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More Than 1,000 Pet Retail Reps Join the Call to Keep Pet Specialty Stores Open


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Image by wendy julianto from Pixabay

The list of signatures continues to grow on an open letter urging state and local government officials to exempt retailers from any mandatory closures amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic so that businesses can provide the products or services needed to care for pets. More than 1,000 pet specialty retailer officials and executives, including representatives from national chains, have signed the letter, reported Mike Bober, president and CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC). 

The original request was made via an open letter dated March 13 and originally signed by Bober; Dana Brooks, president and CEO of the Pet Food Institute (PFI); Steve King, CEO of the American Pet Products Association (APPA); Vic Mason, president of the World Pet Association (WPA); and Celeste Powers, president of the Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA). 

Since then, other signatories have joined the growing list, including Steve Feldman, the executive director of the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI); Al Puntillo, an executive for the Mud Bay chain of pet stores and the chair of steering committee for the recently formed Independent & Neighborhood Pet Retail Association; and Dennis Sprung, president and CEO of the American Kennel Club (AKC).

As of press time, many decision makers seem to share the same view, as states such as New York and California included pet specialty stores among their lists of what are considered essential businesses that can continue to operate as others, like restaurants, bars and clothing shops, were forced to temporarily close.

The group acknowledges and commends the actions that have already been taken to help safeguard the population, but points out that the well-being of pets and other animals should also be considered.

“It is vital that businesses that provide products or services for the care of pets, and those that house animals, are included among the critical infrastructure that is allowed to remain open throughout the crisis,” the letter reads. “Just as grocery stores and hospitals provide necessary sustenance and medical care to humans, pet businesses must remain operational to ensure the continued humane care of animals.”

While many grocery stores carry pet food and supplies, the stock available is limited, the letter continues.

“Grocery stores that may be allowed to remain open generally only offer limited pet food options, and they don’t have the specialized food, supplements and even medication that are required to maintain the health of millions of beloved pets and animals nationwide—nor are they set up logistically to serve all pets in this country,” the group said. “Grocery stores alone cannot fulfill the need and animals would needlessly suffer.”

Many national and local retail pet supply stores also offer veterinary care and pet boarding services on site. Forcing these stores to close will also shut down access to such vital services, the group added. In addition, they continued, the pet stores that sell animals must remain operational to at least a limited degree so that staff can take care of them. Since staff members need to be there anyway, it makes sense to allow them to provide pet owners with necessary food and care items, according to the pet industry leaders.

“You are already taking every measure necessary to protect the most vulnerable members of our society, the elderly and the immunocompromised,” the group said. “We ask you to also ensure that your community has the ability to provide appropriate care for the pets and animals that depend on them, and list pet stores as essential retailers that are exempt from any mandatory closures.”

In a follow-up announcement, Powers said, “PIDA strongly encourages that you share this with retail customers, which demonstrates that your company, along with the industry, are taking steps on behalf of their businesses. Please also share with your local lawmakers and any other important partners.”

Visit pijac.org to read the complete letter and to add your name to the signatory page. 

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