Leaders slam ‘irresponsible’ Pets at Home ‘key workers’ letter

Pets at Home has been branded the “worst type of irresponsible” by education leaders after distributing a letter for head teachers that asserted its staff qualified for the coronavirus key workers list. 

The letter stated employees can apply to headteachers for emergency school childcare as they fall “within the list of critical categories” and “their role is necessary for the continuation of essential services”.

However, following concern from some in the education sector the pet supply store has explained staff have been asked to apply for key work status only “if absolutely necessary”. 

Every pupil that goes to school when they could be at home puts lives at risk

Matt Hood, chair of the Bay Leadership Academy, said the letter “appears to be the very worst type of irresponsible”.

“Every pupil that goes to school when they could be at home puts lives at risk”, he said. 

“We’re asking teachers and school leaders to be in harm’s way so that our most vulnerable pupils are safe, and our most important key workers can go to work. 

“We’re not asking teachers to be in harm’s way so that Pets at Home can sell more chew toys for poodles.”

Oak National AcademyLate Thursday evening the government published its long-awaited list of key workers.

Schools are only remaining open to the children of key workers – those considered critical to the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic – and vulnerable pupils for the foreseeable future. However the advice is still that if these children can remain at home then they should.

When questioned about the Pets at Home letter on BBC radio 5Live this morning, schools minister Nick Gibb warned the company had to “be realistic”. 

He said: “Your job has got to be critical – not just critical in your opinion. It’s got to be critical in our fight against the virus”. 

However a spokesperson for Pets at Home said the letter “was simply intended to help” staff and teachers at their workers’ children’s schools “understand what we believe to be the government guidelines”.

“There is no question that NHS workers and others on the front line are the utmost priority and so we asked colleagues using this letter to also be respectful of the needs of others and the difficult decisions schools are having to take and to only apply for ‘key worker’ status if absolutely necessary.”

Over six million owners rely on us to help them feed and care for their pets

The store has removed pets from its shop floor to avoid people coming in “to simply look at the animals” and has said it will pay all staff their normal pay if they need to self-isolate or are in a high risk group. 

It has also committed a £1 million fund to support staff experiencing financial hardship at this time. 

The spokesperson explained “over six million owners rely on us to help them feed and care for their pets”. 

“In recent days, we have received an unprecedented number of calls from deeply concerned pet owners anxious to understand how they can maintain their pet’s diet and healthcare.

“Whilst supermarkets focus on feeding our people, we and other pet stores and vets can look after the health and welfare of the nation’s pets.”

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  1. K Markle

    Animals re living breathing creatures and need food and health care. Dogs and cats provide valuable comfort and companionship to older people they are part of the family ego pole such as vets and suppliers of pet food etc are key workers

    • D Shah

      Absolutely agree – pets play a vital role in our lives and Pets at Home give a veterinary service so staff employed by them should be key workers. Pets still need to be fed and looked after. They are not secondary citizens. Also, many blind people have guide dogs so these are key and critical roles.

    • G Stack

      I agree that pets are very important, being a pet parent myself. But I’m also a front line public sector worker, and I’m realistic. You can buy pet food from supermarkets that remain open. You can order it online. Pets at home staff are not key workers.

      • Laura Boniface

        I too have been wondering how I am going to feed my 3cats &2 dogs no pet food in any supermarkets, and A Huge thankyou to Pets At Home as I’ve been able to get my cats and dogs food..

      • Laura Boniface

        I have to disagree with you I have tried supermarkets for pet food,even tried their online shopping sites they all say the same and then you have to wait weeks for delivery and in the meantime by the time delivery date approaches pet food has run out, dog pouches are no good for my two big dogs.
        I work at one of the big supermarkets and the pet food aisle has literally been stripped, so thankyou Pets At Home for being there for all pet owners…

    • All well and fine…but why put my wife at risk with no proper PPE so sell pet food…when it is ready available in all super markets.. putting themselves at risk and there family?????

  2. Jill longden

    We need to take care of are pets .A lot of people rely on their pets for comfort especially at times like this.I work for a local hospice and in flyers we have put out and on a long list of support we are offering dog walking is one of the for old and vulnerable.

  3. “Chew toys for Poodles”? This comment sickens me, there are more pets enrich our lives other than cats and dogs that supermarkets do not cater for whereas Pet At Home do. Our pets are our family and require food and medical supplies as do people.

    • Agreed Annie. The Headteacher making this comment is truly disgusting and needs calling out. He should apologise. Most supermarkets don’t cater for large numbers of different animals. It’s ok a human not being able to buy their normal bread, cheese, milk etc but attempting to give an animal different brands bought from a supermarket – if indeed you can find anything on the shelves or get a delivery slot in less than 3 weeks – is inviting health issues. Shame on anyone who holds the same opinion as this buffoon!

  4. Graham

    There’s a contradiction in terms here. How can teachers be “… in harms way …” while ensuring “… our most vulnerable children are safe …”? If the teachers are in harms way, then the children are NOT safe!

  5. P.Riddy

    Pets will die if they don’t get food. Our four rabbits will die after 1 day without hay. Yes, pet stores ARE essential and we need a balanced approach, it is not appropriate to not take sensible steps to avoid millions of dead pets and it would be terrible cruelty to let them starve at home or force pet owners to euthanise their pets to avoid such a terrible suffering. Please can we have some balance to the approach taken, this virus is bad but it’s not a megadeath bioweapon.

  6. Lucy Timms

    And how are people to feed their pets if all the pet shops close? Are you saying all the dogs should die because they are not working on a cure for the virus? Very short sighted!

  7. Andrea Cuthbert

    It is by law and under the animal welfare act for starters that all. Animals should have the basics, 2 of which are food and water. Despite that, how can a yone, government or not,. Not include this. We need to feed and provide care for the animals, our pets are our family. Ive 8 dogs, 5 cats and 2 rabbits. It’s hard enough now trying to find the foods and such as people panic buying. I went to buy straw, hay, cat food and dog food and came away with non
    Ive ordered online and it’s a 2 week delivery and still. Couldn’t get everything.

    • Pauline

      My cat gives me such comfort at all times, but especially now. I am 67 years old and have no family to support me. My cat is my only companion, I want to be able to look after him. Please…….

  8. LordBagg

    The ‘education leaders’ in this article are twats of the highest notion. If Pets At Home closes, how the hell am I going to feed my dog? Are they suggesting that we should all let our pets starve to death? I value my dog much, much higher than nearly all humans. I’ll do whatever I can to ensure he is fed, healthy and happy, thanks very much.

  9. Dave Gibbon

    These people are absolutely correct, if I leave my dog to starve what am I going to eat when I get really desperate, there isn’t much eating on a lurcher anyway!

  10. Susie Miles

    “Toys for Poodles”? Please don’t tell me That a Person of intelligence really came out with that Statement? Clearly the Lady is not educated in all the aspects of pet ownership or what indeed Pets at home actually sell. Pets are Part of our families, they are considered just as much as any human Members and loved in equal measure. When they were brought into our lives We took the Commitment to take care of their needs and a commitment that is as important to us as getting our children to School for their education. “Life” is equally important in all it’s forms. I don’t have kids, but my pets are my family like so many other People with or without children and I’d not part with them for anyone. In addition some people alone & Self Isolating, their Pets are their only source of Love & Companionship Maybe for sometime to come.

  11. Chantal West

    Animals- pets are important too!!! They have thoughts and feelings as well so why should they have to suffer just because of a virus going around! That’s not fair! How do you like it of it was your children? Pet store workers ARE ESSENTIAL WORKERS as well as human supermarkets.

  12. We have two senior cats, with chronic health issues, and use Vets4pets which is accessed through the Pets At Home store. If Pets At Home is closed, how are we supposed have access to urgent veterinary care? Pets At Home needs to stay open. Not just for veterinary care but to be able to buy pet essentials, food, medication etc.

  13. Sharon Zwicker- Morley

    I agree that they should be open, again though, no point if people are buying to excess. I looked today for a delivery. All I saw was “out of stock”, “out of stock”! Absolutely ridiculous… As well as selfish human’s hoarding our food, selfish people are hoarding dog food/catfood! We all want our pets to be safe and fed.

  14. Suki Sinclair

    This guy obviously doesn’t have pets. We have 2 large breed dogs and their dietary health is of the upmost importance. They eat a brand of food that is only sold at pets at home. To close the stores would be detrimental to their wellbeing. So in the midst of all this ongoing horror we’re being asked to risk the lives and wellbeing of our much loved pets!?! Try explaining this to my 11 year old son who loves our dogs with all his heart. This is ignorance at its highest level. Seems like we have more worry and stress to come when the lives of our pets are now being compromised. You’d fit in in China Adam Hood, they dont give a fuck about animal’s over there either.

  15. Clairbear

    So apparently all pet shop employees have kids do they?? Get a grip guys and read what has been said!! Why is it difficult to request staff WITHOUT KIDS to work and keep families at home together. Stop being so selfish and protect the nations vulnerable!!

  16. “And how are people to feed their pets if all the pet shops close?”

    By using an online service such as Amazon, or buying in pretty much any supermarket when getting your necessary human food?

    Vets are vital, pet shops are not. Not when it increases the number of at risk retail workers.

    This move from P@H is about ensuring people don’t realise other, safer in crisis, more convenient, cheaper, and better sources of animal toys and food are available.

  17. Helena Dobbie

    The Government recognises that food for pets is as essential as food for people, which is why those working in pet food production and the ingredients supply chain are classified as ‘key workers’, and that pet shops can remain open during mandatory retail closures.

    Education leaders are entitled to their option but it is against Government Guidance. Surely they should be slamming the Government. Since this came from them. The Government already classed Pets@Home workers as key workers.