In My Travels, Lessons and Inspiration
By Ed Sayres
Since stepping into my new role earlier this month, I have been traveling around the country meeting with PIJAC members and others in the pet business community, including visits to pet shops and commercial breeders. I am listening carefully to your input, deepening my understanding of the critical issues facing us and building new relationships.
Most recently, I visited with pet product manufacturers, distributors and retailers at H.H. Backer’s Total Pet Expo, which took place in Chicago last weekend. The businesses that were exhibiting at the show this year serve dogs and cats for the most part, with birds, aquatics, reptiles and small mammals also represented. Together these businesses address the whole spectrum of pet needs – from food and nutrition, to fitness and security, to grooming and toys.
I came away from the weekend struck by the extraordinary breadth and depth of animal care expertise in our industry and with a better understanding of the business practices that are working best for pets, owners and pet businesses. I met many people kind enough to share with me the meaningful personal reasons why they went into the pet trade in the first place and what keeps them going. These are folks, after all, who don’t just care about animals – they care for animals.
I struck up this ongoing conversation even before joining PIJAC. Exploring ways to build on my animal welfare expertise to influence more pets and more owners, I began months ago to reach out to individuals and groups representing the pet trade. I wanted to hear different points of view and share insights on the most pressing issues.
While I wouldn’t trade my career in animal welfare, I was looking to make a greater impact. I envisioned bringing together a broad-based coalition to tackle the issues affecting pets, pet ownership and the pet industry. I wanted to work proactively for all pets rather than remaining in response mode on behalf of the approximately 10% of dogs and cats that go through the sheltering system, which for many years had been my primary focus.
It’s still early going, but some important lessons have already emerged from our conversation.
I have learned that pet ownership – and the fight to ensure the availability of all pets – is more than a one-issue topic. I have always felt that bans on pet sales do nothing to address the issue of the few unscrupulous breeders who mistreat animals and, in doing so, give the entire breeding community a bad name. These bans only limit consumer choice, making it more difficult for people to find the right pet. We will continue to promote the ability to sell pets, pet food and pet products and to protect consumer choice, especially the right of each family to choose and acquire the best pet for them.
I have learned how quickly false and misleading information can spread in the heat of an emotional debate. We will continue to use reason, logic and sound science, as we have in the past, to refute the charges and accusations made by anti-pet activists and misguided enthusiasts alike. We will seek to counter inflammatory images and anecdotes with data on the compelling benefits of the human-animal bond and the realities behind the issues.
I look forward to meeting more of you as we continue to talk and promise to keep sharing with you what I learn along the way. I am grateful for our conversation – not only for the lessons it offers but also for the inspiration it gives me as we move forward together.