Cooperation in Action

The ongoing partnership between the Pet Industry Distributors Association and American Pet Products Association is proving that, when working together, various elements of the pet industry can accomplish great things.


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Anyone who has been involved in the pet industry for more than a few minutes knows there is a veritable alphabet soup of association acronyms out there; PIJAC, PIDA, APPA, WPA, HABRI, FTFFA, PFI—the list is almost endless. The reason for so many disparate groups is, in some cases, a matter of historical accident, regional alliances and functional groupings.  

Whether this is good, bad or indifferent isn’t the point. What is far more important is whether these groups, their members and the industry at large work together to solve some of the pressing issues that confront us.

More than a decade ago, the American Pet Products Association (APPA) and the Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA) confronted the issue of having too many industry trade shows on the calendar. Redundant shows were sapping members’ time and money, and delivering diminishing returns. The groups combined their shows to create the Global Pet Expo, which has grown to become the largest annual pet industry trade show in the world. The 2015 show, slated for this month in Orlando, Fla., will have 1,000 more booths than the first show in 2005, and twice the attendance.

PIDA and APPA are joining forces once again to co-sponsor the First Annual Pet Industry Management Conference, to take place next January in Tucson, Ariz. The meeting will combine the best elements of the PIDA Management Conference—which has existed as a stand-alone event for 47 years—with the scope and size of APPA. In addition to world-class speakers and one-on-one executive conferences, the meeting will also feature a tabletop trade show, where suppliers to manufacturers and distributors—such as packaging companies, truck leasing companies, software providers and others—can meet with members.

This is truly cooperation in action.

Unfortunately, the pet industry doesn’t always work in concert when faced with a looming threat, and this lack of cooperation—or sometimes even basic agreement—could have far reaching implications. The current effort to ban the sale of puppies and kittens in pet stores is a good example of how a lack of consensus within the industry is giving those who would just as soon see the industry disappear the upper hand.

The argument for banning puppy sales in pet stores is that all such animals come from puppy mills that raise these animals in inhumane conditions. Deny them a sales outlet, the argument goes, and puppy mills will go away. As a bonus, all these excess animals will disappear, people will have to adopt from shelters, and no animal will ever be euthanized again.

The problem with this rosy scenario is that it is based on several false assumptions, the first of which is that pet store puppies all come from “puppy mills.” This pejorative term was originally coined to describe substandard commercial breeding facilities. Unfortunately, it is now used to describe any commercial breeder, regardless of the standard of care they provide to their breeding stock or the puppies they produce. There is no denying that substandard breeders exist, but to imply that every commercial breeder is substandard is simply false.

Sadly, there are members of the pet industry who subscribe to this commercial-breeder-equals-puppy-mill fabrication and actively support puppy bans. Whether they truly believe the ban proponents’ misinformation or see it as a way to gain an advantage over a competitor, it undermines the industry’s efforts to support those who source their puppies carefully from licensed and inspected facilities.

The second false assumption is that pet store puppy sales contribute to the pet overpopulation problem. By most estimates, puppies sold in pet stores account for less than 10 percent of the dogs acquired each year. The other 90 percent come from shelter adoptions, friends, backyard and hobby breeders and, increasingly, Internet sales.

The number of shelter dogs that are euthanized has dropped by more than 80 percent since the 1970s. The pet overpopulation problem is more of a regional distribution problem today. Shelters in many parts of the country are importing dogs from other states and even other countries because they cannot obtain enough adoptable dogs locally to meet demand.

In reality, the supply of dogs to meet American families’ growing demand for pets will soon be inadequate. More than a third of all U.S. households have a dog today. The U.S. population—321 million today—will grow to 360 million by 2030. Unless Americans suddenly fall out of love with our canine companions, the supply of dogs from all sources—shelters, breeders, pet stores and friends—will not keep up with demand.

That is why it is in the best interest of everyone in this industry to support a reliable, humane and well-regulated supply of pets to eat the food, play with the toys, wear the clothes and sleep in the beds we make and sell. If dogs become the pet of choice of only the wealthy because demand has far outstripped supply, then we are looking at a pet industry that is far different than the fast-growing, dynamic and innovative business we have come to enjoy.


Steve King is president of the Pet Industry Distributors Association.

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