Pet Business: Ethical Products is now a licensee for America’s VetDogs. Why did you choose this program?
Jonathan Zelinger: We had been searching for the correct cause-related license to develop. We wanted a cause that could be leveraged with our product expertise and also one that we could all feel very good about supporting. America’s VetDogs was a perfect match, where the support we provide through the sale of America’s VetDogs dog toys goes directly to matching more dogs to the needs of more disabled men and women who have served our country. These highly trained dogs provide the means for these heroes to live their lives with dignity and hope.
America’s VetDogs is a nonprofit organization that was founded by the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc., which was established in 1946. It is the premier service dog organization providing assistance dogs to disabled veterans and active-duty military personnel, at no cost to the veteran.
Thousands of veterans and active-duty personnel have been touched by the VetDogs program. Unfortunately, this is a fraction of the dogs needed to meet the needs of these men and women. Currently, there are over 200 applicants approved to receive a VetDog, and according to the Department of Defense, there are over 46,000 severely wounded men and women returning home. Many, if not most of them, would benefit greatly from having an America’s VetDogs assistance dog.
I had the opportunity, along with my management team, to visit America’s VetDogs headquarters and training facility in Smithtown, N.Y. It was very inspiring to talk to people in the VetDogs organization as well as veterans in the training program. It is quite an operation, with first-class dog training and student services facilities. We came away from the day with the conviction that this was a very worthy cause that could benefit from our support. We heard first hand from one particular veteran that before he had his dog, leaving his home, shopping, being around crowds, etc., was extremely difficult if not impossible as he dealt with neurological issues and the loss of use of his legs. Getting his dog changed all that for him. If we are able to positively impact one soldier’s life, we feel we have given back to one of our heroes. Our goal is to make an even greater impact.
PB: What products can retailers expect to see under the America’s VetDogs brand?
Zelinger: America’s VetDogs has been very aggressive in assembling a great team of licensees. Ethical Products will be developing programs for the dog toy and dog bed categories.
Bil-Jac has been the licensee for dog treats, and they are doing very well in the marketplace. Pet King, Inc., has recently been added for rawhide, jerky and biscuits, with many other categories to follow.
We see several opportunities in the dog toy and bed categories. First, we will offer a red, white and blue program that is a perfect fit for a brand that supports our military heroes. We are also working on a second theme that will utilize an exclusive VetDogs camouflage design in bright, impactful colors.
PB: How can pet retailers benefit from these programs?
Zelinger: Retailers will be able to offer a quality line of products that supports a good cause, and this is something their customers are looking for. Research has shown that 75 percent of Americans say it’s important for companies to offer them a way to purchase products that support a cause. America’s VetDogs is a very attractive cause for Americans because they have a singular mission, and it is transparent to see that donations go directly to raising, training and matching dogs to a veteran’s specific disabilities.
The America’s VetDogs packaging will feature a veteran and his service dog, and it will clearly call out that the purchase helps support our American heroes. There will be additional information on the organization and the important work they do.
In summary, the program offers retailers—and consumers—great products combined with a great cause. We think this is the perfect combination which will resonate in the marketplace.