Giving David a Bigger Slingshot

The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, which has defended the pet trade from attacks by animal-rights activists for more than 40 years, is getting some much-needed support from a new partnership.


One of the most important functions of any industry trade group is to represent that industry’s interests before lawmakers and regulators. Many industries have entire buildings in Washington, D.C., filled with lobbyists who spend their days on Capitol Hill and their nights at local watering holes rubbing elbows with Congressional staffers. It’s not exactly House of Cards, but industry advocacy plays an important, if often invisible, supporting role for most businesses.

Then there is the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC). For more than 40 years, the PIJAC has labored on behalf of the pet industry with a small staff in cramped quarters, blocks from the K Street corridors of power. Yet they have consistently punched above their weight class as they have fought opponents that have virtually unlimited funds  and are determined to shut down the pet trade. Efforts to prohibit the sale of birds, fish, turtles, snakes and, most recently, dogs and cats have been defeated thanks to PIJAC’s ability to present science-based facts to counter the emotion-laden claims of animal-rights activists.

Yet, due to PIJAC’s limited resources, the industry has always found itself on the defensive, reacting to harmful legislation that has been crafted by the anti-pet lobby and introduced by uninformed legislators. As a result, the very industry whose products make American pets the most pampered in the world is perceived by a portion of the public as irresponsible and untrustworthy.

The pet industry’s ability to shape the conversation has just taken a major step forward, however. PIJAC and the Pet Leadership Council (PLC) have agreed to partner on a new initiative intended to unify the industry’s voice in the government and public arenas. The PLC is a coalition of industry stakeholders—including manufacturers, distributors, retailers, veterinarians, breeders and trade organizations—that agree it is wise to collaborate on issues of importance that affect the pet industry. The PLC mission is to advocate for pet parent consumers and act as a strong voice for the industry on matters that inherently affect us all.

The practical effect of this partnership is twofold:

• PIJAC will have a reliable, sustainable and scalable source of funding. This will allow PIJAC staff to focus on mission-essential government affairs work, resulting in a more efficient use of contributions.

• The pet industry’s message to consumers, legislators and others interested in the welfare of animals will be unified and strengthened.

Without the sale of a healthy pet, there is no healthy pet trade. Safeguarding our ability to be successful businesses and safeguarding animals are one and the same. You will hear a lot more about this essential partnership in the weeks and months ahead. Details on how you can continue to support PIJAC’s activities through contributions to dedicated funds established to address specific areas of concern will be forthcoming.

The pet industry is approaching $60 billion in annual sales. It is time that our voice matched our economic impact. The PLC-PIJAC partnership will help do just that.

Steve King is a 30-year pet industry veteran who is president of the Pet Industry Distributors Association and executive director of the Pet Care Trust.

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