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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

Thursday, December 31, 2009

GUEST BLOG: Bridging the Gap

By Paula and Lewis Turner

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Our lives have been dedicated to improving the pet industry in whatever way possible. We took on the challenge of demonstrating that a full line pet store could provide a healthy and caring environment for pets, and staffed with educated customer-service orientated employees.

We were able to provide purebred puppies in an open-air environment with the finest protocol. Even though our goal was to showcase purebreds and rescues, rescue groups weren't willing to accommodate. After 4 years of providing purebreds and designer dogs, we transitioned to all rescue, all the time.

Martie and Ken, from Ken-Mar Rescue, were instrumental in helping to establish our “plan” that makes up “A Modest Proposal.” It is a step-by-step plan of action for knowledgeable pet store owners and enlightened rescues to work together and replicate what we were able to establish in our own store.

Our main objective is to reduce the number of pets that are needlessly killed in our shelters. There's no question that progress has been made. When I began in the industry, the number used was 17.5 million deaths per year. Now the number is 4.5 million. However, much more must be accomplished.

Phase One: Bridging the Gap between Pet Stores and Rescues. Our success working with Ken-Mar Rescue and other pet stores partnering with rescues should initiate a desire for others, in both camps, to work with and not against each other.

Having been in pet retail for over 30 years, I am fully aware of the many concerns many pet owners may have regarding moving toward rescue work—two of them being research and development. The business plan initiated in our own store and replicated in others will be made available to qualified storeowners.

We’re not asking retailers to reinvent the wheel nor increase their costs. Taking care of pets (rescues or otherwise) must involve increase in payroll, right? Not necessarily; retailers will be able to tap into a number of volunteer pools to virtually eliminate payroll increase. So what's the catch? All that’s needed is putting forth the effort and following a pre-prepared plan of action.

The Next Divide: Rescue Groups. This is precisely why I attended the Best Friends National Convention "No More Homeless Pets," as there still dissension within the rescue world and between pet stores and rescues (see previous blog). However, progress is being made. Case in point: I am going to ask the founders of Best Friends to consider adding us as guest panelists to next year's convention to present A Modest Proposal.

The activists just don't seem to understand that our society will always want puppies, and if they think closing pet stores is going to force potential owners into shelters, they're sadly mistaken. The number of backyard breeders would increase tenfold if activists got their way. Why they don't recognize this fact is still a mystery to me, but that's another subject.

Perhaps the guiding forces behind Best Friends should consider following the advice of Julie Castle, director of community plans and services. In her closing remarks at the conference, she quoted Gandhi.

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

This message should be applied to the formation of a true coalition and not for rescues to simply co-exist with pet stores.

Paula and Lewis Turner created “Bridging the Gap” and “A Modest Proposal” to enable all areas of the pet industry to work together in solving the plight of our homeless pets. Click here to find out more about their plan.

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