Uphill Battle

PIJAC has tackled thousands of bills in the first half of the year and will continue to fight battles of behalf of pet retailers.




Each year, thousands of bills cross our desks at PIJAC. We take action on hundreds of pieces of legislation through alliances, testimony, meetings and more.


The first half of 2018 has seen an explosion of proposals related to retail sales of pets and shelter oversight/transparency. Aquatic, grooming, invasive and exotic animal issues have remained at the forefront of our efforts, as well. Below is just a sample of the work we’ve done on your behalf.


Pet Access is Key to Your Business’ Success

The most important issue facing the responsible pet trade and millions of pet lovers nationwide is the growing number of bills banning the sales of certain breeder-sourced pets at pet stores. There is no healthy pet industry without healthy pets.


These bans malign ethical, regulated breeders who provide millions of dogs to Americans each year. They risk closing pet stores, which are America’s most regulated source of pets. And they reduce the public’s ability to obtain responsibly raised and acquired companion animals—which affects groomers, manufacturers, veterinarians and all other sectors of the trade. This isn’t just about dogs and cats; some activists have already pushed for sales bans on most types of companion animals—achieving success, for example, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Last month, Maryland became the second state in the country to enact such a ban. Unlike California’s law, pet stores may display other animals but are not allowed to participate in the sale of any cats and dogs.


We helped stop similar bills in Nebraska, Oregon and Virginia, but statewide bills are under consideration in New York, Rhode Island and other states. Thirty-five state and local variations have been introduced nationwide between January 1 and May 1 of this year. Just 13 bills were introduced in the same time period last year.


Many of these bills are in jurisdictions where there is no pet store, and 80 percent of enacted bills affect no stores or breeders. But they are being used to create a false impression of grassroots opposition to ethical breeding and to pet stores, which is leading to harmful statewide bans, the far more extensive ban in Cambridge, and other efforts that pose a serious risk to pet ownership and the continued growth of the trade.



Ensuring Equality in Transparency

Approximately one-third of America’s dogs and cats—America’s most popular pets—come from rescues and shelters each year. Yet they are rarely regulated, creating significant animal welfare and consumer protection concerns. Several states have worked with PIJAC and some members of the shelter community to improve oversight and transparency.


Equality in oversight, transparency and regulation of companion animal providers for the protection of all pets and pet owners is a long-time goal of PIJAC’s. Our arguments were bolstered by an April Washington Post investigative report which found nearly $2.7 million has been spent by 86 rescue and shelter groups to buy breeder-sourced dogs at auctions.


In light of the story, PIJAC has called upon the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state regulators to oversee rescues and shelters that purchase and sell dogs in an attempt to ensure transparency and animal well being. Consumer protections and animal welfare must be the priority for everyone who cares for companion animals.


Invasive Species

Invasive species cost Americans over $100 billion per year. PIJAC regularly partners with federal and state officials on preventing invasions—and this year, we are pleased to be working with lawmakers in Michigan on changing existing law so it can be more effective.


The Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act is supported by PIJAC and the Michigan-based trade because it swaps a blunt method of prevention for a more surgical and effective one. Specifically, the state’s “white list” of allowable species may soon be replaced with a “black list” of restricted species.


The difference between these two types of lists is critical. A “white list” identifies the species which may be imported into the state and assumes all others to be banned. Such lists are notoriously difficult to update and fail to consider that—even just considering fish—there are currently thousands of non-invasive species in trade in the state.


Conversely, a black list uses the best scientific data to determine if a species poses a legitimate invasive risk. Since so few species are potentially invasive given Michigan’s climate, this approach is a far better option.


PIJAC is proud to continue to be at the forefront of invasive species issues as they relate to companion animals. The public-education Habitattitude website—developed in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—is almost ready for a relaunch, and our first-time sponsorship of National Invasive Species Awareness Week in March made important connections with leaders in other sectors.


Ongoing Issues Mean We Need Your Support

It is literally impossible to include in one column everything which PIJAC does legislatively. Please be sure to visit our Legislative Action Center (cqrcengage.com/pijac/home) to see the breadth of what we are tackling on behalf of the trade. And as 2018 goes on, please consider becoming a member so that we can all do better at ensuring a successful future for pets, pet professionals, and pet owners. PB


Robert Likins is Vice President of Government Affairs for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC).


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