to) make sure they are cared for."

The veterinary medicine student began working at the Petco pet store on South Mason Road in Katy. A few weeks in, she grew concerned about what she was witnessing.

"The cages were filthy and disgusting," she said. "One of the rat cages had blood stains and fecal matter."

Reyes began documenting what she saw and taking pictures, and she said she brought it up at a store meeting.

"He just said -- the quote-on-quote manager -- said our hot and stinky store is fifth in the district in making sales," she said. "Then he went on with the meeting."

But Reyes took her complaints to the top, and a few days later, the regional managers were called in.

"There were some cleanliness issues in the store," Dee Mayo said. "We've addressed all those issues that were pointed out to us on the camera."

Reyes had also captured the attention of corporate managers in California, who flew in and began an investigation.

"I began interviewing associates because it's critical that our animals always come first," said Lori Morton-Feazell, a Petco Corporate Manager. "We take it very seriously."

The company said it does not believe any animals were in immediate danger, and it admits the picture Reyes took of a dead animal is from the store. But, they said, it was a rodent that had crawled into a storage room, not a pet from the store.

Managers also say their investigation found a lapse in procedures for a sick animal. The employee handwrote a notice instead of entering it into the computer system, which would create an alert for a veterinary visit.

Reyes quit her job at the pet store shortly after complaining, but she visited the location this week.

"The overall cleanliness of the store is better," she said. "I can see it did improve."

She said she will always be willing to stand up for those without a voice.

"If I see something, I'm going to make change," Reyes said. "Especially if there are animals involved -- a life is a life, no matter how small it is."

The regional manager said some employees faced disciplinary action for not following store procedures, though no one was fired.

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