Coalitions to Take Lawmakers by Storm
The collaboration of pet business owners and their allies will lead to greater success in achieving legislative goals.
A theme in the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council’s (PIJAC) last two columns in Pet Business has been effectively connecting with lawmakers. In February, we described how businesses and animal welfare advocates work directly with PIJAC for legislative success. Sometimes we take the lead, sometimes we play a supporting role.
Last month, this column addressed lawmaker relationships 101—the benefits of working with lawmakers before an issue arises, what to do in a meeting and why it’s important to be proactive.
This column lays out possibilities for wider coalitions to improve chances of success with legislative and regulatory efforts. We at PIJAC rarely do our work without these important allies, and we strongly encourage you to consider all avenues of potential allies before, during and after lawmaker outreach takes place.
There are many organizations that can provide important support for your advocacy. PIJAC regularly works with sector-specific industry groups. Each of these organizations has the ability to support your efforts if you are in their sphere of influence. PIJAC is happy to make introductions if you are unfamiliar with the organizations that specifically advocate on your sector’s behalf.
But you shouldn’t just rely on friends in the industry. Chambers of Commerce and state retail associations frequently stand against attacks on pet care professionals, though most are more likely to get involved with issues directly affecting their own members. Environmental groups can be effective partners for invasive species legislation, free-market advocates can help put a halt to tax and fee increases, and animal activist groups share our interest in improving animal well being across the board, as was the case on a bill establishing greater oversight of shelters and rescues in Connecticut.
These are just a sampling of the many friends you could have—if you seek them out. I strongly recommend reaching out before an emergency arises so you are working with the most effective partners in the most efficient way.
Get the Facts
Effective advocacy balances facts and persuasion. Coalitions often provide persuasive power on the ground; but sometimes it’s facts from coalition partners—the hard, quantitative truths behind your persuasion—that do the most talking.
As an executive with a pet industry business, you know how to persuade with your community impact, how many employees you have and the taxes you pay. But there is other information that can multiply your persuasive potential.
For example, a 2015 Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) study conducted by George Mason University found that pet owners saved the U.S. healthcare system more than $11 billion by going to the doctor less. The study also found that people who walk their dog at least five times per week had fewer incidences of obesity.
Likewise, a 2017 PIJAC-commissioned study showed that providing for animal health and welfare is also good for the U.S. and each state’s economy. George Mason University’s economic impact analysis found that the responsible pet trade provided or supported 1.3 million jobs nationwide in 2015. Pet-loving Americans spent $2,400 per second on their companion animals in 2015.
Be sure to visit PIJAC’s website (pijac.org) for an infographic showing our study’s estimate of how the pet industry supports your state’s workers and economy, which you can share with your elected officials.
Our website also hosts voluntary standards of care and best management practices covering a wide range of subjects; they may strengthen your case as a credible and responsible caretaker of animals. For example, the groomer standards developed by the Professional Pet Groomers and Stylists Alliance (PPGSA) have had a powerful influence in guiding lawmakers in New York and Rhode Island to make sound public policy.
The last few months have seen a number of legislative and regulatory successes by the industry. PIJAC and Virginia-based stores were able to block a bad bill in the state legislature, and improve two other bills to the point that store owners and lawmakers agreed the standards were not unreasonable for any party.
Coalitions also proved effective in halting a proposed pet food fee increase in New Mexico. Governor Susana Martinez was already hesitant to sign the bill, but after the Pet Food Institute, PIJAC, New Mexico businesses and a New Mexico-based anti-tax group made our cases, she held to her campaign vow to never sign a tax increase.
Finally, in Hawaii it was a coalition that stopped Senate Bill 2003, which would have closed the aquarium fishing industry in Hawaii. Fishers, scientists and Hawaii-based industry representatives effectively communicated how harmful SB 2003 would be to workers and families, as well as aquarium fishing’s environmental sustainability. PIJAC ensured that the media and lawmakers knew these facts.
Legislative and regulatory success is never guaranteed. The best arguments, the best facts and the best coalitions can win or lose due to many factors beyond your control. But creating synergy between your business’ story and the strengths of coalition partners improves the odds of success. It will also pay long-term dividends by creating stronger relationships with lawmakers and coalition partners. PB
Mike Bober is president and CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC).