Shaping Our Own Destiny
While the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council was successful in improving the regulatory and business environment for the pet industry last year, there is much more work to be done in 2017.
The legislative cycle that ended in December 2016 was a busy one for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC). We monitored and tracked more than 1,700 individual pieces of pet industry-related legislation and actively engaged on hundreds of them. We fully expect that those numbers will only climb in 2017.
As the vice president of government affairs for PIJAC, I am proud that we were able to improve the regulatory and business environment for the pet industry’s thousands of pet shop owners, breeders and more.
Challenges and opportunities alike face our industry in 2017, which employs almost 1.5 million people and saw over $65 billion in economic activity last year. Here are a few issues that we anticipate working on during 2017.
Battling the Bans
Anti-pet activists are continuing their efforts to drastically restrict and, in some places, eliminate pet sales—often beginning with cats and dogs. Dozens of localities took this approach in 2016, even though a count by PIJAC found that approximately two-thirds of the localities affected had no pet stores to target.
Although these bans have traditionally targeted the sales of puppies and kittens, proponents continue to expand their agenda. A proposal currently under consideration in Cambridge, Mass., goes beyond cats and dogs to forbid the regulated, transparent sales of any pets but fish within the city. We are preparing for the introduction of similar bans on the sale of all pets to increase as activists become more confident that they can use these methods to successfully decrease pet ownership nationwide.
Conversely, we anticipate an improved relationship with federal regulatory officials as the new administration takes the reins of power and in all likelihood is less aggressive regarding regulatory burdens. Last year, we filed a formal letter with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and followed up with high-level discussions on comprehensively updating the 1966 Animal Welfare Act. PIJAC is looking forward to that and other work to improve our industry without harming legal and ethical business owners.
Equal protection for all pets is also on our horizon. Animal welfare legislation often makes life harder for pet stores while exempting shelters and rescues from humane treatment standards, even though pet stores are USDA-regulated and inspected. We look forward to working with the National Animal Interest Alliance and the responsible shelter community to ensure that all animals are provided equal protection regardless of whether the sign over the door says “rescue” or “pet store.”
We are also looking for ways to effectively protect pets from abusers. Most existing animal-abuse registries cost taxpayers tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars despite providing little to no public benefit. Additionally, abuse registries often put the safety of store employees and shelter volunteers at risk by requiring them to act in a law enforcement capacity.
We at PIJAC believe that the broader the jurisdiction, the more effective an animal abuse registry would be. While a state registry is far more likely to prevent past abusers from having access to animals than a local registry would be, our judgment is that a registry is best implemented by the federal government. The FBI has recently begun tracking animal abuse convictions and has the professional expertise, resources and reach to track abusers even if they change their address to a different jurisdiction or even state.
Finally, we at PIJAC have worked hard with industry partners to develop extremely rigorous industry grooming standards, and we look forward to implementing them widely in the coming year. We believe that these standards and others being developed by the industry represent the best possible approach to regulation, as they utilize the expertise of those within the industry, rather than relying on state appointees without relevant experience in the fields they seek to regulate.
Representing the industry and providing the best human-animal companion relationship takes everyone working together. PIJAC is proud to work with all segments of the pet trade and suggests taking the following actions:
First, get to know your state and local lawmakers. Let them know bans cost jobs and harm animals. Explain how well-intentioned regulations can have adverse impacts on the animals that you care for. Show off your business; make it 100 percent clear that your ethics and practices are legal, humane and completely the opposite of that which is claimed by industry opponents.
It is also important to get the public on your side. Use PIJAC as a resource for getting in touch with press outlets. We encourage anyone to request our assistance to speak for or against legislation, or to highlight to the public the benefits you bring to your community.
As we at PIJAC often say, “We don’t just care about animals, we care for them.”
PIJAC is also happy to assist with testimony preparation and to work with you to build coalitions with concerned pet owners, legislators and other business owners. In return, we ask that you let us know when you see harmful bills being introduced. Help us help you.
Lastly, join PIJAC. Plain and simply, we need more resources and more voices against the well-funded anti-pet industry that manipulates emotions, misrepresents facts and ignores the harm pet sale bans cause to small business owners and local economies.
As 2017 rolls on, the facts are in our favor. The pet industry provides tens of billions of dollars to the U.S. and world economies, with 95 percent of that industry directly dedicated to supporting pets. Approximately 1.5 million jobs exist thanks to the work the industry does locally, regionally and nationally, and tens of millions of Americans have us to thank for the loving human-animal relationship they have with their pets.
Robert Likins is the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) vice president of government affairs. Since 1970, PIJAC has protected pets, pet owners and the pet industry—promoting responsible pet ownership and animal welfare, fostering environmental stewardship and ensuring the availability of pets. PIJAC members include retailers, companion animal suppliers, manufacturers, wholesale distributors, manufacturers’ representatives, pet hobbyists and other trade organizations.