Building a Strong Foundation for Success
Public education and improved care are two keys to the continued health of a vibrant and diverse pet industry.
Each day, thousands of pet professionals do their part so that healthy pets thrive in loving homes. At the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), our job is to help you continue to do that through the promotion of sound pet and customer-related public policies. We often do that through allies inside and outside the responsible pet trade, including businesses like yours.
Throughout 2018, this column’s space will outline strategies and tactics for media, alliances and more, so everyone who cares for pets can be an effective part of the legislative process. This month, I’m proud to outline what PIJAC and other industry groups have done to create a strong foundation of care for animals, and education for the public and lawmakers.
Pet Professionals’ Animal Care
Last summer, PIJAC’s Small Animal Care Committee—made up of 24 diverse pet care professionals—released the first-ever voluntary standards of care for small mammal, bird and reptile breeders and distributors. By the time this column is in print, we expect to have sent the standards to dozens of professionals across the country, including some of the nation’s biggest players in this sector. Check out more on our website (pijac.org).
The standards were developed through a rigorous, science-based, substantive process to ensure the health and wellbeing of small companion animals. They 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.
For dog breeders, the Canine Care Certified standards, developed in 2013 by researchers at Purdue University, are gaining attention. The Center for Canine Welfare is currently working with numerous breeders who are implementing the science-based standards to ensure the highest level of care for dogs. The non-profit organization has also engaged with pet stores to promote the program among consumers, raising awareness and creating demand for dogs raised under the program. The standards address the physical and behavioral welfare of dogs in areas such as nutrition, veterinary care, housing, handling and exercise. See more and register at caninecarecertified.org.
Finally, PIJAC recently published a Zoonotic Disease Prevention Series for retailers. The series was created by zoonosis experts, including PIJAC science advisor Scott Hardin. It includes descriptions of a dozen of the most commonly seen zoonotic illnesses, with details on routes of transmission from animals to humans, symptoms of disease, treatments and other important issues.
Public-facing pet industry businesses like retailers, breeders, groomers and veterinarians have a tremendous ability to influence how average Americans access and care for pets—and how Americans view pet care professionals.
One major challenge is the media’s tendency to misinterpret and misrepresent information about the health risks of turtles, snakes and other pets. To combat this, PIJAC is working with officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to most accurately provide information to the public when outbreaks occur. These new efforts will bolster PIJAC’s Health Alerts to members during outbreaks and hopefully impact how the media informs the public.
In addition to correcting public perception of pets, the industry must also refute activist portrayals of our practices and principles. Here are two things PIJAC has done:
First, while our industry is mostly small businesses, we support or create 1.3 million jobs and pay over $22 billion in taxes, according to a study commissioned by PIJAC and published in February. When critics say you’re part of “Big Pet” or that you’re hurting the local community, you can remind them that their community is supported by the jobs and taxes of hard-working, independent small business entrepreneurs. Lawmakers may also find the study useful, as they are often unaware of the national implications of overregulation.
Second, a report published by the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association (OATA) was adapted by PIJAC and the Pet Leadership Council (PLC) earlier this year to reflect the American aquatics trade. The American booklet highlights key information about the ornamental fishing trade, its responsible practice, and its positive impact on the environment and indigenous communities. For example, fish in captivity often live longer than their free-swimming counterparts. Additionally, ornamental fishing is often the primary source of income for people who would otherwise be driven to more destructive practices for sustenance.
How Can We Help?
The responsible pet trade puts people and pets before profits. Everyone reading this column knows that; the question is how to get that truth to customers, the public, lawmakers and activists. Please contact PIJAC for more information and access to best management practices, care sheets and more for you and your customers. Likewise, we’re happy to provide our expertise on how to get your story of professional pet care to lawmakers, regulators, activists and customers. PB
Mike Bober is president of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC).