500-Plus Reasons to Get Involved
PIJAC’s Mike Bober explains why 2016 should be the year that everyone in the pet market gets involved in shaping the industry’s collective impact on pet-related policy.
As we walk the show floor here at Global Pet Expo, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the hundreds of exhibitors, each offering a unique combination of products, price points and show-only specials. Long-standing brands, present year after year, intermingle with a few newcomers we’ve never seen before and familiar faces suddenly show up in new places. We rely on a combination of experience and tools to help us map out a strategy that maximizes our time and effort here in Orlando.
Now imagine each of those exhibitors represents an active bill, proposed rule or ordinance. This is the legislative and regulatory environment that your pet industry government affairs team at the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) navigates every day. There are currently more than 500 individual items we are monitoring, the subject matter of which could impact our day-to-day businesses.
Some of them are positive. Efforts are underway to repeal a sales tax on pet services in Rhode Island. Lawmakers in Washington and Missouri are considering statewide prohibitions on breed-specific dog bans. And New Jersey is looking to make it a specific, third-degree crime to “deal in stolen domestic animals.”
Others are decidedly negative. New fees on pet food have been proposed in West Virginia. New Jersey and New York are considering groomer licensing regimes. And jurisdictions large and small continue to lump snakes and other reptiles in with “exotic” animals to restrict their ownership.
While most of the legislation that affects the pet industry is motivated by a desire to improve either the well-being of companion animals or the protections offered to pet owners, it is often based on either emotion or misinformation. For this reason, much of PIJAC’s day-to-day effort is dedicated to educating lawmakers and their staffs about the pet industry and everything we do to promote and improve the human-animal bond. We use studies funded by the Human-Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) and data gathered by the National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA), and issue surveys conducted by the Pet Leadership Council (PLC) and its members to demonstrate that we in the pet industry don’t just care about animals, we care for them on a daily basis.
This kind of communication and cooperation is hardly new, but it is becoming increasingly necessary. We need to make better use of the resources we have to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to achieve our policy goals. And there’s an additional element needed for success: your participation.
Lawmakers and regulators appreciate the insights and expertise provided by national organizations, but they are ultimately responsible to their own constituents. Local voices carry weight, and greater numbers of local voices carry greater weight. This is why we are constantly encouraging you as individuals and organizations to get to know your own representatives at all levels of government.
According to the 2015-2016 American Pet Products Association (APPA) National Pet Owners Survey, spending on the pet industry—inclusive of everything from product and food manufacturers to breeders, retailers and service providers—was estimated to be more than $60 billion in 2015. There are more than 1,000 exhibitors in attendance at this show, and there are likely to be several times that many buyers. These are huge numbers that we need to activate to tell our story.
Not every regulation or piece of legislation is going to affect you and your company directly, no matter how big you are. But as an industry, we are all subject to indirect effects—both positive and negative—of laws on our ability to connect prospective pet owners with their ideal companion animals. Simply put, without healthy pets, there is no healthy pet industry.
By looking at the big picture—the industry’s role as a partner in education and responsible pet ownership—it becomes possible to see the interconnections that exist between a pet sale ban in Tempe, Ariz., a campaign in support of responsible aquaculture, a response to an international zoonotic outbreak and a program to bring pets into the classroom. It also becomes possible to see ways in which we can take control of the narrative and tell our story, rather than waiting for attacks to come. And then it becomes obvious that none of us can do this alone, and none of us can afford to sit back and let others do it for us.
Let’s make 2016 the year in which each member of the responsible pet industry takes a step toward greater involvement in shaping the way we interact with all levels of government. We at PIJAC stand ready to make connections and keep you informed. Thank you in advance for your support.
Mike Bober is the president and CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.