2017 Legislative Year in Review
The pet industry experienced both success and failure in fighting harmful legislation this year while building strong foundations for the future.
Over the last 12 months, the responsible pet trade has faced numerous legislative, regulatory and educational challenges. The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) has worked with the breadth of the industry on all of these issues in our role as your advocacy voice. Here is just a smattering of the most important updates from 2017:
Pet Sale Bans
The most disappointing development this year was passage of the nation’s first statewide pet sale ban. Cats, dogs and rabbits at pet stores may no longer be sourced from breeders in California. PIJAC, stores and breeders in California, as well as industry allies across the country, fought hard against the bill.
In addition, 40 pet sale bans passed at the local level this year, while two were rejected—as were two at the state level, in Connecticut and Virginia. Approximately 80 percent of all pet sale bans are in jurisdictions without pet stores.
All of these pet sale bans are based upon the false premise that pet stores source from unethical breeders. The most extensive ban was made law in Cambridge, Mass. Conversely, a restrictive bill that bordered on being a pet sale ban was conditionally vetoed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
As Pet Business readers know, pet stores are the most regulated providers of companion animals. Conversely, shelters and rescues are often under-regulated. Lawmakers in Connecticut, New York and Louisiana took steps to correct this in 2017. In Connecticut, shelters must be licensed and inspected; Louisiana now requires annual training for shelter inspectors; and the New York measure combined an exemption for rescues and shelters from the definition of “pet dealer” even as shelters were required to conduct record keeping and disposition reports.
Small Animal Care Standards
As part of our effort to work with industry leaders on best practices, PIJAC and small animal care experts launched Small Animal Care voluntary standards. Like the groomer standards that we helped develop in 2015, these breeder and distributor-specific measures will help the industry provide excellent care. The standards are relevant for birds, reptiles and small mammals.
The committee engaged in a rigorous, science-based and substantive effort that took a full year to complete. The standards are based upon Animal Welfare Act regulations, veterinary input and the best practices of industry leaders. They address animal housing, biosecurity, sanitation, health, escape, transport and shipping protocols, as well as an employee duty of care sheet, and more—all important areas of animal welfare. Record-keeping for facilities and animals are also included.
Perhaps the most consequential federal issue was the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to pull breeder identity information off of its website. This caused significant consternation and disagreement within the industry, as some saw the information as a violation of privacy rights for breeders and others saw the information as critical to a transparent industry.
Several industry-backed bills were in action on Capitol Hill. Two federal bills designed to help veterans and domestic violence survivors, respectively, were introduced and have both bipartisan and bicameral support. PIJAC also facilitated industry support for the HOT CARS Act, which would help pet owners avoid the horror of a pet injured or killed due to being left in a hot car. We are optimistic that this Act, which is part of separate House and Senate bills, will become law in the near future.
Exotic Animal Bans
Local advocates and experts in Arlington County and Richmond, Va., Pitt County, N.C., and Washoe County, Nev., led the way in the effort to stop onerous exotic animal bans. The Arlington County Board originally declared hedgehogs, sugar gliders and larger non-venomous snakes to be unfit companion animals. Thankfully, the Board changed its position after communicating with advocates and PIJAC.
Likewise, as of this writing, Richmond appears to be correcting issues with its draft ordinance.
Washoe County put its debate on hold, while Pitt County is just beginning its discussions on what animals should be allowed as household companion animals.
PIJAC was exceedingly proud to see the industry, scientists, and regulators come together to convince Hawaii’s governor to veto an effective ban on ornamental fishing. Regretfully, the veto was made moot in a state Supreme Court lawsuit that effectively banned ornamental fishing in the state.
PIJAC has been heavily involved in this process. This is PIJAC’s largest and most expensive effort in 2017, as it is likely to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to challenge the court’s decision and fund the development of an environmental impact study.
Overall, 2017 was a tough but successful year for the industry’s legislative and regulatory goals. PIJAC continues to uphold our mission statement to promote responsible pet ownership and animal welfare, foster environmental stewardship and ensure the availability of pets. We look forward to working even more closely with the entire responsible pet trade in 2018. PB