reviewed: Pet shop provides animals and education

Suzi Starheim

STORY NOTE: The interviews for this story had me at the shop for almost two hours, and still no customers were there to interview. I realized this was because they don’t get too much business each day, but I changed the angle of the story a little more because of this.



Students looking for a dorm room pet can find one closer to campus than they may have thought at Hutch Pet Shop on Lake Street.

Hutch Pet Shop has been around for 39 years, and over the course of nearly four decades, the business has adapted and survived.

Employee Allison Rindels said approximately half of the customers at the pet shop are students and half are community members.

On an average day, 12 people come into the store, Rindels said, and typically, a student spends anywhere from $10 to $15. This is mainly for pet supplies, she added.

The reason Hutch has been able to stay open as a small, independent pet shop isn’t because they get the most business, but rather because they understand their animals, owner Pat Flaningan said.

“This is a primitive industry that is very sophisticated,” Flaningan said. “Keeping all these different life forms alive and healthy and being able to go home and free of parasites and other circumstances is a challenge. We went from the point where it was art to the point where it’s science.”

And Flaningan has perfected this science in his understanding of dog food formulas, all the way down to his ability to breed Angelfish in his basement.

“Forty years ago, when I came into the business, it was an art,” Flaningan said. “Now, we know why it works that way but yet some of the companies ignore the aspects and just play with the words, and that’s where the mistake is made.”

Perhaps Flaningan’s biggest frustration is how large pet shops cut corners when it comes to care for animals and the products people purchase to care for animals.

Flaningan said he always takes the time to not just sell his customers the right products for their pets, but also to make sure they understand how their pets work.

“We try to educate our customers so that they are smart about how things work, and that makes a really big difference,” he said. “They are all little disciples as they go out into the world and they know more and more and more.”

This involves time making sure customers know the right answers to questions about all their animals.

“If they ask the questions, we give them the answers, and the answers will hold up,” he added. “The answers are the answers.”

SUBHED: Caring for kittens

Rindels said the most popular animal at Hutch is the kittens, which are all rescue animals. PROBABLY WOULD HAVE WRITTEN AROUND THAT…MAKNG THE KITTENS… KITTENS ARE THE MOST POPULAR ANIMAL AT THE HUTCH…

The kittens are sold to customers rather than just adopted out. This is because, “we administer their first set of shots,” Rindels said.

The kittens are also de-wormed, given flea baths, ear and eye medication prior to being sold.

“It’s rare that we don’t turnover all the kittens, but if they get to be a certain age, like four or five months old, we just drop the price down,” Rindels said.

Before petting any kittens in Flaningan’s store, customers must use hand sanitizer.

“You can ask yourself why every pet store doesn’t carry small kittens and I can tell you that is because they got tired of burying them,” Flaningan said.

“Small kittens are very critical and you have to be very exact with what you do with them. We take it very personal if an animal is in stress and in trouble.”

And even if kittens aren’t sold before growing up, Flaningan says they stay at the shop until they get homes.

“I do have people that look at our kittens and they say, ‘What do you do when you don’t place kittens?’ and I ask them, ‘Would you like to meet some of them?’”

Some of these kittens make up the five house cats that Flaningan will adopt out if customers want them. These fully grown cats are named Petunia, Lily, Sirius, Lucy and Arthur.

SUBHED: The docile rodents

Flaningan breeds most of his rodents in the pet shop and does this so that he can make sure they are appropriately suited to become pets.

“Our outside suppliers for rodents are minimal,” Flaningan said. “We use them to build up our gene line.”

And Flaningan knows how to breed rodents so they can make good pets for even small children. He can place his hand into one of the tanks of adult hamsters at his store and not get bitten once.

“These are bred for docility. That’s our first thing,” he said. “And then we go for color and that kind of stuff.”

None of his rodents have contact with wild animals, and this is because Flaningan doesn’t want any diseases infesting the shop.

SUBHED: An early passion

Flaningan’s passion for animals began at the age of seven when he would take trips to Cleveland collecting exotic animals.

“Every once in a while, I’d talk one of my parents into driving me around Cleveland so that I could go see all the fish stores there and occasionally come back with a few prizes,” he said. “It was a passion driven by me.”

And Flaningan said he values all the lives residing at his shop.

“Life forms all have value,” Flaningan said. “The easiest way to get fired here is abuse a feeder animal. Until they end with their ultimate demise, you treat them with care and courtesy and comfort.”


Overall, Flaningan said he wants the community to know that Hutch Pet Shop isn’t just out to make money.

“When you look at this store, if you just think that the only thing I ever did was just keep fish in an aquarium you would be wrong,” he added. “My capabilities are pretty unlimited. This is kind of my passion. It doesn’t pay well, but it’s pretty satisfying.”