Animal Aid


Posted 15 September 2000
The iguana they said they weren't selling - pictured on sale Saturday 9th September at the Widnes branch of Focus Do It All.

DIY chain Focus Do It All last week threatened court action against Animal Aid unless the national pressure group publicly apologised for having stated in a press release that the store group continued the sale of iguanas - despite claiming to have ceased such sales in June.

Animal Aid was given just half an hour to comply with the demand for a retraction, which would have involved sending out hundreds of new press releases.

On receipt of the threat, the pressure group confirmed formally what it already knew. A representative telephoned the company's Widnes branch, whereupon he was offered an iguana for sale. These are animals who can grow to a length of six feet and are capable of causing injury when they feel under threat by lashing with their tail, lacerating with their claws and biting.

The following morning an Animal Aid representative visited the same branch where the availability of the iguana was confirmed and the animal was filmed in his/her case.

An image of the luckless reptile can now be viewed on the pressure group's website:

Animal Aid has sent a letter to Focus Do It All demanding:

  • a copy of the instructions sent to individual stores relating to the company's declared policy of ceasing the sale of iguanas
  • confirmation of the timing of these instructions and what steps head office took to police them
  • copies of statements issued by the company in response to the 'offending' Animal Aid press release.

Focus Do It All has been the subject of an Animal Aid campaign since February 2000 over its sale of live animals. Animal Aid insists that it is irresponsible to sell animals in an environment of glossy consumerism, given that sanctuaries around the country are already overflowing with unwanted animals.

Because of their complex needs, reptiles are particularly difficult to keep. Estimates suggest that around 90% of captive reptiles die within a year, usually from stress-related conditions. They also present health risks to their human handlers. The government's Chief Medical Officer warned earlier this year that children under five, pregnant women and the elderly should avoid all contact with reptiles. This followed the death in February 2000 of a three-week-old British baby from salmonellosis caught from the family's pet reptile. A second infant died from the same cause in May.

There have been four Animal Aid Weekends of Action directed against the 209-strong chain - more than a third of whose outlets have in-store Petworlds.

In an 11th hour faxed response from the company (received 6pm, Thursday September 14), Focus Do It All announced that a 'full investigation had been launched' into the affair. Their letter admitted that the Widnes store did still have an iguana 'in stock' when our September 8 press release was issued but that the animal 'had in fact been withdrawn from sale.' Animal Aid, however, has clear video and audio evidence confirming - as outlined above - that the store staff were still offering the iguana for sale when our representative visited the Widnes branch on the morning of Saturday, September 9. The evidence includes film of a price tag marked 'Green Iguana - £59.99'.

Notes to Editors

  • For more information contact Elaine Toland on 01732 364546.
  • We can supply an image of the Widnes iguana - and other relevant images - in jpeg format.
  • We have an ISDN line for broadcast-quality radio interviews.
  • The letter sent September 14 to Focus Do It All is available here.
  • See also reptile campaign index.

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