Posted: April 14, 2014, 5:30 p.m. EDT
By Ken Niedziela
The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council has quietly replaced its president and CEO, Mike Canning, who was let go after less than four years in the organization’s top administrative post.
Ken Oh, general manager of the Pet Care Division at W.F. Young Inc., assumed Canning’s job titles and continues to serve as chairman of the PIJAC board of directors.
PIJAC, which focuses on legislative issues, animal care guidelines and pet ownership, did not publicly announce the leadership change, which took place in mid-January.
Canning said his firing wasn’t totally unexpected.
Mike Canning, top, and
"There had been some talk about moves and changes at PIJAC
over the [previous] six months,” he said. "The board decided that they wanted to go in a different direction. All I know is my services were no longer needed.”
Oh confirmed Canning’s departure.
"I assumed the role of president when Mike left,” Oh said. "Traditionally the PIJAC board chairman has served in the president role as well, so this is not as big a change as it seems.”
While Canning’s full-time job was at PIJAC, Oh works at W.F. Young. The East Longmeadow, Mass., company makes Absorbine grooming and health care products for horses and dogs.
PIJAC’s executive vice president, Charlie Sewell, is managing the Washington, D.C., organization’s day-to-day operations, Oh said.
Canning defended his record and said PIJAC fundraising had skyrocketed. The organization took in $2.7 million in 2013, primarily from membership dues and conference attendance fees, he said.
"PIJAC was never better … because we had a record year in income,” Canning said. "PIJAC was up over 85 percent in income in the three years I was there.”
Oh acknowledged that PIJAC is in good fiscal condition.
"PIJAC is as financially healthy as it has ever been, with more members and expanded programs, including an increased direct lobbying presence, new grassroots outreach capabilities and expanded media outreach to shape public policy outcomes,” he said.
Canning suggested—and Oh denied—that a merger may be coming.
"They don’t know what form PIJAC is going to take in the future, whether it might merge with another group,” Canning said.
The Pet Leadership Council, a group of pet industry executives created last year under the auspices of the American Pet Products Association, could come into play, he said.
"The council had said over and over again that they were going to take a look at how the industry conducted its advocacy and then make changes based on what they thought was best in the future,” Canning
said. "So I guess that’s what was going on.”
Bob Vetere, president and CEO of the Greenwich, Conn.-based APPA, said PIJAC and the council
differ greatly in their work. The Pet Leadership Council was formed to "discuss issues of significance to the entire industry, select opportunities within these issues and develop industry-wide strategies to handle and address them,” he said.
"One piece of this picture would be legislative and regulatory challenges such as what PIJAC serves,” Vetere added.
He expressed confidence in PIJAC’s ability to lead.
"APPA continues to support PIJAC both financially and with in-kind services, as they request, to guarantee that live-animal issues will be addressed on behalf of the entire pet industry,” Vetere said. "What other steps will be taken going forward for PIJAC will be decided by the very qualified Ken Oh and [the] PIJAC board and staff.”
Oh predicted a bright future for his organization.
"PIJAC will continue to serve the pet industry in its primary mission to promote responsible pet ownership and animal welfare, foster environmental stewardship and ensure the availability of pets,” he said.
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