(In)famous Pet Store Closes Its Doors

Harrod's Pet Kingdom sold lions like this one until 1976. (WILDLIFE)
These Australian backpackers bought a lion cub in 1969 from Harrod's Pet Kingdom. Photo Credit: Television Stills (PET)

(PETS/ANIMAL WELFARE) One of London’s most famous department stores, Harrods, is being renovated and losing its pet department.

Harrods’ Pet Kingdom has been around since 1917, originally selling exotic pets like lions, camels, alligators, and even elephants. After the United Kingdom’s Endangered Species Act of 1976, the store was limited to selling more traditional pets like cats and dogs.

Now, after new owners have taken over, Pet Kingdom will be closed and animal rights activists couldn’t be happier. Many animal welfare groups point out pet stores and shops in department stores are not ideal and it is best to adopt pets from rescue shelters. Read on to learn more about Harrods’ Pet Kingdom and its history. — Global Animal

Harrod's Pet Kingdom sold lions like this one until 1976. (WILDLIFE)
These Australian backpackers bought a lion cub from Harrods’ Pet Kingdom in 1969. Photo Credit: Television Stills (PETS)

The Telegraph, Patrick Sawer

It was the place where, if your wallet and your home were large enough, you could buy an elephant, tiger or even a camel as a household pet.

But after years of supplying its customers with exotic creatures of all stripes and none, Harrods’ famous pet department is closing its doors for good.

There was a time, before the 1976 Endangered Species Act, when the store’s Pet Kingdom rivalled London Zoo and customers could purchase almost any creature they wanted.

A fully grown pet alligator was discovered during a drug bust near Chicago. Photo credit: Steve Lewis
Canadian actress Beatrice Lillie purchased a pet alligator from Harrods in 1951. Photo Credit: Steve Lewis

In 1951 the Canadian actress Beatrice Lillie bought an alligator from Harrods for Noël Coward, the writer and playwright, for Christmas, and in 1967 a baby elephant called Gertie was ordered from there by Ronald Reagan, the then governor of California and future President, who wanted one for a Republican party rally.

The story has it that when Reagan rang Harrods to ask if they sold elephants – the symbol of his party – he received the reply:

“Would that be African or Indian, sir?”

Two Australian backpackers even bought a lion cub in 1969, for 250 guineas (£3,500 today), though John Rendall and Anthony Bourke had give Christian up when he outgrew their Kings Road flat. He was eventually released into the Kenyan wild by George Adamson, the conservationist.

After the act was passed Harrods’ Pet Kingdom, which first opened in 1917, had to limit itself to providing a rather more prosaic collection of dogs, cats, guinea pigs and hamsters.

Puppy and guinea pig. Photo credit: today.msnbc.msn.com
After the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1976, Harrods’ Pet Kingdom was forced to stop the sale of all exotic animals, and instead, solely offer pets like dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and hamsters. Photo Credit: today.msnbc.msn.com

Now the store’s new owners, the Qatari royal family’s fund Qatar Holding, who bought Harrods from Mohammed Al Fayed for £1.5bn in May 2010, have decided to close the fourth-floor department as part of the store’s £200 million refurbishment. It will house an extension to its womenswear department.

Former customers have bemoaned the decision. Anna Richmond-Dodd, who bought a French bulldog called Max from the store three years ago, said: “It’s a great shame, it’s a London institution and an amazing place to go. Lots of my friends still take their children there and they love it.”

However, the move has been welcomed by animal welfare groups, who argue that animals should not be bought from high street shops but through reputable breeders or rescue centres.

Clarissa Baldwin, chief executive of The Dogs Trust, said:

“A pet shop is not an appropriate environment in which to sell puppies and kittens and our supporters have long expressed their concern about the UK’s most famous department store selling pets.”

A spokesman for Harrods said: “The Pet Kingdom department will close to make way for further exciting planned developments in our womenswear offering.”

More Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer