It’s National Invasive Species Awareness Week in Washington, D.C., and numerous state, federal and local officials are gathering with non-governmental organizations in the nation’s capital to discuss the dangers posed by the introduction of non-native species into domestic ecosystems, as well as various methods of addressing this growing problem.
Of course, our friends at the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), the industry’s primary representative in legislative and regulatory affairs, are in the middle of the action. They are even sponsoring a reception that will serve up a menu of invasive species dishes, as well as a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of using these invaders as a food supply.
PIJAC has long led the charge on the issue of invasive species as it pertains to the pet industry. Under the stewardship of former president and current senior advisor Marshall Meyers, the organization has developed strong relationships with many government agencies that deal with the preservation of U.S. ecosystems, and this has led to a well-balanced and reasonable approach to minimizing the role that the pet industry plays in introducing invasive species into the wild.
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days with Meyers in Washington, D.C., where I got a first-hand view of his interaction with U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials. While both sides discussed the ongoing working partnership that they had forged, they agreed that, in many respects, the folks who could have the biggest impact on stemming the tide of invasive-species pets are retailers. By consistently informing pet owners that there are consequences to releasing non-native species into the wild—both for the animal and the ecosystem—and offering alternatives to release, retailers can directly get to the source of the problem.
Today, PIJAC continues to work closely with government agencies on the problem of invasive-species in the pet industry, now under president and CEO Mike Canning and vice president of government affairs Michael Maddox. But the question is, are retailers doing their part?