2019 Brought Both Challenges and Opportunities
A roundup of legislative and other highlights for the pet care community.
The start of a new legislative session is always a busy time for the team at the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), bringing a flood of new and re-introduced bills, and 2019 was no exception. I predicted in my column in the February issue that this year would be even busier—and more challenging—with increases in the number of bills introduced impacting animal care, pet owners and pet industry professionals, and I was not wrong.
At the time of publication, PIJAC had identified and tracked over 1,095 pet care-related bills from January to mid-November, an 11 percent increase over the same time period in the previous legislative session (2017-2018). We fully expect that number to surpass 2,000 by the end of 2020.
In our role as the advocacy voice for the responsible pet care community, PIJAC’s primary focus is to advance and protect the community’s legislative and regulatory priorities with lawmakers. This year, we continued our work to educate elected officials on the consequences of some of the most pervasive types of legislation we encounter, including pet sale bans that do nothing to stop the bad actors who mistreat animals.
I count among our most notable achievements for the year our work to help prevent the advancement of much of the most injurious legislation that was introduced. We also initiated constructive and positive conversations on alternative legislative approaches that prioritize the well being of all animals, regardless of source. While lawmakers still frequently accept activists’ claims as gospel, some are starting to recognize that California’s pet sales ban that went into effect on Jan. 1 had unintended consequences, and they’re not eager to have those negative impacts mirrored in their own states.
Another significant achievement was our cooperative yearlong effort across the pet care, veterinary and health care communities to develop and implement best practices regarding the responsible use of antibiotics in pets. At the Global Pet Expo in March, PIJAC introduced a comprehensive resource aimed at combatting antimicrobial resistance in the pet care trade, “Recommendations for Antibiotic Stewardship in Companion Animals.”
These recommendations convey a unified set of principles for all sectors of the pet care community, encompassing expert advice and best management practices for use of antibiotics, sanitation, hygiene, veterinary oversight and zoonotic disease prevention, among other topics. PIJAC has served as the pet industry’s liaison on public health issues and zoonotic disease prevention for over a decade through our memorandum of understanding with the CDC, and we were proud to develop this resource as yet another demonstration of the pet care community’s commitment to promoting the health and well being of both animals and humans.
In June, we rolled out another educational resource aimed at improving the well being of companion animals and the people who keep them. Along with co-sponsors the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, we re-launched the Habitattitude educational campaign during the Reduce Risks from Invasive Species Coalition’s agency fair on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
This non-regulatory collaboration between industry groups and government agencies was designed to increase awareness of the risks posed by non-native species in the environment and to positively impact consumer attitudes and practices. The centerpiece of the campaign is the Habitattitude.net website, which provides information on a variety of pet species to help educate prospective pet owners earlier in their search so they make wise choices before they bring a new pet home, thus increasing the likelihood they will have a successful lifelong relationship with their perfect pet.
Looking forward into 2020 and beyond, we anticipate an escalation of opposition efforts to get statewide legislation implemented that complicates, or worse, prohibits, the ability of responsible, educated prospective pet owners to find their ideal companions. As the people who provide the pets, products and services that make it possible for approximately two-thirds of American households to enjoy the positive effects of the human-animal bond, we should all be actively engaged in working with lawmakers to find better solutions to issues of animal care.
To that end, we urge you to help us represent the pet care community accurately and show lawmakers and the public that the pets we bring into their lives are healthy and well-cared for. Meet with your elected officials and their staff, and explain to them that your business is all about pet care and that you are committed to animal health and well being. The facts, figures, anecdotes and examples that PIJAC brings to lawmakers are great, but it takes a personal, local connection to drive the message home.
Please join PIJAC today at pijac.org/join to stay informed and add your support as we work to address the issues that affect the entire responsible pet care community. PB
Mike Bober is the president and CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.