Pet Businesses Must Remain Open During COVID-19 Pandemic, Industry Leaders Urge
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Pet industry leaders are asking 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.
The request was made via an open letter dated March 13 and signed by Mike Bober, president and CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC); Dana Brooks, president and CEO of the Pet Food Institute; 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), as well as officials from more than 30 pet retailers. At press time, officials from an additional 25 pet retailers had added their names to the letter.
The group acknowledged and commended the actions that have already been taken to help safeguard the population, but point 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 limted 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 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.”
Anyone interested in signing the letter can sign the online form here.
In related news, the APPA headquarters office has temporarily closed. Officials will be working remotely for the foreseeable future, King said in a letter to APPA members.
“Our goal over the next few months is to do all we can to help the pet care community in the face of this crisis,” King said. “Our focus will be on providing you with information you need to protect your business, your employees and your customers. We’ll do that through frequent, timely webcasts, our weekly eUpdate newsletter and other forms of communication.
“The communication needs to be two-way to be truly effective,” King continued. “We need to know what your challenges are so that we can marshal our resources to provide solutions. We have established an internal COVID-19 Task Force that will be working with our colleagues at the National Association of Manufacturers, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council and other trade organizations to collect and disseminate useful information.”
Information on COVID-19 and pets can be found here.