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August 1, 2019

We’ve spoken at length in the past on the importance of pairing the right customer with the right pet at the right time. A positive sale, and the relationship that hopefully results from it, means linking a customer with the pet that fits their lifestyle, temperament and level of knowledge for those pets. And, despite our best efforts, sometimes, that just isn’t the case. And, unfortunately, many individuals who can no longer care for their pets often end releasing them “back into the wild”.

While doing so might seem like a kindness, releasing animals into the outside world has a number of major drawbacks. While the animal itself might die, an even greater danger emerges in terms of invasive species. When species not native to a given area are released into a new environment, those species can swiftly disrupt the balance of the local ecosystem, devastating food sources for extant species or driving those other species into extinction. Most infamously, the cane toad–native to Central and South America, but brought to Australia as a pest control measure–devastated the local Australian ecosystem, and still remains a major pest throughout the continent.

As a response to this, and in conjunction with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) has relaunched the Habitattitude educational campaign. Started originally in 2005 with a primary focus on fish and aquatic plants, Habitattitude is designed to educate the public of the risks that non-native species pose to the environment and, concurrently, to educate consumers in making intelligent purchasing decisions regarding live animals.

The Habitattitude website currently serves as the primary information hub for the initiative, providing information on proper pet selection and care, including instructions on diet, habitat creation, health concerns and much more. Additional sections include discussions on water gardening, the use of animals and plants in the classroom setting and care outside of the home environment. Additional sections have been included to cover Burmese pythons, Argentine tegus and several other species which have grown more popular in recent years. The website has also received an upgrade to its user interface, making the site more visually appealing and easier to navigate.

Josh Jones, current deputy director of governmental affairs with PIJAC, offered three fundamental goals for the newly revamped Habitattitude:

Help spread the word by becoming a partner. Become a partner with Habitattitude to display logos, signage; share social media posts with links to site; put the Habitattitude logo and links on your store website. Tell your customers to visit the website for more information.

Help consumers make wise decisions in your store. Ensure your customers are informed about the animal they want to purchase and have the ability to provide proper care, enclosures and meet the needs of their pet.

Help pet owners with rehoming. When possible, tell customers to contact the store if their needs change and the customer needs to find another home for their pet in case your store can help take the animal back or find a new keeper… many families of service members need to move frequently and laws or logistics may make it impossible for the pet owner to bring their animals with them.

Whether you represent a company, an educational institution or even just yourself, we encourage you to check out Habitattitude’s new website and sign up for access to downloadable graphics, posters, artwork and more to help educate your customers on the importance of proper care.

For more information on Habitattitude and PIJAC’s efforts to prevent incursions of invasive species, contact Josh Jones (josh@pijac.org).

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