Harrods’ famous pet department is closing its doors for good at the end of the month to make way for a new women’s fashion floor. The move is part of a multi-million pound re-fit by its Qatari owners.
Located in Knightsbridge, London, the fourth-floor emporium known as Pet Kingdom is renowned worldwide for once selling a range of exotic animals from baby elephants to lions and alligators.
The department stores pet section first opened in 1917 and before the Endangered Species Act came into play in 1976, it had enough animals to rival London Zoo.
The act prohibited such exotic transactions being made on the high street but before then, customers were able to purchase almost any pet they wanted; tigers, panthers and even camels were available.
Can you imagine arranging pet insurance for these types of animal?
Over the years the store has welcomed a number of famous customers including Canadian actress Beatrice Lillie who purchased an alligator as a Christmas gift for the Writer and Playwright Noel Coward.
Another was when the store sold a lion cub called Christian to two Australian backpackers for 250 guineas. Ace Bourke and John Rendall gave Christian a home in their flat in Chelsea and when he was too big, they released him into the wild in Kenya.
After reuniting a year later in Africa, the lion recognised his owners and shared a touching embrace. Their story is a heart warming one that has been documented to become well known all over the world.
The most famous purchase from Pet Kingdom came from Ronald Reagan (then the governor of California and future president) in 1967 when he called the store to buy a baby elephant called Gertie for a Republican party rally.
Legend has it that the store’s employee on other side of the phone replied with: “Would that be African or Indian sir?”
Since then, Harrods has limited its collection to domestic animals including hamsters, guinea pigs and pedigree cats and dogs. It has also been popular with celebrities who have taken their pets to be pampered and styled in Britain’s first animal spa.
It has long been an attraction for families, animal lovers and the rich and famous meaning it will be missed by many.
Although the closure has disappointed the British public, it has been welcomed by animal welfare groups who have argued that pets should not be bought from high street shops but reputable breeders or rescue centres.
The announcement has also reinstated their commitment to influencing a change in the law, which will prohibit the sale of dogs in pet shops.
Clarissa Baldwin, Chief Executive of 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.”
When the department closes at the end of January, The Pet Spa, next door to Animal Kingdom, will be moving to Harrods’ new Fulham Road shop.
* Pet Insurance can vary hugely from one provider to another. My friend had a great experience with Argos Pet Insurance, which is why I have linked to them, but be sure to compare policies based on your pet’s individual requirements.