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Discussion Starter #1
Many people on this forum have pet store rats, and some are thinking about acquiring some, so I thought I'd post my thoughts on the matter.

Every pet owner ventures in to pet stores for some reason or another. Whether it's to buy bedding, food, treats, or toys, sometimes a trip is necessary. It's hard not to look at the adorable litters of babies or older rats that have been surrendered, and sometimes we even find ourselves thinking about bringing one (or a couple) home with us. Even the most well-intentioned rat owner who knows the woes of buying from pet stores see rats that will tug on their heart strings. Unfortunately, very few of us are immune to the onset of GGMR (gotta get more rats) and will impulsively buy a rat.

I have done this in the past. My first two rats, Ferret and Weezil, were from a local pet store a few blocks from my house. At the time, I knew very little about rats, and I don't even recall why I wanted rats in the first place. Although Ferret was a sweet boy, Weezil was always afraid of people, even with many attempts at forced socialization methods. Weezil was even known to be a bit nippy and would get aggressive at certain times. In his later years, I let him be and didn't handle him too much, since it stressed him. Ferret and Weezil had some upper respiratory issues over the years I had them, and also one incidence of mites, but for the most part, they were pretty healthy boys.

Although my first rats were from a pet store, I didn't beat myself up about it too much since, at the time, I didn't know about why buying from pet stores isn't recommended. My second pair of boys, Gabriel and Morgan, were from Petsmart. I fully admit that, although I knew about the plight of buying from pet stores, and what I was getting myself in to, I had a moment of stupidity and impulsiveness, and went ahead and bought them.

Both boys had horrible cases of mites, and Gabriel was very sick with an upper respiratory infection. After a few vet visits and weeks of treatment, they were both healthy. Although Gabriel was extremely friendly, Morgan was not. He was a rat's rat - preferring to be around rats more than his human friends.

Gabriel was extremely prone to myco flareups, and was always having to be put on antibiotics to clear them up. Some x-rays revealed that he had lung scarring, and Dr. Nugent offered that it was probably because of bad breeding and the conditions at the pet store. He was a very care-free and sweet boy, but he died very early (at about a year and a half). He declined extremely quickly, and since antibiotics and other medications did nothing to help him, I had him put to sleep.

Morgan lived until over two years old, but he developed a fast-growing, amazingly hard tumor on his shoulder. My vet didn't feel comfortable removing it, since it was, like I mentioned, hard as rock and also not movable at all. Over the course of a couple of weeks, the tumor grew very quickly and soon crept into his neck area, causing him to have labored breathing. I had him put to sleep once it was obvious that his distress was mounting, and he could barely breathe.

My four pet store rats meant a lot to me, and they also taught me a great deal. With their help, and the help of members of another rat forum, I learned very quickly about why buying from pet stores should never be recommended.

1.) Rats in pet stores are from subpar lines and genetics. What that means is, even if they appear healthy in the store and while they're young, later in life they will more than likely develop health problems, sometimes very serious ones that end up being fatal or decreasing their quality of life greatly. Pet store rats are not bred for quality, they're bred for quantity. No ethical or caring breeder would allow his or her rats to be sold in pet stores, ever. Pet store rats are often inbred and carry a great many genetic issues such as chronic myco flareups, scarred lungs, bumblefoot, tumors, ocular problems, hind leg paralysis, and much more. Unless you are completely willing to pay for many vet trips over the years, and possibly surgeries, don't even think about purchasing a pet store rat.

2.) Over-crowded conditions. Honestly, I have never seen pet store rats in a cage or tank adequately large enough. Many times I have encountered 10-20 gallon tanks with 5 or more rats in them, yet those size tanks either can't fit ANY rats, or should only house one (and temporarily, at that). These over-crowded living conditions can be more than just uncomfortable for the rats - it effects their overall health. Over-crowding often leads to myco flareups because of the amount of ammonia they're breathing in.

3.) No, or very little, health care. Many large-chain pet stores will advertise their animals as being vet-checked and approved for purchase, even if that's not true. The vets that come in to check over the animals are usually there only once a week - sometimes even less than that. A sick small animal needs constant care and observation because they go down hill VERY quickly. Most pet store veterinarians rarely give the animals more than a passing glance before approving them for purchase. Don't underestimate the fact that you WILL be lied to about an animal's health. Pet stores are just that - stores. Their main goal is to make a sale, even if that means lying or stretching the truth. Upper respiratory infections, mite infestations, SDA, and Sendai are the most common things that pet store rats are hit with - all of which are transferable to other rats/rodents, and some are fatal and VERY expensive to properly treat.

4.) Unsocialized animals. Pet stores are usually very busy places, especially large chains. I've spoken to numerous pet store employees about their care of the animals in the store, and they've admitted to me that they rarely handle the animals beyond moving them out/back in for cleaning purposes. Many, many people have socialization or trust issues with their pet stores rats, and some of those rats don't overcome them. A rat's personality is influenced by two things - their genetics/lines, and the amount of handling they've had, especially while they were young. Like I mentioned previously, pet store rats are badly bred, so when you couple that with the fact that they're rarely, if ever, handled, you more than likely will have an extremely wary, anxious, and even aggressive rat to deal with.

5.) Purchasing a rat from a pet store is NOT saving them or rescuing! Sometimes people will try to convince themselves that purchasing a rat from a pet store is a good thing - that it's helping the rat. When really, all you're doing is aiding the store's business, paying the breeder, and opening a spot (or two) for new rats to come in and take the place of the rats you just purchased. Instead of helping the situation, it's worsened. A favorite quote or phrase of mine is, "Don't breed or buy while shelter animals die." There are thousands and thousands of homeless rats that are euthanized daily because no one wants to adopt them. There are rescues that are just bursting at the seams with rats that need homes! When you adopt a rat, you're helping the rescue or shelter financially, and you're making a spot available for another homeless animal to find their forever home. Before even thinking about purchasing from a pet store, try finding a rescue or shelter in your area that has adoptable rats. Many are young, healthy, and extremely friendly.

There are many more issues than those five, but I find that those are the most prominent.

Pet store employees are most of the time greatly misinformed about animals, and will often suggest or recommend things that they shouldn't. They'll point you to pine bedding, or to those food "mixes" for rats that contain a lot of indigestible or harmful ingredients; they'll point out extremely small cages and say they're a good home for your new rat(s). Although more educated rat owners know what they're suggesting is incorrect, to a newbie this will lead them in all the wrong directions. Pet store employees are rarely, if ever, correct. They are trained to cajole you into purchasing products that are offered by their store, even if those products are either unnecessary, or bad for the animal.

Some people try to fall back on the fact that large chain pet stores offer a return policy where you can either return the rat(s) you purchased for new ones, or have the pet store's vet treat them. When you purchase an animal, you make a silent vow to always take care of them no matter what. Animals, even smaller ones, are not lesser beings, and should never be seen as disposable. When you purchased the animal(s), you assumed all responsibility for their behavioral and medical issues. Returning an animal should never be considered, in my mind. Although it may seem blunt and harsh, you got yourself into the situation, and you need to take responsibility for it. If there are some issues with your new rat, treat them and care for them. Don't take them back to the store like some sort of faulty appliance.

As far as bringing the rat(s) back for vet treatment, like I mentioned before, pet store vets rarely really care about the animals that they see and will most likely prescribe the wrong course of action for whatever health problems are popping up. If the rat(s) you just purchased are sick, they need to be seen by an accredited exotics specialist (just any dog or cat vet won't do!). Although this will mean spending money, sometimes a fair amount, those rats are depending on you for care and should never receive anything less than the best. If you purchase a rat (or two, or three...) from a pet store, be completely willing to spend a large amount of money on vet care. Do NOT think that your rat(s) will be an exception and won't be sick or become sick - always be prepared for the worst.

In conclusion, please consider all of what I've said before you purchase a rat, and research as much as you possibly can. Save a life and rescue a rat! Or, find a good breeder in your area with pedigreed rats. Both are much, MUCH better options than purchasing from a pet store!

I know this was a long read, but I hope you enjoyed it and learned something :)
 

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~A Bit From A Pet-Store Rat Owner~ (Requested by Night)

Well I honestly think that pet stores are horrible. Even if they breed on the premises, they usually overcrowd, etc. The cages at PetCo were far too small, and tanks at that. At Dee's Pets, they keep their rats in small cages with wire floors. When I brought my rats home I noticed right away that they were definitely ill - one was wheezing and both were sneezing, and it didn't go away, either. A few days later Klardae developed an abcess. I also called PetCo to ask about their warranty, and when I started telling the operator how worried I was about my rats, she actually laughed at me. The 'rat expert' at PetCo claimed that their rats were 'fully vet checked,' which doesn't seem to have been the case, considering how my rats ended up after I brought them home. She also reccommended too small a cage and a seed mix. I don't think it's a good idea to get rats from ANY pet store, basically.
 

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I will agree that a LOT of petstores are like the above. However if you find a petstore that you like that isn't some big chain. Try to find out if their rats come from a good breeder or just some mill. Also check that the rats have good living conditions. I live near a family owned petstore and the only thing i can conplain about is that they use carefresh with some of their larger animals (the owner hates useing it, but thats a different story). They keep their males & females apart, they have LARGE spaces for them. The homes are cleaned everyday and i always see fresh food and water. I feel very lucky to have a nice petstore like that. So you don't have to believe that all petstores are like petco & petsmart. It is better to assume they are, I'm just saying if you think you've found a winner do your homework, and above all try to adopt from a shelter before you head the petstore/breeder route. Petfinder.com is AWESOME and has tons of babies that need homes. Nice Post Night :).
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Although some pet stores are better than others when it comes to husbandry and overall education on the animals, point blank there are no well-known, accredited, registered breeders that sell to pet stores. In the rat breeding world, selling to pet stores is extremely looked down upon and is NEVER accepted. Good breeders will also never allow their rats to be placed with anyone who intends to breed for pet stores, so even if a pet store's rat breeder seems nice and somewhat knowledgeable, they're breeding pet store stock rats - again, furthering the problems they have.
 

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I enjoyed reading your post and I think I've learned a lot from what you've written here and what you've said to me in the past few days. I learned a big lesson from taking Millicent home and I've been working on finding a local breeder and adoption centre.

I have to agree, I don't think pet stores really vary in what they offer, whether they are a large chain or not. I have been to smaller pet stores and chains and I have not seen a great difference in the animals that they stock. And that's what they do. The animals are stocked, like products.

When I bought Millicent she was alone in a hamster cage with a water bottle and a food dish full of grey pellets. No cage-mates, no toys, not even any interesting bits of food to turn over and pick at.

I hope I don't ever have to rely on a pet store for a rat in the future.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I just wanted to emphasize that I'm not trying to offend people, but simply stating my opinion upon my experiences and the experiences of friends of mine. While I realize that many of us own and love our pet store rats, I'm just saying that it shouldn't be suggested or advised to get animals from a pet store.

I was a bit harsh when I said purchasing animals from a pet store isn't rescuing, since sometimes it can be. For instance if an animal's ill and the pet store isn't caring for them, or if there were animals surrendered to the pet store. But, in the end, giving the pet store money is just aiding their rat breeders to bring in more, into the same conditions you rescued your rat(s) from.

Admittedly, some people just get lucky. They purchase rats from pet stores, and they're affectionate, healthy, and well-socialized. While that does happen, I do think it's a bit of a minority.
 

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The petstore rats here locally are very well known for having behavioral problems throughout their lives. The man who breeds for a local family owned petstore (they have 3 stores total) also breeds 'fancy rats' Blues and so on. He sold one to the petstore and they tried to breed him (with a feeder) to produce pet rats. He was alway skittish and later began biting. Once they decided to give up, we rescued him to see if we could do something with him. We had to have him euthanized after his health began to decline (heart condition, myco, & self inflicted injuries) and he was so aggressive we couldn't treat him.

His sons, to this day, despite being in a wonderful home, are skittish as well. Only one of 3 in the same home likes to be handled, and that is minimal handling. I have one of his daughters here currently. I took her and 1 sibling, while they were still pinkies, with her mom as a surogate for a rescue litter I was raising at the time (because their mom could no longer produce milk). Despite daily handling from the time I got her, I notice a distinct difference between her and the other babies she was raised with. She does not like to be handled, despite growing up in the same place and being handled as much or more often. Two of her sisters, from seperate litters (again, petstore breedings and they overbreed their females, one litter after another), are the same way, though their socialization began once they were weaned.

To this day, I regret trying to 'save' them. They have never made good quality pets that they should have been simply because of their genetics. And I feel like I cheated their adopters by doing so, knowing they'd be much happier with a more social rat instead of what they ended up with.

The only time I ever buy from a petstore anymore is if I see one who is obviously very ill and dieing or in pain. I take it to the vet and have it euthanized to end it's suffering. Or if I find one who was a pet and had to be surrendered once the owner couldn't keep it anymore. And even then, they must be social before I'll take them.

It's tough saying no, but no matter how hard you try, there is always more being bred in their place. And you potentially make the situation worse, for them and yourself and any rats that replace them. When you adopt from a rescue, you know the money from an adoption fee is going towards the care of rats in need of help. Not to a breeder. You are opening up one more space for them to take a rat who otherwise would have no place to go. Some rescues have been full for the past year or more. Put yourself in their shoes, looking around at all the hopeful faces who want alone time and love, but there are so many they cannot get it. What those rescues must be thinking.. "Who will find homes this month, this year? How many will I have to turn away in the meantime? What will happen to them when I do? How many will die here, never finding that loving permanent home?"

For every rat you adopt from a petstore, that is one more rat that will be sitting in a shelter even longer, that you could have taken home instead. Think about it.. if a rat lives 2 1/2 years.. that's 912.5 days. Some have been in shelters or rescues for 6 months, a year, or more. You could make the difference in their lives. Not only that, but the life of the rat the rescue has room for afterward.
 

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As a former petstore employee (Atlantic Canadian chain) I will tell you that we are encouraged to lie if it means selling the animal, be it rats/mice/hamsters or cats and dogs. Sick pocket pets are taken to the back room and 'treated' by the staff and put in small cages and left to die.

I fought tooth and nail to get the rats off pine (not a very expensive switch to corncob), and once I was gone it went right back. I could only take the rats out of the cages when the manager wasn't around because they 'creeped him out'. When he wasn't there however each of the rats took a turn on my shoulder playing rattie mascot. We turned many people into ratlovers that way :D.

I couldn't handle it, and got in trouble many times for telling people the truth about the animal they were about to buy. In the end I broke down and quit, not one of my proudest moments, but there is only so much one person can do.

When I left there I went to work for the vet that they use (who rocks, btw, not one of the drone vets you hear so much about). A lady came in with her $1200 puppymill bred unregistered Pomeranian that she had just bought, and when I looked at him I realised he was the one who had been with us only a week earlier deathly sick. He had be hypoglycemic and had some unknown issues, and when I mentioned this the lady revealed to me she had NEVER been informed.

I later heard from friends who still worked their that the manager was ranting about 'patient/vet confidentiality' and how it wasn't our job to tell her. Uh, hello jerkwad, it's your responsibility!

/rant
 

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I very much agree with you Night! I have had BAD experiences with petstores, esspecially petsmart. They know NOTHING about rats at all. BUT I have also had very good experiences with a certian pet store. I recently got two girls from a local pet shop. It wasn't, though, like these horrible pet stores who don't care much for their rats. This store doesn't sell rats in quantity and never have rats locked up in cages. My girls just happened to be their because the owner of the store was taking care of them, they were young, and she brought them into the store to sell. The lady was extremely knowlegable and I was able to hold and thouroughly look over the rats and they looked healthy. Now, they are ajusting just fine and are very wonderful pets. So I understand about what certain pet stores can be like, and I will never get a rat from one like those again. I have to find a local breeder.
 

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You know, it would be awesome if the **** president would just make it illegal to sell animals in any pet store.
 

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THIS **** president wouldn't ever dream of something so environmentally and animal friendly. Maybe if Gore were president, a person who focuses on the environment, such a thing would be possible.

People no longer care for the environment or animal rights as a majority, all they care about is their **** family values *eyeroll* What the **** is up with the values thing anyway? Changes from perspective to perspective and just a nice political term to throw around.

Gah, don't get me started on politics :x :)



But anyway, nice post Night and I will definately consider those alternatives next ratty I buy. It can be hard at times when you actually FIND a social playful lovey boy in a petstore but I geuss I'm still learning about rats. I have two ex feeders that have myco flare ups and they just started flaring up again. I plan on taking them to the vet a.s.a.p. for that, nothing horribly serious but I want to catch it before it gets bad. They probably need to be on anti biotics for the rest of their lives. THe pet store ensured me just some oranges to eat and the sneezes would go away. The cages were horribly crowded and their 'pet rat' stock was just accidental litters from their feeder rat stock. Why do people do that? It annoys the crap out of me D:

Another thing I hate is the treatment of feeder rats. I understand snakes have to eat, but feeding them live rats is harmful to the snake and stressful to the food. My dad breeds snakes and only feeds them frozen food. I still cringe at the thought of all those poor ratties dark fates but I find a little comfort in the lack of live feedings. Chris feeds Wurm mice only. He doubles up on mice cause Wurm is a fairly large corn snake and probably could eat a small rat. Chris doens't want to feed him rats, as he finds them more intellegent and they could also hurt Wurm because they bite hard (and I would freak out and save the poor ratty if he did) so he is fed mice instead (which I STILL have a hard time not wanting to save the poor mice but I try not to think about it)
 

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thanks for the very informative post.

although i was completely aware of the problems with buying from the pet store, i adopted two brothers from a friend's pet-store rat's litter. they were actually my first personal rats, but i had read up before, had babysat rats, and helped take care of mom and the litter. my rats franz and ezekiel are both healthy, happy, and social. a few months later i was walking through a local pet store and came across my new rat buzz. surprisingly, this pet store only had two male rats, that were kept in a cage that was big enough, if not bigger, that what is standard for housing two rats.

i plan on making a trip to the erie county animal shelter soon to rescue two more boys once i get the bigger cage.

i do not regret, in any way shape or form, purchasing buzz from the pet shop. nor do i regret adopting my two boys. and although you may not be helping the problem by purchasing pet store rats, you are giving one (or more) rats a better home and a better life. i would never want to see a rat spend his/her entire life confined to a pet shop.
 

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If you line other people's business pockets (petstore owner, breeder) you are buying not rescuing. When you pay a fee to a rescue, you are adopting and enabling the rescue to save even more rats from unknown fates.

I have had multitudes of petstore rats since I was a young girl, even my siblings all had rats at one time or other, I am just the only one who kept loving them into adulthood, where I found the internet, rat forums, and rescue. I wasn't aware of them before, but I wish I had been. :( I would say every one of my present rats are of petstore stock, that someone gave up or mistakenly got pregnant. I will only take in rescues (there are no breeders nearby), since those are the petstore rats that need our help the most, the forgotten, the abandoned, the ones about to be euthanized in the shelters, the ones in bad situations. Ethical and accredited breeders do not supply petstores so rarely will you find a guarantee of health/temperament in your petstore rats. I too have had some wonderful rats as well, but I think a lot of that was my care not their genetics or early treatment. then again, I have also had some sickly, and apparently healthy rats die too young, or had some horrible problems that we had to fight through. I lost 9 in 3 months (only 2 were over 2 years old :().
Buying from petstores is a little like playing Russian Roulette. You take your chances. No guarantees of anything. If you are going to do that already, why not first try to see if there are any rescues in your area before wandering into that petstore and going gaga over prettily marked babies?"
I do not condemn people for buying from petstores, unless they just couldn't be bothered to wait for a rescue to become available, but suggest seeing what other options there are before you fall in love with that sweet face in the window.

Think of it this way if I hadn't gone the rescue route.
Sebastian - along with his cagemates would be dead 1 1/2 years ago instead of 3 months ago, happy til the end when he left me at 38 months old. Here he is pictured at 3 years old

Brie - dead from treatable throat abscesses at 3 months in a shelter that doesn't treat their animals.

Aura and her 4 daughters, Terra, Prima, Zuri, Lucine - Aura pts at 5 months, her daughters at 6 weeks old...the night I got them.

My teaching rat Shrek would've been pts and never found his way to Elena and then me for my 2 weeks of love and learning...

Dilbert - would've been set free in a small woods to die at 3 weeks old

Bronwen - pts without anyone besides shelter staff even knowing her existence


OK that's enough to make my point. :)
 

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alot of my boys are petstore rats (actually in the current bunch i have all but one are) and as far as it goes i feel i have given them the absolute best home possible iriquois would have died due to his special needs (he is blind) little man would have gone to a kid that new nothing about rats (he was eyeing him as i was waiting to be helped) all of my boys i got from a little chain had respitory problems at first but once they were off the pine they got better quick and oooh so lovey. The only time i ever had a problem with a rat was a pair i adopted from a rescue (they were bred in someone's garage for snake food and never socialized properly) they had abscesses one after another and the last straw was when one of them tried to bite my son just for walking past him (my kids come first no matter what) it was heart breaking to give them back to the rescue but after the update i got i am glad i did (the person who was fostering them got bitten really bad and all i could think was what if that happened to one of my children) so as far as pet store rats go i believe that they shouldn't be bought but if no one buys them that is educated about rats what will happen to them? they will go for food or they will be killed in some way or another. I think that pet stores should just stop selling them but that is not going to happen
 

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ive been thinking about doing a myspace for this kind of thing-a sort of before you buy an animal from a pet shop read this type thing. does anyone know of one?
 

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Not at all...i have rehomes from friends that had adopted pregnant rats...:D

I normally keep my mouth shut about my rescues but this thread gave me the opportunity to spread the joy that my sweet rats have brought me and explain that they almost never had a life with me :)
 

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I agree with absolutely EVERYTHING you've said there, apart from one thing.

I work for Pets at Home, a pet store chain in the UK that is similar to Petsmart. There's no way on Earth i would work for them if they didn't treat their animals properly, and i'd fight tooth and claw to get things changed if i knew the animals didn't get anything but the best care. Our rats are kept on carefresh, in large, multi-level aviaries, not tanks, and are handled frequently, not just when they get cleaned out. This applies to all our animals - whenever i get a spare minute i'm in there getting them out or letting them ride around on my shoulders. I know a LOT about all the animals we sell. We all go through extensive training and we all know which members of staff have the best knowledge on certain animals. For example, other staff always send customers my way if they need to know about rats and guinea pigs, or i might send customers to another member of staff if i think they know more about a certain breed of fish than me, or if i know they own an animal i don't (and will therefore probably know more from first-hand experience), for example chinchillas.

We also have it drilled into us right from the moment we start that the animals always come before profit. We never sell an animal to someone who we think is either not getting the animal for the right reasons, does not have the right setup or lifestyle for this type of pet, or who doesn't have enough knowledge about the pet. I've refused to sell an animal to customers a number of times. We always have the animals best interests at heart, i can promise you that. We would never sell one just to make money - pet stores in the UK focus a lot on ethics and the welfare of the animal.

Okay i'm off my soapbox now lol. I just wanted to tell you what it was like in a UK-based petstore, and clear a few misconceptions up. I've worked for PAH for about a year now and just wanted to say that i know a LOT about animals, as do the other staff that work there, and we'd never lie just to make a sale.
 

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Sara that is awesome! As you have probably read in other posts, in North America I would imagine none are like yours. :)
Multileveled aviaries? Wow. :D
 
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