Time to Make a Difference

The entire pet industry must unify in order to successfully repel ongoing attacks by radical activists on pet owners’ freedom of choice.



Here we are at the start of a brand new year. No matter what you thought of the election and the year-end craziness, 2016 was quite an experience for all of us. Between the discussions on the validity of global warming, the number of ugly incidents attributed to either racial unrest, terrorism or radicals and the overall uneasiness we all faced, it is good that 2016 is now behind us.

Thankfully, there is reason to be hopeful as we head into 2017, particularly for our industry. We happen to be in a business that not only continues to thrive but actually found more strength in 2016. All of the uncertainty has caused people to look even more to their pets for comfort and solace. As so many studies—some funded by the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI)—point out with increasing regularity, there are many health benefits humans can get from being pet owners. 

Think about it. If you have a political conversation with your fish or lizard, they never disagree. They never criticize your thinking. It gives you the comfort of venting without objection. After a really bad day at the office or school or fighting with the kids, an evening spent with your dog or cat just makes you feel better. It lowers your blood pressure and makes you realize you can face tomorrow with a new resolve.

So, even in the tough times, our pets are a rallying point. We, as an industry, benefit from that. Yet, we have been falling into the trap of complacency that so many before us have fallen into. Take the plastics industry, for example. They ignored the public relations nightmare and threat of plastic bans that arose when the public began questioning their impact on the environment. As a result, the industry ended up spending almost $100 million to get back on its feet.

The pet industry has stood on the precipice of doing the same thing. Over the past three years, there have been increasing negative efforts aimed at limiting—or, in some cases, eliminating—the public’s ability to choose the pet of their liking. And while some industry members undertook limited efforts at fighting individual attacks, it was kind of like playing whack-a-mole with a defective stick. These efforts, in so many cases, were either completely ineffective or had a very limited amount of success in delaying the worst. In essence, a lack of unity in our industry only served to support the idea that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and hoping for a different result.

Over the past year, though, the industry has taken giant steps to distinguish itself from the plastics (and similar) industries. A strong group of involved companies and organizations representing all segments of the pet industry have thoughtfully come together, evaluated the threats facing the entire industry and taken positive steps at turning things around. The Pet Leadership Council has been working with legislators, regulators and, most importantly, the public. Voter opinion has a huge impact on the government officials who make the rules. Now that the industry has begun to proactively use facts and legitimate data to make their points and refute much of what radical activists continue to spew, it is having the effect we are hoping for.

But this is only the beginning. To be truly effective, we need even more support. Now is not the time to stand on the sidelines and watch the rest of the industry try to turn the tide. We need people from all areas within our industry to step up and help, whether it’s with financial contributions, outreach efforts or other support. We cannot continue to make a meaningful difference without you. There has never been a more important time to step up, and we’re counting on your support to help us in our efforts to ensure the longevity, vitality and continued growth of the pet industry.

Bob Vetere is president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association (APPA) and chairman of the Pet Leadership Council. Do you have questions about how to get involved? Contact Vetere (bvetere@americanpetproducts.org) or other members of the Pet Leadership Council, or visit petleadershipcouncil.org.


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