According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans rank members of Congress below insurance salespeople and slightly above car salespeople as professionals with the lowest level of honesty and ethical standards. The hyper-partisanship that has led to disfunction within the federal government only worsens during a presidential election year. Despite this rancor, there is one thing that Republicans and Democrats, conservatives, liberals and everyone in between agree on—they love their pets!
That’s why each year, the pet care community gathers in Washington, D.C., for Pet Night on Capitol Hill. The name is a bit of a misnomer, as the event encompasses a day of visits to Senate and House offices, as well as meetings of the boards of several industry associations, all culminating in a gala reception for hundreds of hill staffers and business leaders at the Rayburn House Office Building across the street from the Capitol.
The 2020 version of Pet Night will have a different look and feel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To safeguard the health and safety of participants, the newly imagined "Pet Week on Capitol Hill" will be a virtual event over three days (September 8-10) featuring online presentations by pet care experts. The event is hosted by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and sponsored by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) and many other pet care organizations and companies.
Why It Matters
Pet Night—and the legislative fly-in that preceded it in prior years—give the pet care community credibility and helps establish relationships with key members of Congress and their staff. The event has become the focal point for the pet care community to deliver a simple but important message: the human-animal bond is essential to the health and wellbeing of people, pets and the communities where they live.
Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) CEO Mike Bober explains why his organization coordinates visits to Congressional offices for nearly 100 pet business executives: "In survey after survey, Members of Congress and their staff say that personal contact with their constituents is one of the most important and effective forms of advocacy. We at PIJAC work year-round to share facts and figures, but our annual fly-in humanizes the pet care community and helps to form ongoing relationships that are bigger than any one issue."
Even with travel curtailed and face-to-face meetings on hold for now, virtual visits with elected officials can be just as impactful. For those who have wanted to participate in the past but were unable to take several days out of their schedules to travel to Washington, this digital alternative broadens the appeal and offers new opportunities to engage with lawmakers.
HABRI began hosting Pet Night as an opportunity to share information about the importance of pet ownership in America and the scientific evidence that shows how policies that strengthen the human-animal bond can improve wellbeing for people and companion animals. Executive director Steve Feldman notes, "Pet Night on Capitol Hill is an in-person event that everyone on Capitol Hill looks forward to–Members of Congress love pets too! Pet Week on Capitol Hill will keep the pet care community in front of Congress, so they understand that pets and those that help care for them are more important now than ever before."
This year’s schedule features presentations by several pet care experts and Congressional leaders who are committed to animal health.
Tuesday, Sept. 8
4:00-4:45 pm (all times EDT)
Pet Nation: The Importance of Pets in America, Mark Cushing, Author, Pet Nation
Wednesday, Sept. 9
Life-Saving Pet Legislation: How Congress is Helping to Bring and Keep Pets and People Together
One Health Act: The Role of Veterinary Medicine in Preventing Future Pandemics
Rep. Kurt Schrader, Congressman (OR-5)
Thursday, September 10
Pet Ownership and Pet Industry Economics in the Post-COVID World
Dave Bolen, Industry Specialist, Graham Partners
Steve King, CEO, APPA
COVID-19 Impact on Pet Fostering and Adoption
Susanne Kogut, President & Executive Director, Petco Foundation
Of course, Pet Week would not be complete without the Cutest Pets on Capitol Hill Contest, sponsored by the Animal Health Institute. Pets are a mainstay of many Congressional offices, and the competition is fierce to be named Cutest Pet. What else would you expect from the Washington crowd?
For more details and to register for this year’s Pet Week on Capitol Hill, visit petnight.com.
To sign up for the PIJAC virtual Congressional Fly In, visit pijac.org/dcflyin.
Steve King is CEO of the American Pet Products Association.