Hidden Gold Mine

Ed Sayres and PIJAC's government affairs team summarize the powerful, but sometimes overlooked, legislative resources available to its members.


It is no surprise that the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) is known for its regulatory and legislative efforts. Our staff works year-round to track and impact proposals at all levels of government that could affect retailers’ bottom line. When I started working at PIJAC almost a year ago, I wasn’t aware of the concentration of legislative resources that were available on our website—and I suspect many members are not aware, either.

I decided this month’s column should take a closer look under the hood of the well-oiled, legislative machine of PIJAC’s Legislative Action Center. So I sat down with our government affairs team—Mike Bober, Bob Likins and Jeff Plummer—to have them talk about the resources that we have to offer you.

How does PIJAC staff communicate information about proposed regulations and legislation with our members?

We use several tracking programs to monitor legislative and regulatory activity at the federal, state and local levels. When we receive a notification that something has been introduced, we assess its potential impact using criteria including the scope of the proposal, its broader implications for the continued availability of companion animals, the likelihood that it will be acted upon and the political landscape. We then draft Issue Updates to inform our members of proposals worth watching and PetAlerts when urgent action is needed.

When it comes to PetAlerts and Issue Updates, not all PIJAC members receive all PIJAC communications, right?

That’s right. PetAlerts and Issue Updates are sent to members in the jurisdictions and business sectors affected by the proposed legislation. There are two reasons for this. The first is to ensure that lawmakers are primarily receiving communications from their constituents—they have the greatest impact and likelihood of receiving attention. The second is to be respectful of our members—we don’t want our PetAlerts to fall victim to fatigue (or spam filters) because we’re asking too often.

Can you give an example of how our Pet Alerts work and how our Issue Updates are sent out?

Hawaii is actually a perfect example of how we try very hard to target our alerts to those who would be affected by, or those who can have an impact on, proposed legislation.

February 2015 began with three different bills being proposed in Hawaii to essentially ban the aquarium trade in the state. We issued a broadly targeted alert to assist anyone concerned in communicating with members of Hawaii’s legislature. Our alert was responsible for 1,783 letters being sent to the committee considering the legislation.

On February 13, we sent an alert out regarding a proposed ban on fishing for the aquarium trade in Hawaii County, Hawaii. Local businesses that we were working with advised us that the county commission not only had no interest in what outsiders thought, they might actually be counterproductive. Based on their guidance, we sent an alert out to notify 26 individuals who lived or did substantial business in Hawaii County. This narrowly focused approach resulted in voicing opposition for the proposal without creating the impression that the opposition was being driven by mainlanders.

Just a couple of weeks later, on February 25, we sent out another alert on Hawaii. In this case, the state legislature was considering the single surviving piece of adverse legislation at the state level. Based once again on extensive work with local businesses, we sent out an alert to 243 contacts that would be impacted by the legislation and focused on aiding in submitting testimony. This alert resulted in an additional 69 submissions of testimony opposing the legislation.

It’s also worth noting that not all PIJAC alerts are legislative. Our recent alerts on canine influenza and salmonella in geckos were far ahead of other outlets and allowed our members and the industry to prepare before facing an outbreak.

The Government Affairs section of our website includes several pages aimed at people who want to take action without waiting to be contacted. For example, the Legislative Map tab of the Government Affairs page sorts all Issue Updates and all critical legislation tracked by PIJAC—both active and inactive/enacted—by state. So, when I click on a state that I’m interested in, the information will be readily available?

Exactly. And it’s not just a good resource for taking action on current threats. The Legislative Action Center is a great resource for keeping abreast of legislative and regulatory trends. Very little of the legislation that targets the pet trade is organic. For the most part, the legislation being proposed around the country is being promoted by a few very well-funded national animal-rights organizations and then embraced by local activists. Since this is the case, the Legislative Action Center information should probably be considered a good place to get information on legislation “coming soon to a town near you.”

The Aquatic Issues tab of the Government Affairs section is a clearinghouse for information about PIJAC’s Aquatics Committee. It hosts current legislation and regulations threatening the aquatics industry, FAQ’s, news and updates that are relevant to collectors, breeders, retailers and hobbyists. The Aquatics Committee regularly provides new content and  refreshes the resources, right?

The Aquatics Committee, perhaps more than any other PIJAC committee, does a fantastic job of consolidating and conveying emerging information about the aquarium trade and aquatics generally. While PIJAC members represent all aspects of the pet trade, the Aquatics Committee enjoys substantial input and participation from scientists, academics and hobbyists outside the industry. This participation gives PIJAC access to cutting-edge information relevant to the trade and hobbyists alike. It’s a tremendous resource in terms of both information and activism.

The Legislative Defense Fund (LDF) Donation tab of the Government Affairs page is a safe, easy way to contribute funds to PIJAC’s efforts. How are contributions to the fund used?

PIJAC is a member-supported organization, but our nationwide efforts benefit the entire pet trade. Contributions to the LDF help us to make your voice heard when and where it is needed – whether that’s to educate state legislators on the importance of pet choice or to provide scientific data to counter misinformation used by federal agencies to justify new regulations. Your support of the LDF directly translates to additional advocacy for the entirety of the responsible pet trade.

Ed Sayres is president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.–based Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.

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