A Big Step in Protecting Small

The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council unveiled a new set of uniform standards of care for small animals such as small mammals, birds and reptiles.




Last month, Pet Business readers heard from PIJAC President Mike Bober on the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council’s (PIJAC) work with the industry to create uniform standards of care, transportation and biosecurity for small animals—including small mammals, reptiles and birds. These standards, along with supplementary documents, were unveiled in July at SuperZoo 2017.


Working with industry leaders for more than a year on our Small Animal Care Committee, PIJAC was able to combine the best of existing industry standards and protocols, federal law and scientific data. I was proud to serve as the chair of the committee, working closely with PIJAC staff and industry executives from the retail, breeding and distributing communities to create uniform best practices.


These standards combine federal Animal Welfare Act regulations, veterinary review and current industry practices to surpass what is currently seen in law. For example, nothing in the federal Animal Welfare Act covers birds and reptiles—these standards do. And the small mammal standards go above and beyond the Animal Welfare Act’s regulatory structure.



There are five priority areas covered by the standards:

• Facilities—covers housing, water and air quality, biosecurity, sanitation, storage and other matters.

• Care—covers nutrition, enclosure climate, health, escape, end-of-life protocols and more.

• Transport—standardized practices include receiving and enclosure protocols, packing and shipping, monitoring during transport and emergency protocol during transport.

• Staffing—addresses training and education, retention, employee support for duty of care and biosecurity.

• Record Keeping—guidelines are addressed through facilities, animal care and general record-keeping.


As a whole, the standards are designed to be general enough to account for the individual circumstances in which a breeder or distributor may find themselves, but specific enough to be effective.


There are two supplementary documents that were also revealed at SuperZoo—a Duty to Report template for employees, as well as a poster with a toll-free hotline for those who are uncomfortable reporting animal abuse or mistreatment to their superiors. The Duty to Report template supplements existing company, state and federal standards and provides guidance on how to report observed animal abuse or mistreatment through the proverbial chain of command.


In the Duty to Report document, employees acknowledge their individual responsibility to notify their supervisor or manager of any knowledge or information regarding an animal health issue so that these issues can be addressed in a timely manner. The toll-free hotline poster is designed to provide employees the ability to anonymously let companies know of abuse. A third-party receives any called-in report and notifies PIJAC, which then contacts the company with this information.


Unlike some standards, these best practices can be put into immediate action, in part because so many companies already had high standards in these areas. Retailer audits will add to the effectiveness of enforcement. Plans for the future include working with a third-party validation organization to develop and conduct independent audits.


In addition to creating uniformity within the industry, PIJAC launched the Small Animal Care Committee to let lawmakers know the industry is always acting to protect pets and consumers. As Mike Bober has advocated in some of his Pet Business columns, it is critically important to get ahead of animal activists. While they haven’t yet made substantial movements against small animals like they have with dogs and cats, the threat is always on the horizon. Getting the industry out in front on animal care in such a public way creates opportunities for legislative engagement that haven’t existed for previous best practice efforts such as those seen in Canine Care Certified standards and the Pet Professionals Groomers & Stylists Alliance.


On a personal note, I have been involved in the responsible pet trade for decades. As both an animal lover and the CEO of Fish Mart, Inc., I was pleased to see many of our long-used practices developed into these standards of care. It was also reassuring to see that so many of these standards were independently in effect at many of our distributor colleagues’ facilities. And all of us at Fish Mart were grateful to learn additional information and tips during this process that we have quickly implemented at our facilities and for our operations.


Overall, the standards have been well received, especially among leading breeders and distributors of small mammals. This is very important, as PIJAC can only promote voluntary standards if executives agree with them. Additionally, having strong buy-in from leaders means other organizations will follow, recognizing that following uniform standards will benefit all relevant parties. PB


Laura “Peach” Reid is the CEO of Fish Mart and the first female chair of the board of directors for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.


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