Local animal activists have joined a national campaign blasting gadgets store Brookstone, Inc., which has five Orange County locations, for selling a most unusual gift: the "Frog-O-Sphere Ecosystem" with two live African dwarf frogs.
Saying that Kermit-Mutumbos are "imprisoned in tiny tanks next to gadgets and other gift items at hundreds of mall locations around the country," the latest alert from Orange County People for Animals (OCPA) alleges Brookstone "misinforms customers about the sensitive needs of these wild animals, who are destined to spend their entire lives circling endlessly in plastic prisons."
"These animals are native to tropical and sub-tropical Africa, where they spend their time swimming and playing in shallow water in the forest," OCPA continues. "African dwarf frogs can live for five to 18 years, but Brookstone callously offers a one-year warranty on their lives."
The CEO of the Merrimack, N.H.-based retailer--which has stores at Brea Mall, Irvine Spectrum, The Shops at Mission Viejo, South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa and Mainplace Mall in Santa Ana--has also cranked out an alert, defending Brookstone's sale of the Frog-O-Sphere Ecosystem.
Addressed to "Brookstone Customers," the letter from Brookstone president and CEO Philip Roizin is linked from the retailer's online Frog-O-Sphere catalog page, which informs, "It's alive! A self-contained, self-cleaning ecosystem with 2 mini frogs" for $39.95. (For that buyers also receive a snail for cleaning, a bamboo plant for oxygen and "Living Gravel" to convert waste).
"Recently there have been public comments concerning the Brookstone Frog-O-Sphere," Roizin writes. "Frog-O-Sphere has generated an overwhelmingly positive response from our customers. Thousands of people have adopted these amazing mini-ecosystems and welcomed their pet frogs into their homes and classrooms.
"While we respect the right of all groups to express their views, we at Brookstone are happy that Frog-O-Sphere is bringing the joy of pet ownership to families and students across the country, and will continue to offer Frog-O-Sphere."
Orange County People for Animals, which is amplifying a louder campaign waged by the much-larger People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, claims that "countless individuals" have witnessed Brookstone employees idly watching as customers shake and tap tanks and otherwise harass the little hoppers.
But Roizin claims in his letter to customers that, "Brookstone provides all our staff and customers with detailed care instructions for our frogs, and have designated at least one Frog-O-Sphere specialist in each store to ensure that frogs receive proper care."
The animal activists say "several well-meaning but misguided customers" have sought PETA's guidance on releasing the frogs into area waterways, "which would devastate local ecosystems."
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The OCPA and PETA instead advise sending warts-and-all letters informing Brookstone executives that they will lose the letter writer's business unless the company stops "offering live animals as impulse-buys and sticks to selling inanimate trinkets and gadgets."
Participants are asked to use this form, which redirects clickers to a letter that just requires filling in some blanks. It is suggested that the letters "will carry more weight" if they are personalized and addressed individually to Roizin and the following: Richard Bachman; Steven Brigham; Brookstone Customer Service; William Ellis; Rene Hart; Anne Mass; Jim Rabbitt; Amy Sheehy; Steven Strickland; Greg Sweeney; and Rudy Woodard Jr.
"Please keep all correspondence polite," advises PETA. "Anything other than courteous conversation can hurt our efforts."
Interestingly, the PETA letters could conceivably sit in the same mail bag as the Frog-O-Sphere Ecosystem with two aquatic frogs, which as the Brookstone site reveals can be ordered online and shipped to your door.