Milwaukee's independent pet stores mirror the nature of the neighborhoods that house them. Gary's Pet Jungle in Bay View is small-town friendly but big-city quirky. Like the small reptiles he stocks, owner Gary Johnson will occasionally munch on a cricket if a customer asks. In Riverwest, Glass Aquatics is vibrant and urban. The store specializes in aquariums and all manner of saltwater fish, though no doubt students from the nearby UW-Milwaukee dorms have wandered in, confused by the bright sign and disappointed to find clown fish and coral instead of blown glass and "tobacco accessories." And the Metropawlis pet boutique in the Third Ward is as unapologetically upscale as the district's human-focused boutiques. While condo dwellers enjoy scones and muffins at neighboring coffee shops, dogs will find fresh-baked snacks of their own here.
Of special interest to any pet owner who has had a difficult time finding the right food is The Natural Pet, a shop that specializes in healthy, high quality dog and cat foods, ranging from dry mixes devoid of corn fillers to raw and canned foods. A trip to Hoffer's Tropic Life Pets won't teach you as much about the animal digestive system, but will be nearly as fun as a visit to a small zoo. The store is filled with exotic animals, some of them display-only, like giant tortoises. Occasionally the store even welcomes tiny tiger cubs, allowing customers to get a picture taken with them.
Finally, we'll spare you the lecture about how many chain stores draw from puppy mills, but if you are looking to buy a dog, just know that the Wisconsin Humane Society is likely the most affordable (and most humane) option. They've got an ever-changing selection of dogs for every lifestyle.
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