Honestly when buying from a petshop, I think it just depends on the shop. My little brother just got hired at a Pet Culture, and during his interview he asked if they got to play with their ferrets during their downtime, and the manager laughed and said they took them out at least 2-3times a day - either in a large playpen or to run around on harnesses in the store. They display their ferrets in a Ferret Nation cage. (And usually keep them in pairs.)
The Mr. Pets my mom shops at also keeps their ferrets in pairs - and feeds their ferrets Orijen kibble rather than Marshalls. She nearly bought a friend for Rolo because she was buying cat food one day, and they had an adorable dark sable boy running around on a harness because "he was lonely so we wanted to play with him." (They had recently sold his partner.)
There are plenty of stores that treat their animals very well - so of course report abuse cases, as you would for ANY animal in the care of ANYONE - a store, shelter, private owner etc. but really the question is if you're ok with supporting Marshalls or not. As others have said, their revenue from pet sales is a small fraction of their income, and they will still keep breeding for labs. I guess you'd have to decide whether you'd rather not support Marshalls and simply not own ferrets (the shelters would empty, and there are no private breeders in Canada).
The concession that I personally make, is knowing that they make billions in pet supply revenue (yes they make money not from ferret sales but ferret-SUPPLY sales), I choose not to purchase litter boxes, cages, food, carriers, blankets, toys, ANYTHING made by marshalls.
After all, the ferret is a one-time purchase... but purchasing toys and supplies is FAR more costly over that ferrets' lifetime and that is where they make the money. (Besides the lab sales.)
After reading all this i feel i should chime in. I agree a lot of pet stores do not take care of their animals in a way that we like, but there are a lot that do and to lump them all in as bad is very wrong. Its fine if you choose not to buy a animal from a pet store my only concern is what happens to that animal sitting in a pet store that isnt sold. Is it ok that he suffers and could possibly die from lack of care, does he get dumped off somewhere when he doesnt sell. Just some food for thought. Also i have seen quite a few so called small time breeders not take very good care of their animals and that are in it for the money, sure they put a good fron up trying to show how they are only in it for the animal and they have such healthy animals so thats why they charge more, yet behind the scenes they are no better. Personally my first 2 Ferrets i got after not having any for almost 20 years are rescues from a person that could no longer care for them. From what i understand they havent even seen a vet in 4 years. will i get more ferrets yes, will i rescure sure, will i buy from a pet store maybe. well i have sai what i needed to on this
I got Min from a reptile and bird store. We fell in love immediately, she was a purchase we only took an hour or two to decide on, but we had always wanted ferrets. We were told she was Path Valley, and when I looked them up it seemed like a pretty good option with their pet only policy. We ordered Asuna from the same store, they were the only place we knew to get ferrets at the time. In hindsight he is not the best store owner. Sure he played with the ferrets to make sure they were sociable, and I actually can't remember what cat food he fed, but he also sold Min to us on the impulse, and both of them were under 3 months when we got them. I know getting Min was pretty reckless, but it felt extremely right and I certainly don't regret it, she's the reason we have ferrets now instead of some point in the future.
Reshi and Lily came from a PJs that stocks Real Canadian. These were more of an active choice and I'll tell you my reasons, though I feel they may be an unpopular opinion themselves. 1) I still wanted younger ferrets. Between relatively matching the age of Min and Asuna and not having experience with an adult, I felt way more comfortable finding a baby. I needed to know how to raise one "from scratch" before attempting to retrain an older ferret. 2) We did not spend a year searching for Reshi, but it was about two months. We were looking everywhere and none seemed to suit us, even in rescue. That is until our friend posted a picture of baby Reshi with a few others and we went to check him out. 3) The guy in charge of them is amazing for them. He really knows his stuff and actively spends most of his time discouraging people from buying ferrets until they understand all the responsibility. 4) Since getting Reshi worked out really well, we went back for Lily. She was a bit older at 4 1/2 months, I guess everyone else thought she was too crazy!
I can say now that I would go for a rescue, I feel I could handle it now. I look all the time at kijiji and it breaks my heart that these poor things are looking for homes and I can't provide it right now. But I think with proper attention raised against any mistreatment by breeders or pet stores we wouldn't have to worry so much. There are just reasons on both sides. If you can, get a rescue, if not, the least evil is not a bad option. As others have said the are living creatures that exist in this world and boycotting them does not help their lives. It's like the animal activist who recently protested the production of mink pelts by releasing 1500 nursing females from their farm on a cold weekend. How does that help anything? Go to the source, get the bad practices banned, don't discredit the lives that exist.
I'm sorry that was really long, it's something I've thought about for a while in the process of getting the last two.