The pet industry is currently experiencing explosive growth. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA) (2019), 67% of U.S. households now own at least one pet, which equals an estimated 84.9 million homes. Millennials represent the largest segment of pet owners for all pet types owned, especially bird owners, small animal owners, and saltwater fish owners. In addition, more than 80% of Gen Z and Millennial pet owners report owning dogs, while 50% or less own cats. Undoubtedly, these figures represent large numbers of constituents, and if mobilized and called to action, could represent a significant voting bloc.
Many of the changes across the industry have been driven by technology and the ease of online purchases. Kestenbaum (2018) argues that “most of the growth is because of changes in culture. As Millennial and Generation Z consumers have come into adulthood, they have embraced the pet-owning and pet-loving lifestyles to a far greater extent than their elders. While baby boomers account for 32% of pets owned, households headed by younger cohorts account for 62% of pet ownership.”
APPA (2019) reports that pet care spending in 2018 reached a “record-breaking high” of $72.56 billion compared to $69.51 billion in 2017, an increase of 4.3%. In 2019, this booming industry is expected to grow another 4.5%, generating $75.38 billion dollars that are estimated to be spent across several key areas (APPA, 2019):
- Food: $31.6 billion
- Supplies/OTC Medication: $16.4 billion
- Veterinary Care: $18.9 billion
- Live Animal Purchases: $1.9 billion
- Other Services: $6.3 billion
The last category, Other Services, references additional pet industry products such as grooming, boarding, training, pet sitting, behavior consulting, pet exercise, and pet walking and it is these, specifically training and behavior consulting, that will be the focus of this book. Other Services represent a significant growth in pet industry income in the last 20 years.
Pet industry income grew from $28.5 billion in 2001 to $72.5 billion in 2018, with, as previously mentioned, 2019 forecast to reach $75.3 billion. Fig. 2 shows how Other Services, as an income category, have grown as a percentage of total income.
The Need for Change
It is very difficult at present to establish how many individuals are actually working, employed, or contracted to work across the pet industry. As there is no state or federal registration required for pet industry employees (other than veterinarians or board certified veterinary behaviorists), or any requirement to hold relevant qualifications (again, other than veterinarians or board certified veterinary behaviorists), any numbers available are not particularly reliable.
In her article Working with Animals, published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Royster (2015) details several pet care job titles, their expected median income, job opening forecast numbers, and qualifying credentials based on data published in 2012. Royster (2015) notes that “[m]ost occupations that involve working with animals have no postsecondary education requirements” and that for positions such as breeders, animal care workers, and animal trainers, the only qualifications required are a high school diploma or equivalent. She points out that any “on-the-job” training required is moderate, a year maximum, “to develop the skills needed to attain competency,” with no additional experience required. Royster (2015) also notes that licenses, certifications, or registrations are not required for anyone wanting to fill one of these “Other Services” type positions and join the pet industry.
In this book, the authors will present their views on the need for a level and model of oversight in the pet industry and for those choosing to practice within it. They will discuss the prevalence of individuals who hold no credentials, formal education, knowledge or skills, yet who are today working across the nation with full responsibility for the well-being and welfare of their unknowing clients’ treasured pets. They will also highlight the lack of consumer protection and transparency across the marketing and operations platforms of many pet-related businesses, as well as the inherent weakness in how pets are legally classified, and how the lack of reported and enforced animal cruelty laws are insufficient protection when it comes to holding pet professionals accountable for their methods, approach and philosophies toward their craft and the pets they serve. Examples of instances where pets have been injured or died at the hands of so-called pet professionals will be provided.
In terms of any future legislation or oversight geared toward those working in the field of pet care, training, or behavior consulting, it is the authors’ opinion that it would do pets and their owners an enormous injustice if any such legislation or industry oversight did not specifically call for practitioners to possess the appropriate skills and knowledge to effectively, efficiently and safely carry out their profession in a way that safeguards pets’ physical and emotional welfare. At the same time, any such legislation or industry oversight must also protect the consumer from fraudulent marketing practices, business maleficence and/or outdated training methods and tools that are mispresented by pet professionals as scientific or beneficial
The authors will propose that any implementation of new laws or licensing procedures is not the single blanket solution to the myriad problems associated with the pet training industry as it stands today. Rather, to address current concerns, any new laws or oversight protocols will require a collection of improvements across a number of areas, including required minimum knowledge and skills, competency assessments, best practice models, legalities protecting pets from cruel practices, and an infrastructure of industry experts to provide professional oversight rather than government bodies.
Your Role in the Transition
Throughout the book, the authors will purposefully document multiple key areas that are all interconnected and will be required for the much-needed delivery of a professionalized, ethical and competent, pet professional workforce. As such, the authors will review a full range of topics and subtopics pertaining to the subject at hand and advise on their pertinence in the development of an infrastructure for oversight to support the professional evolution of the pet industry.
In closing, the authors will provide their recommendations on an oversight model for pet professionals that may be applied across individual geographical regions. This model will incorporate the establishment of a nonprofit organizational structure with a recommended board member configuration detailing the relevant roles needed to develop operational and policy guidelines. The key aim for this organization is to act as an intermediary between local industry practitioners and the local government. The model is supported by recommended best practice policies and guidelines to aid implementation and operational success. Each chapter of this work may be used as a standalone educational piece and also forms the backdrop to an educational website, PetIndustryRegulation.com. As a result of this format, key areas of importance may be duplicated, and cross referenced across different chapters.
American Pet Products Association. (2019). 2019-2020 APPA National Pet Owners Survey. Stamford, CT: APPA
American Pet Products Association. (2019). Marketing Research and Data. Retrieved May 3, 2019, from https://www.americanpetproducts.org/Uploads/MarketResearchandData/PetIndustryMarketSize2019.pdf
Kestenbaum, R. (2019). The Biggest Trends in the Pet Industry. Forbes. Retrieved May 3, 2019, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/richardkestenbaum/2018/11/27/the-biggest-trends-in-the-pet-industry/#2efa8da5f099
Royster, S. (2015). Working with Animals. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved May 3, 2019, from https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2015/article/working-with-animals.htm