Posted: August 26, 2014, 3:40 p.m. EDT
By Clay Jackson
The decision by the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council’s (PIJAC) board of directors to appoint Edwin J. Sayres, someone who has spent decades in the animal welfare profession, as the Washington, D.C.-based group’s next president and CEO might seem an odd choice to some.
Sayres served for a decade as president and CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a leading animal welfare organization based in New York.
Could there be two more diametrically opposed organizations than the ASPCA and PIJAC, with one championing the cause of animal welfare and the other advocating for those who make their living from the pet industry?
Ken Oh, chairman and interim president of PIJAC, agrees that PIJAC hasn’t always seen eye to eye with animal welfare groups.
"Over the years we have been on opposing sides of legislation with organizations such as ASPCA and HSUS,” Oh said.
PIJAC isn’t opposed to the message of animal welfare, but rather the way in which it sometimes is delivered.
As PIJAC’s newly appointed president and CEO, Edwin J. Sayres will look to be a consensus builder among the disparate groups that make up the animal welfare and pet industries.
"Ed understands the critical issues facing the industry today, including those relating to breeding standards and pet sale bans, and he embraces the challenge of finding common ground and solutions,” Oh said.
It is precisely because of Sayres’ 40 years in animal welfare that Oh and the rest of the PIJAC board believe he is the right fit to lead PIJAC going forward.
"… One of the reasons [Sayres] and ASPCA parted ways was a growing rift between the positions that ASPCA as an organization wanted to take and his own,” Oh said. "Ed has made very clear his belief that PIJAC as an organization should promote responsible pet ownership and that paths to such ownership should not be limited to shelters but can and should include other avenues such as pet stores.”
"I am very pleased to assume leadership of PIJAC to help ensure that all companion animals are treated properly by the industry and their owners,” Sayres said. "With the need for meaningful change and transparency more relevant than ever, I look forward to bringing together a broad coalition of industry leaders, animal welfare organizations, companies, associations and individuals to collaborate on developing animal care standards that will benefit pets, consumers and the industry.”
Since leaving the ASPCA, Sayres has not stood idly by but has "taken it upon himself to become more educated on all sides of the issues.”
"It is [PIJAC’s] belief that his knowledge of the entirety of the issues as they relate to shelters, breeders and puppy store sales, as well as his realization that there are responsible paths to the consumer on both fronts, will benefit PIJAC greatly going forward,” Oh said.
In addition to his stint with the ASPCA, Sayres served as president of the San Francisco SPCA, was a former director of PetSmart Charities, led the Animal Protection Division of the American Humane Association and was president of St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center, an animal protection agency in New Jersey, for 14 years.
But will the pet industry embrace Sayres?
It already has as reflected in the voting by the PIJAC board, which consists of 20 seats plus past chairpersons; 18 seats plus the immediate past chairperson are voting members and had a say in whether or not Sayres would lead PIJAC—with the board voting in his favor.
"Our decision to appoint Ed was based on his credentials, experience, passion and potential,” Oh said. "We are confident that Ed is the right person to lead PIJAC and our industry in developing humane care standards that meet the needs of both pets and pet owners.”
The current PIJAC board—a veritable who’s who of the pet industry—includes the likes of Rolf Hagen of Rolf C. Hagen, a Montreal-based manufacturer known for its aquatics products; Jim Seidewand of Pet World Inc., pet and aquarium stores in the Rochester, N.Y., area; Marcie Whichard of San Diego-based Petco Animal Supplies Inc.; John Mack of Reptiles by Mack, a Xenia, Ohio, reptile-breeding facility; Sandra Moore of Segrest Farms, representing the Florida Tropical Fish Farmers Association of Gibsonton, Fla.; Duane Ekedahl, representing the Pet Food Institute in Washington, D.C.; and others.
"The pet industry comprises many different facets from livestock providers to distributors to retailers and manufacturers,” Oh said. "All sides have unique interests and viewpoints, as is their right.
"Ultimately, PIJAC needs to deliver on its mission of promoting responsible pet ownership, fostering environmental stewardship and ensuring the availability of pets. Mr. Sayres will be instrumental in helping us to achieve these goals.”
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