The Lifeblood of the Pet Industry

The future of the pet trade—and pet ownership in general—depends on the ability of all segments of the industry to coordinate their efforts to proactively address threats.



Ever since I became the president of the American Pet Products Association (APPA) 13 years ago, one of the most persistent complaints I constantly hear is that manufacturers just aren’t concerned with the live animal supply—that they are more focused on profits and just figure that other people will worry about where the animals are coming from.

Although I have never been accused of being a marketing expert, I feel comfortable going out on a limb and speculating that without live animals, the markets for leashes, collars, fish tanks, hamster cages, assorted pet foods and the like may be hampered a little. There really is not a comparable demand among humans for many of these products.

So, if I am an executive at any manufacturing company in the pet industry, the supply of live animals as pets pretty much defines my chances at being successful in my job and for my company. It is as simple as that. The pet industry needs there to be pets, since they are our ultimate customers.

Manufacturers understand this. In fact, many manufacturers have supported the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), the industry’s main advocacy organization in live animal issues, over the years—both financially and with in-kind support. Their trade association, APPA (formerly the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association), has been the major supporter of PIJAC since its inception. In the past four years alone, APPA has contributed over $2.25 million dollars in financial and in-kind support to PIJAC.

But this is only part of the story, because APPA, on behalf of its manufacturer membership, has gone even further to support live animal management for the industry. As a founding member of both the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) and the Pet Leadership Council, APPA is reaching out to all segments of the pet industry to support the handling of live animal issues and ensure a healthy, ongoing supply of responsibly bred and cared for animals.

The industry is responding in a very positive way. Retailers, distributors, live animal suppliers, animal pharmaceutical companies, veterinarians and others are all joining the effort to support and encourage the healthy supply of responsibly bred animals.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Today, there are serious challenges to everyone’s right to have a pet. From the ever-increasing pet sale ban effort of some, to the outright banning of the right to own any pet that is advocated by the more radical players like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), we are constantly on the defense as an industry. Regretfully, we are usually the guys who show up at a fire with water pistols. A complete plan to support the availability of animals must be more than just reacting to problems. We are finally beginning to think proactively. We are finally looking at telling our story rather than letting our less-than-honorable opponents define us.

It is a serious undertaking. It will take time and dollars and support to be successful. Proactive support of the industry is no longer an option to be considered—it is a must. We have finally started, and now we need the support of everyone to make it work. What we do today will define the success of the pet industry for many years to come.

Bob Vetere is president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association. APPA is one of the organizers of Global Pet Expo (March 16-18, 2016, in Orlando, Fla.), the largest annual pet industry trade show in the world.

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