Bongani Ndlovu, columnist
Where in Bulawayo can you have a pet?
In the old days, there were many places where people could have pets, be it parrots, dogs, cats, rabbits and even fish.
A popular pet store in Bulawayo was along Robert Mugabe Way between 8th and 9th Avenue.
It offered a range of pets, such as dogs, cats, parrots, rabbits, and even peacocks.
Some households had tanks where popular goldfish, baby sharks, and guppies fish, among other species, would be kept.
A search in downtown Bulawayo led a Chronicle news crew to Pet Man along Fife Street between 11th and 12th Avenue.
Mr. Lovemore Sithole has been running Pet Man for 20 years, something that started as a hobby.
“It’s not a very lucrative business. I opened it because of the love of these and other pets. Initially when I opened it was just a hobby then I said let me try to sell so I get some money for upkeep of the pets I had . It’s all about it and the passion for animals. I try to pass that on to young people and others,” Mr Sithole said.
He said it hasn’t been easy for him as Covid-19 has disrupted operations.
“Now the challenge is that all of these things have been ruined by two years of corona. Most of our products are imported from South Africa. Right now, especially for me, I’m planning to open in May this year. I am reorganizing and starting over,” Mr Sithole said.
“The problem is that most herders have left. Most of them were white and the challenge is no one breeds and if they are there they export. They don’t sell locally.
Mr Sithole said it was important for people to have pets, especially children, as it teaches them a sense of responsibility.
“It teaches our young people to be very responsible in life actually. Owning something that you will keep, etc. Feeding and cleaning one’s environment teaches our youngsters to love animals,” Mr Sithole said.
He said it was very expensive to import pets because the license fees are very high.
“The amount of licensing fees you are supposed to pay is too high. Fish are perishable. Sometimes we rely on some local boys breeding, but they can only breed one type or limited type of fish. This limits the variety of your stock. That’s why you stick to goldfish and guppies,” Mr Sithole said.
He said those who want to own a pet shop should have a breeder’s license from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) and a shop license.
According to research, pets are important in people’s lives because they bring unconditional love to their owners, which in these difficult times becomes a way for owners to feel loved and appreciated.
According to a study published in the journal Environment and Behavior, people who spend time looking at fish tanks and aquariums may see improvements in their physical and mental well-being.
This is why aquariums are often found in doctor’s offices, intended to calm patients before going to an appointment.
A pet breeder and seller who preferred anonymity said he hopes to expand and grow the pet market in Bulawayo.
“This will allow people to keep the pets they have always wanted and with advances in technology it has helped to improve the lives of both pets and owners. Popular Pets are still dogs with a growing market and demand for large pedigree dogs that now play the roles of friend, pet and protector,” the pet breeder said.
He said the challenges of running a pet store in Bulawayo are unreliable water treatment as well as unpredictable electricity supply.
“Keeping the aquarium water clean for your fish is also important, but if you follow the necessary maintenance routines, you won’t have any problems with your fish. Sourcing the stock (fish, dogs etc) is also a challenge as you need to know the quality and health of your produce as they are living creatures so we need to be more vigilant in our care,” said the owner.
He agreed with Mr Sithole that the business is not lucrative.
“Also, for a pet store, unfortunately, your money/capital is constantly replenished and in the business. Keeping fish taught me patience and that my actions alone are responsible for the health of the fish,” the store owner said.
He advised people to keep pets as they bring calm and peace to the home.
“The people in the house will be calmer, fewer arguments or fights and therefore generally more quality family time. Remember that all pets are living creatures and require care, love and respect and believe me your pets will return you double love and care,” the store owner said. .