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As the primaries begin heating up around the country, politics come more and more to the forefront of our minds. November might seem to loom off in the distance, but you can’t turn around without seeing a yard sign, a political ad or a billboard with a candidate’s face. While we might be tired of politics as a whole, we can’t overstate how important the political climate can be for our industry. Between regulations on animal transit and breeding, the importance of international trade and domestic commerce, and the focus on wildlife preservation, we all need to pay careful attention to what happens within the political arenas. At the end of the day, these regulations affect not only our businesses, but the customers we cater to and the animals that we care for.

Our primary vehicle for doing so, naturally, is PIJAC: the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.

Throughout 2019, under President/CEO Mike Bober and Board Chair Peach Reid, we have been able to make a few notable strides in PIJAC’s ongoing mission. This past year, PIJAC was able to formulate and begin following a new long-term, three-year strategic plan, which will take us into the 2020s with a clear direction. Further, PIJAC has continued to increase our personal interactions with various legislators and regulators.

One such ongoing legislative struggle has come in the form of PIJAC’s work to reinstate aquarium fishing licenses in Hawai’i, in the face of numerous potential regulations at both the county and state levels. PIJAC has been at the forefront of efforts to directly address the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), advocating for the use of comprehensive, up-to-date, and transparent data in their upcoming mandated study. While we have made much progress in this regard, advocacy in this area will continue into 2020.

Year after year, the number of pet-trade related bills continue to increase, with an expected 1,500+ pieces of legislation expected this year. The issue for us then becomes identifying and working with legislators that agree with our perspective or are open to considering our policy positions. Two major instances of success in this arena came through PIJAC’s second annual “Fly-In,” which helped to strengthen relationships and awareness of pet-industry issues throughout Capitol Hill. That event drew individuals from across the country, who had the opportunity to speak with representatives and advocate for issues such as veteran access to service animals, animals in education and more. Further, our “Meet the Pets” event on Capitol Hill, held in partnership with Pet Partners International, allowed over 600 staffers and several Members of Congress to interact with certified therapy animals. Due to the remarkable success of these events, they both will continue forward; the “Fly-In” will be held annually, while the “Meet the Pets” event will be held twice yearly.

The biggest challenges facing PIJAC, however, continue to be ones that face any organization. Bandwidth, staffing, and resources, continually make our prioritization of specific pieces of legislation important. While these are common issues, they have not deterred us from making progress on the core elements of PIJAC’s mission: animal welfare, responsible pet ownership, environmental stewardship, and protecting the rights of pet owners.

As we move deeper into the election cycle, do your best to stay informed on candidates’ platforms in terms of the pet industry. PIJAC’s website will continue to be the best place to find calls to action, press releases on potential legislation, and the newest research into industry-wide trends. However, we must all continue to stay active, even in a challenging political landscape. PIJAC’s greatest victories are the ones that, at their core, come from the successes of those within the pet industry at large. You, as store owners and as breeders and as industry veterans, provide the best voice to express how things are done right in the pet industry.

Our many thanks again the staff and board at PIJAC for their time and continued hard work both in providing answers for this article and in their dedicated service to the PIJAC organization. To stay updated on all the developments in the political arena, while staying abreast of industry-best practices, visit pijac.org for more information.

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