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According to an article in the Metro from 2019, Pets At Home had come under fire from animal charities over plans to launch interactive ‘pet villages’ in its stores. These were essentially play grounds for children that incorporated animal enclosures.

Charities warned that these conditions could frighten smaller animals.

The RSPCA warned that youngsters in close proximity banging on the glass or being noisy risked terrifying the pets. ‘The pet village has the potential to encourage very close contact between people and rabbits which, if not closely monitored, risks fear and distress,’ a spokesman said. ‘As prey species, rabbits and guinea pigs need to have both plenty of space and plenty of areas in which they can escape and hide away from what they find frightening if they feel scared.’

Isobel Hutchinson, director of Animal Aid, speaking to The Times, similarly called the move a ‘cynical marketing ploy will result in vulnerable animals being subjected to yet more stress’.

Over 9000 people signed a petition titled ‘Stop Pets at Home turning their animal enclosures into a playground’. It criticised the design of the areas, saying it took away the animals’ floor space and provided the rabbits and guinea pigs ‘no ability to escape and have somewhere they feel safe’.

The company lost marks under the animal rights category for this criticism.

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