With 2019 coming to a close and a new year on the horizon, now marks a great time to look back at the various accomplishments we’ve made as an industry over the year. And while it might be appealing to look solely at the burgeoning market for pets and the increase in both demand and in pet ownership, it may be even more important to look at the impacts we’ve had on the industry as a whole and how we have interacted within the governmental sphere through PIJAC, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.
Mike Bober, president and CEO of PIJAC, noted that 2019 contained three primary goals for PIJAC:
- Charting a course for PIJAC that would take the organization and its board through the upcoming 50th anniversary in a way to best represent the pet care community and continue to advocate for open access to healthy, well-cared-for pets.
- Educating lawmakers on the consequences of pervasive legislation, such as outright pet sale bans, and offering alternative approaches that prioritize the well-being of animals.
- Working within the pet care community to develop and implement best practices, particularly regarding the responsible use of antibiotics to treat pets at all stages of their lives.
Bober believes that the group achieved success in all three areas, staving off numerous items of injurious legislation while simultaneously “beginning some very productive conversations on positive proposals.” Further, Bober notes the publication of PIJAC’s guidelines for antibiotic stewardship, which were released at March’s Global Pet Expo.
Of course, challenges continue within the pet industry, as with every industry. While limited resources are always a challenge, one of the continual, ongoing roadblocks specific to our industry remains in persuading lawmakers to act based on measurable fact rather than hearsay or the claims of activists. Bober adds: “We continue to watch for advocates’ efforts to institute statewide legislation that complicates (or prohibits) responsible, educated prospect pet owners’ attempts to find their ideal companions. Pet sale bans and species-ownership restrictions are both symptoms of this much larger issue…We, as the people who provide the pets, products and services that makes this possible, should all be concerned about laws and regulations that seek to restrict or prohibit those bonds and should be actively engaged in working with lawmakers to find better solutions to issues of animal care.”
Bober further believes that, at its core, PIJAC is a grassroots effort, stemming directly from the breeders, pet store owners and other retailers that engage with customers on a daily basis. He notes that “we rely on retailers and other small business owners… to help us humanize the messages we try to deliver,” encouraging all in the pet industry to meet with elected officials and advocate at the local level for PIJAC’s broader messages. “We can tell your story through facts and figures,” Bober states, “but for most lawmakers it takes a personal, local connection to really help drive these things home.”
As 2020 dawns—and, with it, a full slate of elections—PIJAC’s mission to maintain an active seat at the legislative table becomes all the more important. Whether federal, state or local ordinance, it behooves us all, regardless of status within the pet industry, to keep abreast of both new legislation and new best practice within the industry. Bober encourages anyone in the industry to visit PIJAC’s website (www.pijac.org) and make use of the numerous resources available. These resources range from fact and care sheets, to state-by-state economic analyses, to health and legislative alerts, to an active search tool that catalogues the proposed legislation PIJAC is following across the country. PIJAC’s website is a wealth of information, ready for any and all to use.
Our many thanks to Mike Bober, his staff at PIJAC and my fellow PIJAC board of directors for their continued hard work to see our industry foster. We’re sure to see many great things from you in 2020.