A Call to Action
A number of trade organizations, companies and individuals are coming together to ensure the health of the pet industry by joining the Pet Leadership Council.
So far, 48 U.S. cities have passed laws banning the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores, and that number is sure to rise as more communities nationwide approve well-intentioned ordinances that are gravely endangering our industry and people’s ability to obtain pets. I understand that as retailers and manufacturers, you all have more than enough concerns with your own individual business operations, and it can be challenging to find or spend time working on causes for a greater good. However, I implore all of you—this cause needs your attention.
Yes, we are a strong, nearly $60-billion segment of the economy, but to lawmakers and elected officials nationwide, our voice is weak and simply isn’t being heard. We all have concerns relevant to our particular businesses—retailers, manufacturers, veterinarians and breeders—and that is why we have our separate, and very important, different trade associations. The need for those is probably greater than ever, with specialization and different competitive challenges coming out every day.
However, the increasing challenges we are facing—like these pet bans—go beyond sectors to impact the industry as a whole. It is a challenge that threatens the future growth and development of our industry.
I know it is a song I have sung before, but look at this recent flurry of pet sale bans. In some cases, they are backed by well-meaning individuals who really fear the negative impact of puppy mills and are very concerned about the health and well-being of dogs. But sometimes these bans are backed by extreme activists who don’t really care one way or the other; they are just hell-bent on passing the bans and limiting the number of pets.
No matter the motivation, just what do these bans accomplish? Nothing, in the way of preventing puppy mills. They do manage to drive some high-quality breeders out of business, though, and they manage to put some well-run, excellent pet stores on the brink of bankruptcy. More importantly, they help ensure that more dogs than ever will be acquired from sub-standard breeders operating outside of the law, and from unregulated places like the Internet or the parking lot of the local mall.
Why? Because we aren’t all, as associations, companies and individuals, acting together the way we can and should. Thankfully, we have the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) representatives fighting proposed ordinances city by city, but they are up against very powerful, well-funded groups that have strong lobbying arms and rallying cries, which constantly put us on the defensive. PIJAC is, by comparison, a small group and continuously faces arguments that we are just in it for the money and don’t care about the welfare of pets.
Nothing can be further from the truth. As an industry, we have some of the most caring and compassionate people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. But we are the only ones who seem to know that. The defenses we propose unfortunately come off as disjointed and frankly, need a lot more support from all of us.
We have to work together to turn the tables and be in a position to go on the offensive, and we must develop the ability to do that quickly or we will continue to lose this battle one ban at a time. We need a unified voice. We need to be proactive in putting out the word that we, as an industry, care. We need to make it known that we are not in it just for the money, and these bans are not the way to prevent bad breeding—high industry standards are. We really do want to make a better place for our companion animals to live and thrive, and together we can make that happen.
A number of organizations have come together to form a new group to fight these forces—the Pet Leadership Council (PLC). We are reaching out to leaders from every facet of our industry to look at the big picture and work together toward sensible solutions. We are not looking to get rid of any of the existing organizations that do so much for each segment of the pet industry, but rather gather an oversight committee of people who can step out of their everyday roles to look at what the industry needs as a whole, as well as how to fund the right programs.
The time is now. If you are in a position at your organization to join this group and actively participate, and support it and the cause, please contact me. If you aren’t in a position to join the PLC but still want to help the effort, please go to pijac.org and click on the Legislative Action Center button to learn about and follow bills in your city and state, and how to easily contact your legislators to weigh in on these issues and share with your customers. Thanks to those who have already agreed to help, but we need more, and we need it now.
Bob Vetere is president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association. APPA is one of the organizers of Global Pet Expo (March 4-6, 2015 in Orlando, Fla.), the largest annual pet industry trade show in the world.