PIJAC's Big Focus on Small Pets

The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council is leading the way in setting standards for small animal care, but the organization needs help from every facet of the pet industry.



There is no healthy pet industry without healthy pets. 

While this may seem obvious to those of us within the responsible pet trade, the reality is that lawmakers don’t always make the connection. They are told that we put profits before pet care and accuse us of being in “the money business” instead of the pet business.

Of course, we in the industry know better. We recognize the need for reliable sources of responsibly raised and collected animals, whether they are dogs, cats, birds, fish, reptiles or small mammals. We know the impact that scarcity can have on everything from food and product sales to relationships with existing customers. And while we can be proud of our commitments to animal health and well-being, we need to do a better job of communicating them, especially at times when there’s no recent incident or proposed legislation to which we are responding.

With this in mind, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) established a Small Animal Care Committee earlier this year. As you may already know, PIJAC’s mission is to promote responsible pet ownership and animal welfare, foster environmental stewardship and ensure the availability of pets. This committee directly addresses the first and third elements of that mission.

Made up of individuals representing the breeding, distribution and retail sectors, the committee is working to address animal care as it applies to the non-dog and -cat categories of companion animals. While many of the responsible breeders and distributors in these smaller animal categories already hold themselves to internal care standards, and many retailers conduct audits of their vendors to ensure that protocols are established and followed, there is no common set of standards that we in the industry can point to with pride when legislators ask what we do to protect animals throughout the breeding and sales process.

To that end, the Small Animal Care Committee has proposed the creation of a set of Small Animal Standards of Care that would do just that. Covering birds, fish, reptiles and small mammals, these standards will draw on the industry’s experience and expertise. They will codify some of the existing best practices and protocols that are being used throughout the live animal trade and establish others.

Most importantly, though, they will be developed with input from the broader industry throughout the process. At SuperZoo in Las Vegas, the committee held a town hall-style meeting to present the topics they have identified for inclusion in the standards. Attendees asked questions and suggested additional subject areas, and they were genuinely supportive of the effort.

Topics proposed for consideration fall into five broad issue areas: animal care, facilities, record keeping and protocols, staffing and transport. Within these categories, the committee presented a wide range of prospective subject matter, with the greatest number of topics necessarily falling into the animal-care category, and a number of items that crossed among several categories. An additional overarching standard would remind operators to know and comply with applicable federal, state and local regulations and restrictions—both in a facility’s location and in other jurisdictions through and to which animals are being transported.

From here, the committee will sit down to the task of actually drafting standards that address the issues spelled out in the outline that was presented. They will make use of existing care documents as well as input and feedback from colleagues and other industry experts. The goal is to be able to unveil the completed general standards early next year, at which point the committee will turn its attention to specific additional guidelines for categories of animals.

Ultimately, the success of these standards will depend on the industry’s involvement throughout the process. To that end, we are asking all of you with an interest in animal care to get involved. Take a moment to reach out to PIJAC and ask to review the standards outline if you haven’t already seen it. Then respond with your own feedback. It will be welcome. 

If you’re interested in getting even more directly involved in the creation of these standards and other efforts to ensure the availability of responsibly raised pets, we encourage you to join the Small Animal Care Committee. The committee has already identified additional priorities in the area of animal care and would welcome your assistance.

To learn more about the proposed topics for inclusion in the standards, to review the outline or to obtain additional information about getting involved with PIJAC and our Small Animal Care Committee, please contact Courtney Hogan at courtney@pijac.org.

Mike Bober is president and CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council. For more information on ways to engage the public and your elected officials, contact him at mbober@pijac.org.


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