WILLIAMSVILLE, NY – Many people are crying foul over an annual springtime promotion called Rent-A-Chick, at a Sheridan Drive pet store.

A Facebook post advertising the promotion at Steve’s Wonderful World of Pets depicts baby chickens which appear to be dyed various colors, and has prompted allegations of “cruelty” by some responding to the posts.

In response, the pet store posted the following:

“The experience of baby chicks is a wonderful, educational treat that has been enjoyed by children for generations. This tradition has been disappearing due to urbanization.. We are trying a new

idea so that children in our area can also enjoy these wonderful little creatures. We want you to enjoy these animals but do not even think of keeping them. They are a farm animal and will not thrive in an

urban environment. Keep and care for them until Easter and then bring them back to us. We have made arrangements to place them with a farm where they will be well cared for. Comments or questions? Please call us at (716) 634-3397"

Visiting The Store:

2 On Your Side visited the store on Tuesday morning, where we spoke with store owner Steve Lane, who has been in the pet business for 32 years.

(Photo: WGRZ)
(Photo: WGRZ)

Unlike the chicks depicted on the store's Facebook page photo, they are not colored with dye. Lane noted that while the practice is legal in 45 states, New York State does not allow chicks to be displayed in stores in such a fashion.

Lane admitted he learned that first hand when he first ran the promotion 15 years ago - when they did dye the chicks - until someone pointed out to them that was forbidden. He says they haven't done it since.

Lane conceded his phones were fairly busy, with staff fielding calls to clear up what he calls a great deal of misunderstanding.


The program basically works like this: Between now and Easter, you can rent up to two baby chicks, along with a feeder, food, waterer, heat lamp, and habitat.

It costs $39.99 plus a $10 deposit which is refundable to you after you return the chicks. You keep them and care for them until after Easter and return them to the store, where Lane says they are then given to local farmers.

"A lot of teachers have come and they put them in their classroom. It’s a great thing it’s a great learning experience for children," Lane said.

Lane also said that he could understand how people might object to what his store is doing, but also felt that a lot of people making complaints are making them "based on innuendo and wrong information".

"The problem is when people are screaming on Facebook it's hard to respond in a rational manner. I invite people to come see us and sometimes they do."

Lane insisted the Rent-A-Chick promotion does not violate of any state laws.

Lisa Koumjian, a public information officer for the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets sent a brief statement to WGRZ-TV, confirming. “The Department is currently reviewing the details of the promotion to determine whether it violates New York State Agriculture and Markets Law.”

The store was most recently inspected by the agency late last year, and a report issued following the inspection found it to be "satisfactory" in all measured categories.

SPCA Weighs In:

"We are trying to appeal to the people who are engaging in this practice, asking them to do their homework and ask questions," said Gina Browning of the SPCA serving Erie County. "They need to think about the type of seeds being planted in children's minds. If we are going to talk about this as an educational experience, do we want to teach them these animals can be a discardable play thing?" Browning asked.

However, while taking a dim view of the Rent-A-Chick promotion, the SPCA had to concede that it doesn't appear to be illegal.

"The reason the matter isn’t already settled once and for all is because, despite what the SPCA unequivocally believes is ethically and morally wrong, we must abide by a vague, unclear law that only specifies the sale, offer for sale, bartering, or giving away of live chicks as opposed to the 'renting' or 'leasing” loophole.'

What Is The Law?

The statute governing the matter would appear to be found in the following section:

"§ 354. Sale of baby chicks and baby rabbits

1. No person shall sell, offer for sale, barter or give away living baby chicks, ducklings or other fowl or baby rabbits unless such person provides proper brooder facilities where appropriate for the care of such baby chicks, ducklings or other fowl or baby rabbits during the time they are in the possession of such person. For the purposes of this section, a baby rabbit shall be a rabbit of less than two months of age.

2. No person shall sell, offer for sale, barter or display living baby chicks, ducklings or other fowl or baby rabbits which have been dyed, colored or otherwise treated so as to impart to them an artificial color.

2-a. No provision of subdivision two shall be interpreted or applied to prevent or restrict teachers and qualified instructors of youth under the guidance and supervision of the New York state cooperative extension service from using eggs for non-profit educational purposes or from observing fowl hatched from such eggs for non-profit educational purposes.

3. No person shall sell, offer for sale, barter or give away living baby chicks, ducklings or other fowl or baby rabbits under two months of age in any quantity less than six.

4. A violation of the provisions of this section is a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for not more than one year, or by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars, or by both."