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February 1, 2019

More than anything else, we all share one common passion within the pet industry: we love animals. Whether breeder or retailer, owner or seller, we’ve found ourselves in this industry because we treasure those relationships between a person and their pet. Legendary pet products manufacturer Rolf Hagen Inc. may have said it best on their own website:

“Underlying our entire philosophy is one simple and immutable fact. Pets are not only the heart of our business, they are the reason we are in business.”

The pets themselves that form the crux of our industry have become the backbone of not only our industrial model, but also the heart and soul of everything we do. While it’s easy to get bogged down in the minutia of day-to-day business, of sales and revenue, taking a moment to consider where and how those animals come from can really provide us all with a degree of perspective into just how far our industry has come.

While many breeders tend to keep a relatively low profile, those same breeders often don’t get the recognition they rightfully deserve. Maintaining high standards in health-care and cleanliness are both challenges in their own rights, but quality breeders often put in long hours researching genetic combinations, ensuring that their charges have the best in accommodations and constantly researching new methods for breeding processes. It’s ironic that we most often only hear news that something wrong with animal breeders. However, for any one breeder who does a disservice to their animals, hundreds more forge ahead with best practices on the cutting edge of zoological science.

But, how do we ensure that we’re doing just that? How do we ensure that our reptiles are getting the best possible care as we bring them to their “forever home”? Best practice always starts with maintaining high standards of quality. The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) has worked tirelessly to ensure that both breeders and retailers can easily access necessary information to institute best practices, ranging from animal care resources to environmental stewardship to zoonotic disease prevention.

Within our own building at Reptiles by Mack, we have a team of around 45 employees, taking care of our animals seven days a week, 365 days a year. Holidays and the like aren’t something we can afford to consider; our animal friends will always require food, fresh water and clean accommodations, regardless of what holiday it might be. While these standards are always being refined and improved, the continual effort of bettering our own practices should stand as an example across any industry. Simply put, we must collectively do our very best until we know better; then, we will do better.

But all this still doesn’t answer the fundamental question: why are pets themselves so important to the pet industry? While it may seem obvious, it simply comes down to a matter of supply and demand. The higher the supply of pets in the hands of knowledgeable, caring pet owners, the higher the demand will be for all those elements necessary to maintain that pet’s health. More pets mean more food, more bedding, more heat lamps and more of all those other subsidiary items.

Beyond this, it comes down to a simple fact: people love animals. Few relationships in life compare to that of a friendly game of fetch with a beloved dog, a warm lap occupied by a sweet housecat or the thrill of feeding a vibrantly-colored snake or lizard. Pet ownership has continued to rise steadily over the years, with nearly 75 percent of U.S. households currently owning at least one pet, with many households having numerous pets under the same roof. Keeping pets within a retail location provides would-be customers access to a relationship that those people already want and actively seek.

Keeping pets within your store sets you apart and gives your store something unique. It ensures that new pet owners get a glimpse of a new life and new relationship, while it ensures that current pet owners have access to all those things necessary to give their pet the best possible life. As pets themselves go, so go all of us.

As the year opens and as we begin planning for another full year of sales, of staffing, of customers and chaos, take a moment to contemplate the reason that we’re all here. We love animals. And, at all levels, our livelihoods revolve around the care that we provide these animals. We owe them our very best, and we must always keep them at the heart of everything we do. They’re the reason we’re here.

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