Running a Pet Store? Audit These 5 Things to Ensure Safety and Compliance


Your pet shop’s adherence to safety and compliance standards is crucial to improving the customer experience, employee safety, and perhaps most importantly, the health and safety of the animals you sell. You’ll need to run regular partial or full audits of your store to catch issues as they arise. 

The best audit strategy is typically to be continually running partial audits, where you inspect a rotating part of your store on a regular basis. Then once every quarter or six months, you run a complete inspection of the store. With ongoing smaller inspections, you’ll be more likely to catch errors as they happen, while a full-store audit will be able to catch any overarching problems you might miss when focusing on a small area.

When it comes to running store inspections, it’s important to document everything. Taking photos of the audited areas enables you to verify that what was found is correct. It also provides a historical record that you can return to when historical questions arise. More than that, using audit and inspection software that automates the process helps speed it up, ensure nothing gets missed, and gives you a place to store all your photos and documents from each audit. 

With that said, what things exactly should pet store owners and managers should be auditing?

The store merchandising

Most stores do a closing audit where they check the status of the merchandise around the floor.

  • Are all bins, shelves, racks re-filled?
  • Is the merchandise all in the correct location in the store?
  • Is the merchandise neat and orderly?

It’s a good idea at closing to have an employee or two walk the floor, doing restocks and neatening things up so that in the morning, the store looks pristine at opening. 

Check out this example of a well-stocked pet store shelf from Top Dog Pet Store


Merchandising audits can take time, but the effort is well worth it. Empty or disorganized store shelves will send the wrong message to shoppers and create a poor brand image — ultimately resulting in lost sales. 

Research from NielsenIQ found that when faced with empty shelves, “20% of U.S. consumers postponed their purchase, 10% of consumers purchased the item elsewhere, and 16% of consumers shifted to an online source, leading to retailers losing 46% of possible sales.”

The animals’ health and safety

There is an entire section of merchandise auditing that is specific to pet shops: making sure that the living merchandise is doing well and is safe.

There are a host of things to audit — you can find a full checklist here broken down by animal type. Overall, though, an audit of your animals should cover:

  • Ascertain that animals generally seem healthy and appropriately lively.
  • Check to see that all animals have the appropriate food and water.
  • That all cages/containers are cleaned, well-closed, and comfortable. Additionally, check nothing is broken.
  • Make sure that animals have appropriate toys or habitat items.

To be safe, consult your state and local laws to ensure your stores are following all the necessary health and safety codes for animals. Failing to do so may result in hefty fines and penalties. In California, for example, pet store operators who violate the state’s animal care regulations may be fined up to $1,000 and be found guilty of a misdemeanor, depending on the severity of the violation. 

The marketing materials

Marketing materials are the store assets that promote sales. Generally, it’ll be signage that announces promotions or demarcates items that are on sale. However, your marketing materials could include something less common like a cardboard cutout of a mascot.

You can often check the status of physical marketing materials while checking merchandise. Make sure that:

  • All signage is in the proper place and that item-specific promotions are next to the correct item.
  • Signage and other materials are in good condition — i.e., nothing’s been ripped, written on, or otherwise destroyed.
  • Materials are not blocking access to merchandise.

When implemented correctly, regular audits will ensure that promotional assets such as signage are on-brand and optimized for success. This, in turn, can lead to increased foot traffic and sales. 

When it comes to retail signs, for instance, industry data shows that more than two-thirds of consumers (68%) believe that the quality of a store’s signage is a reflection of the business and its products. 

Need inspiration for signage done right? City Dogs Grocery uses simple but descriptive signs that clearly display product names and pricing, making it easy for shoppers to browse the store’s shelves.


The store’s equipment

Of all the things you should audit, this part is both most crucial to safety and most likely to be overlooked. Your store is likely stuffed to the rafters with various equipment — and all of it needs to be checked fairly regularly to ensure that your staff, customers, and merchandise will be safe in the building. There’s a LOT to audit here and much of it will be unique to your store. Generally speaking, most pet shop managers should be thinking about these things in their audits:

  • Are your racks and shelving free of rust? Are they bolted or secured safely to the ground?
  • Are your ladders compliant with the necessary safety standards set forth by agencies like OSHA?
  • Are there any overhead hazards present such as loose electrical wires?
  • Are all exit signs illuminated? Do you have the appropriate signage for staff only or hazard areas? Are fire exits accessible?
  • Are your bathrooms clean and in working order?
  • Are your emergency kits up-to-date — and everything in them before their expiry date?

Evaluating equipment safety is far from glamorous but it’s a critical task, especially in the retail industry. Heavy equipment and sharp tools are listed as some of the top hazards that lead to worker injuries in retail, so keeping these things in line is an absolute must. 

Audit staff knowledge and behavior

For your store to be a truly safe environment, your staff needs to know how to keep everything safe. It’s important to regularly check and see that they’ve been trained on checking the store’s equipment for it’s safety and they know how to handle all the animals and products you may sell. 

It’s imperative that you make sure they’ve been trained on how to handle situations that cause a threat to staff or customer safety. Do they know what to do in case of a fire, for instance?

Part of this audit should focus on making sure that your employee resource materials, such as posters about OSHA laws, are posted in easy-access locations for your staff.

Get started

Your first step to completing the audit will be to create your audit checklist. Remember to make it as specific and actionable as possible. You should then go over the list with all staff members who will be responsible for performing some or all of the audits. 


Refer to the Pet Care category for checklists, how-tos and best practices for the pet care industry.

About the author:

Francesca Nicasio is retail expert, B2B content strategist, and LinkedIn TopVoice. She writes about trends, tips, and best practices that enable retailers to increase sales and serve customers better. She’s also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores.

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