Petco ordered to pay $1.75M for overcharging and animal neglect


Petco Animal Supplies Inc. was ordered to pay $1.75 million to settle a civil law enforcement case alleging California consumers were overcharged and animals were neglected or mistreated in the chain’s stores, it was announced Wednesday.

Petco, based in La Jolla, did not admit liability in the settlement approved Wednesday by Superior Court Judge Richard Whitney.

This marks the second time in six years that a court has ordered the firm to pay penalties in a civil law enforcement case. In 2004, Petco paid more than $850,000 to resolve similar allegations brought by California prosecutors.

The current case stemmed from state and county inspections of Petco stores across California from 2005 to 2008, authorities said.

The company said at noon it would issue a statement later Wednesday.

San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith acknowledged Petco’s cooperation in the investigation and resolution of the case, but noted the 2004 settlement should have been a wake-up call for the company.

“As a responsible corporate citizen based in San Diego, consumers expect Petco to make the care of animals in its stores its highest priority,” Goldsmith said. “Consumers also expect, and the law requires, that the company charges customers the correct amount for their purchases.”

Under the terms of the court order, if a Petco customer in overcharged, the store must deduct $3 from the lowest advertised or posted price of the item. If the item is $3 or less, the store must give one of the items to the customer for free.

The policy will be in effect for five years, and must be posted in every Petco store in California. The company must also conduct regular pricing audits to ensure that customers are charged the correct price, according to the settlement.

Inspections of Petco stores in Marin County by the county’s humane society revealed that animal habitats were not adequately cleaned and maintained as required by California’s Pet Store Animal Care Act. Animal welfare inspectors also found that in some instances, sick animals were not identified and removed from sales floor habitats.

Petco owns and operates 23 stores in San Diego County.