Promoting a Healthy Environment for Pets and Humans
The Habitattitude education campaign raises awareness and aims to prevent release of pets into the wild.
As a pet care community professional, you always care about the well being of pets, not just when they’re in your custody, visiting your store or playing with the toys you manufacture. With your extensive knowledge about pets, current and prospective animal owners likely turn to you for advice on pet selection and care. In that role, you have a unique opportunity to provide guidance on making wise choices on responsible pet ownership in combination with environmental stewardship—which is what Habitattitude is all about.
Habitattitude is an innovative, non-regulatory education campaign designed to increase awareness of the risks posed by non-native species in the environment and to positively impact consumer attitudes and practices. A public-private collaboration between industry groups and government agencies, it is sponsored by the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Well-meaning pet owners that find they are unable to care for their animals sometimes make an uninformed, but well-intended, decision to release their pet to the outdoors—unaware of the potential impacts on native species and their habitats. These released former pets take their appetites and illnesses with them, and while most have not been harmful to the environment, the economy or human health and safety, some have caused harm to native species.
The Habitattitude campaign—with its centerpiece website Habitattitude.net—was recently re-launched during the Reduce Risks from Invasive Species Coalition’s agency fair on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., in June, after being updated for current environmental concerns and modern audiences from its original format that was rolled out over a decade ago.
Originally, Habitattitude focused on aquatic invasive species with the simple message: “Protect the environment. Don’t release fish and aquatic plants.” PIJAC and the responsible pet care community, along with the USFWS and the National Sea Grant College Program, initiated a national marketing campaign that successfully encouraged pet retailers to feature the Habitattitude logo on in-store signs, fish bags and boxes, and conservation agencies displayed posters at meetings and trade shows. The website provided resources and information on invasive species to aquarium hobbyists, pond owners, and backyard water gardeners.
Today, with their appetite for visually engaging media platforms, younger generations have entered the pet market. Invasive species headlines have also pivoted from fish such as Asian carp, piranha and snakeheads to reptiles including Burmese pythons, iguanas and Argentine tegus.
In view of these trends, with input from pet care community professionals, government agencies and invasive species experts, among others, we have revitalized the Habitattitude campaign. In its updated iteration, Habitattitude targets and educates the responsible animal lover before they bring home their new pet, since a thoughtfully-placed companion animal is far more likely to remain in its owner’s care throughout its life.
Providing Valuable Guidance
Habitattitude.net provides guidance for new pet owners to consider when choosing a pet and basic care requirements, along with information on aquarium fish and water gardening. The new site is a springboard for beginners to get basic knowledge before moving on to more detailed resources. There is a new section on reptiles and amphibians, which have become increasingly popular as pets with the expansion of captive breeding in the U.S. Information is provided on the variety of species available as well as on basic considerations for habitat, diet, humidity, lighting requirements and health concerns.
The value of companion animals in the classroom is well documented and inspired the pet care community’s successful Pets in the Classroom grant program. Another new component of Habitattitude addresses animals and plants in classroom education, and caring for them outside the home environment, in response to concerns about the potential for classroom pets to be released at the end of a school year.
The Habitattitude partner roster at its height included all segments of the aquarium trade, including producers, distributors, retailers, manufacturers, aquatic plant suppliers and dealers. They were joined by federal agencies, over a dozen states, and many trade associations to create a broad network and spread a common message. We at PIJAC are looking forward to rebuilding and expanding the partner network to help support our work on behalf of the pet care community to emphasize the importance of environmental stewardship to the next generation of pet owners.
As a pet business professional, we invite you, along with government agencies and NGOs, academic institutions and classroom teachers, to join us. It’s an important and valuable way to show your customers that you are committed to promoting responsible pet care and a healthy environment.
We encourage you to sign up on Habitattitude.net to become a partner, and download graphics, posters and other artwork that you can display in your store, at events, and on your website and social media. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. PB
Joshua Jones is PIJAC’s deputy directory, government affairs and staff liaison to the Herp Committee.