Not everyone says it. I can’t speak for others who do, only myself. There are many people with different opinions on the matter, and your ask seems to demonstrate that.
Some people don’t care at all about buying from PetCo or PetSmart, or would encourage it. Many people do get their reptiles there.
I don’t believe I have ever said this on my tumblr yet, though I agree with those who are against it. I certainly do not think anyone should buy their pet at these chain stores; I will go into why I think this.
1.) It doesn’t help the root of the “awful conditions” problem – it actually perpetuates and contributes to it.
2.) You are likely to get a genetically unhealthy animal.
3.) You are likely to get an acutely unhealthy animal.
4.) There are plenty of legitimate rescues who have geckos needing to be adopted.
Buying them (or other animals for sale but suffering) is what I (and others) call a “sympathy purchase”, not a rescue. By buying them, it perpetuates the cycle of encouraging mass breeding farms (essentially gecko “puppy mills”) to sell to pet stores that will continue to keep them in sub-par conditions. Buying them does not just save that one gecko from those awful conditions. They will immediately buy new stock, and put it into those same awful conditions. It just dooms more geckos. Even if hundreds of thousands of people all went and bought geckos to “save them” all it would do is drive up PetCo/Smart’s sales and they would put more effort into promoting gecko sales, selling cheap gecko kits, and so on. They sell more animals when animals are promoted as “easy” and “cheap” so they stock “easy” kits which are nowhere near adequate for the animals, and the cycle of neglect after purchase continues.
These stores have bad corporate policies in place that the employees, no matter how dedicated, can’t get around. Different stores have different levels of care, but no matter what they do, they still buy stock from breeders who value quantity and profit over the health and quality of their animal’s lines (budgies with horrible genetic problems and cancer, geckos of questionable parentage and shortened lifespans, horrible diseases rampant in their lizards, birds, and rodents, etc. I could go on and on), feeding policies that are atrocious, and other poor husbandry requirements.
Buying animals from them has never changed that.
However, other things have. They used to sell large birds. They used to sell rabbits. Due to boycotts, petitions, and other grassroots campaigns, PetCo and PetSmart caved to pressure and stopped carrying these animals in their stores. They started hosting adoption events. Many stores host adoption events for various animals all the time. In addition, husbandry does get better when pressure is put on the store. Not through buying animals, but through campaigns. Things that cost them money such as protests and boycotts, not animal purchases.
The only way to stop this is to actively oppose it. Do not encourage it, at the very least.
As to the second point, it is a continuation of the first. PetCo and PetSmart typically source their animals from larger scale breeders and farms. The animals are from mill-like situations. These are not the healthy, well-bred animals you’d get from a private breeder who has been perfecting several morphs for years. You don’t know what health problems you’ll get down the road. (In some cases you do; if you buy a petstore budgie, for example, you can expect cancer, cancer, cancer.)
In addition, because of poor husbandry (both at the farm and by necessity in the loud, bright, overcrowded tank at the store), they may have acute illnesses like parasites and bacteria. I believe PetCo had cryptosporidiosis go through their leopard geckos before (protozoa infection), which can also infect the feeder insects. PetCo keeps their geckos on sand (even as babies) which means you might get them already starting to suffer from impaction. PetSmart keeps them on carpet, which is better because of impaction, but carpet can harbor lingering bacteria if not cleaned properly, especially with already sickly geckos, so it’s not recommended either!
Finally, if you really want to rescue an animal from a bad situation, there are geckos in rescues all around the country. Some of them have had it really bad, such as surviving burns or surgeries. Others are abandoned after people grew bored with them, or are recovering from being malnourished, or neglected. Some are just “different” and not up to snuff for a breeding project. Since they are one of the most common pet reptile, they are one of the most common pet reptile needing adoptive homes.
And of course, many originally came from PetCo and PetSmart, because that’s where they were bought originally before the original owners got “bored”, but adopting from the legitimate rescue is awesome!
Note: Adopting an animal from PetCo or PetSmart which is not for sale through their adoption programs is not the same as buying from them and does not perpetuate the cycle.