Emerging Trends: Collaboration, Convergence & Conflict

At the Pet Industry Leadership Conference, PIJAC provided attendees with an update on emerging legislative and regulatory trends.


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At the end of January, I joined dozens of pet care professionals in San Antonio to discuss the state of the pet care community at the Pet Industry Leadership Conference (PILC). I always leave this event energized by the passion and expertise of everyone assembled, and this year was no exception. If you’ve never been, it’s a great opportunity to establish new connections, strengthen existing ones and learn from inspiring expert speakers.

 

The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) hit the ground running in the new 2019-20 legislative and regulatory session; by the time this story is published, we expect over 1,000 pet-related items to have been introduced at the local, state and federal levels.

 

During my presentation at PILC, I shared some of the top issues and trends PIJAC is tracking:

 

Tariffs and Trade

Pet products are collateral damage in the U.S.-China trade skirmish. Last September’s 10 percent tariff on List Three products and materials has already hurt margins throughout the supply chain. If a deal isn’t reached by March 1, it could rise to 25 percent—with devastating impacts on manufacturers, retailers and customers. U.S. companies hoping to export their wares into China’s lucrative pet market—which could be $300 million in pet food sales alone—are also suffering both with the decreased chance of the market opening and China’s 25 percent retaliatory tariff.

 

Transportation

As airlines are revising their policies, creating stricter definitions and adding restrictions on the types of animals they’ll carry, we’ve seen an increase in incidents involving travelers and emotional support animals. PIJAC is working with the International Air Transport Association to ensure the restrictions are reasonable and don’t negatively impact the transport of animals to retailers and pet owners.

 

Service vs. Support

Communities are updating their laws in reaction to owners intentionally misrepresenting their pets as service or emotional support animals. While the Americans with Disabilities Act protects animals that are trained to perform tasks for a person with a disability, it does not cover those used for therapy or emotional support. Laws are creating clearer definitions for these animals and increasing penalties for people falsely representing their pets. Where appropriate, PIJAC supports the work of service and therapy animal organization allies on these types of efforts.

 

Pets and Vets

PIJAC is seeing increased focus on the benefits of the human-animal bond with military veterans. A clinical trial is underway at the National Institutes of Health studying veterans with and without service dogs. While the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers Act did not pass last year, PIJAC and our pet care, military and health partners will be advocating for it in this session.

 

Animal Abuse

Over 100 bills addressing animal abuse were introduced in local jurisdictions since January. Many of the bills seek to establish abuser registries, change the classification from a misdemeanor to a felony, or to increase fines. PIJAC is working to ensure pet care professionals and volunteers are not forced into the risky role of front-line law enforcement by these laws and regulations.

 

Bag Bans

As lawmakers seek to be environmentally friendly, they are proposing legislation to decrease the use of plastic items such as grocery bags and drinking straws. PIJAC is working to make sure that they exempt pet care products, such as dog waste bags that make it easier for owners to clean up feces which could spread disease, and fish bags that are the safest method to transport fish.

 

Small Animals

Focus on small pets is an emerging trend, in both good and bad ways. Localities like Fairfax County, Virginia, are recognizing that human-animal bond benefits apply to small animals as well as to cats and dogs. They recently expanded their definition of “acceptable pets” to include hedgehogs, chinchillas and hermit crabs. However, small pets have also been targeted by animal activists, who are taking aim at the sale and keeping of betta fish by hosting storefront protests and filing lawsuits, assaults that PIJAC expects to expand in the coming year.

 

Intentional Engagement

PIJAC is forging collaborations to proactively shape the pet care conversation. This session, we’ll be working with lawmakers and education organizations to promote animals in classroom settings, and with regulators to apply animal care standards universally for all types of caretakers including shelters and rescues. At the Global Pet Expo this month, we’ll be rolling out recommendations on antibiotic stewardship, which were developed by a working group of experts within the pet care community.

 

If that sounds like a lot of activity impacting the pet care trade, it is. The bottom line is it’s more important than ever to be alert to what’s going on in your State House and City Hall, to be educated on the issues, to collaborate with like-minded groups and to take action to preserve the responsible pet care community.

 

To learn more, contact us at info@pijac.org and come see us in booth 2412 at the Global Pet Expo, March 20-22 in Orlando, Fla. PB

 

Mike Bober is president and CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC).

 

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