Petco just removed shock collars from stores — why the CEO made the decision

Petco CEO Ron Coughlin won’t tell Yahoo Finance if the pet retailer will return to the public markets in 2021 (as has been rumored as the next move for the private equity backed company), but he is keen on chatting about arguably one of his most important moves since he took the helm in 2018.

That is the removal of shock collars from all 1,500 of Petco stores.

“Our mission is about improving lives. When we think about shocking your furry friends, we believe electricity belongs in the microwaves and not to be used in training,” Coughlin told Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade. We don’t believe in disciplined training, we believe in positive training.”

Shock collars are used by trainers or owners to emit an electric charge to a device placed around a pet’s neck in an effort to improve behavior. They have long been controversial tools for training pets because they emit an electric charge, potentially harming animals. Moreover, the collars could alter behavior in a way that is not good for the animal or its owner longer-term.

CHICAGO - JULY 14: Shoppers look over the merchadise at a Petco store July 14, 2006 in Chicago, Illinois. Texas Pacific Group and Leonard Green & Partners LP agreed to acquire the animal supplies retailer for $29 a share, 49 percent more yesterday's closing price.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Shoppers look over the merchadise at a Petco store. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

To be sure, Petco’s decision now places pressure on rival pet product sellers.

A search on Chewy’s website results in 76 shock collar choices, for dogs and cats. Some of the more expensive offerings (north of $199) come from a company called SportDog. They are often used to train hunting dogs, boast half mile radiuses and up to 10 different shock variations. A Chewy spokesperson didn’t immediately return a request for comment on whether the company would pull its shock collars following Petco’s decision.

Meanwhile at Amazon, a casual search of “shock collars for dogs with remote” yields 711 searches.

Petco’s Coughlin says he is now turning attention to offering vet services inside the company’s store. By January 2021, Petco plans to have 140 vet service clinics up and running. The company’s longer term goal is 800 vet locations.

“70% of pets don’t get the care they need because of affordability,” Coughlin points out.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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