The Power of Coalitions
It is only by working together as a unified voice that the pet industry can successfully battle against dangerous legislative and regulatory actions like pet sale bans.
All across the country, the responsible pet industry is showing the power of pets. In our role as the industry’s legislative and advocacy voice, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) is working with businesses, researchers and others to show legislators, regulators and the general public that we care for pets as much as we care about them.
The responsible pet industry has commissioned two studies in the last 18 months that show how our industry is good for pets and people. A 2015 Human Animal Bond Research Initiative Foundation study by George Mason University found that pet owners saved the U.S. healthcare system more than $11 billion by going to the doctor less and, for those who walk their dog at least five times per week, fewer incidences of obesity. This is a conservative estimate, as the study examined just some of the many known and potential benefits of pet ownership.
A more recent George Mason University study shows that getting pets into loving homes is also good for business. The responsible pet industry provided or supported 1.3 million jobs nationwide in 2015, with an industry-wide average salary of more than $46,000 per worker. Pet-loving Americans spent $2,400 per second on their companion animals in 2015.
Clearly, getting pets to loving homes is good for people of all stripes.PIJAC and the rest of the industry are making sure the public knows these important facts, and we rely heavily on our state-based alliances for success. For example, were it not for a coalition of small businesses in Virginia, the industry would have been undermined by SB 852 and SB 1204. SB 852 would have targeted responsible businesses and empowered unethical ones, but thanks to independent retailers, legislators realized what they were about to do. SB 852 was changed to empower responsible pet retail and breeding and, as of this writing, awaits Governor Terry McAuliffe’s signature.
Conversely, SB 1204 would have encouraged localities to pass pet sale bans even while creating a regulatory structure that all but eliminated a pet store’s ability to source dogs from shelters. The state’s small businesses and PIJAC worked together to convince legislators to kill the bill.
Letting the Coalitions Lead
PIJAC’s goal is to create the best regulatory and legislative environment for improving the bond between people and companion animals. This is best accomplished through pet choice and, thus, through responsible breeding and retailers in alliance with vets, groomers, manufacturers and others.
PIJAC sometimes takes the lead in a legislative battle. We recognize, however, that being in coalitions does not always mean leading them. We were happy to play a supporting role in Virginia. Likewise, it was Hawaii’s fishing coalition that has led efforts to protect the trade from SB 1240. This was a bill that would have ended the aquarium fishing industry in the state. While there is much work to do, SB 1240 was modified in such a way that it should result in future legislation being driven more by good science, and less by emotion.
Our role in Hawaii was to provide support to local efforts. We raised awareness of SB 1240 and its sister bill in the House and provided talking points to state-based advocates. We also organized meetings with concerned businesses, ensuring that everyone was working together as efficiently as possible.
Create Your Own Coalition
Again, as the national legislative and regulatory voice for the responsible pet industry, PIJAC is ready and willing to assist in any way that we can. However, we can’t be everywhere. Be sure to connect and develop your own local and state networks. Support each other when under attack by animal rights activists. Invite legislators and regulators to your stores to show how you hold to high standards of care and transparency. Hold events where the public and the press can see just how much you care about getting pets to the best home possible.
The pet industry is armed and ready. Please join us in fighting for pet choice across the country.
Mike Bober is the president and CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.