Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, my name is Marshall Meyers. I am the Executive Vice President and General Counsel of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), the largest pet industry trade association in the world. PIJAC represents all segments of the pet industry consisting of companion animal breeders, importers, exporters, product wholesale distributors, manufacturers, and retailers.
PIJAC has worked with the federal and state governments on behalf of the pet trade for three decades to ensure a responsible pet industry that promotes the health and safety of the public and of animals in trade. We remain committed to acting proactively in response to current health concerns, while not over-reacting in a way that threatens the right to keep pets supported by the vast majority of Americans.
Companion animals are an integral part of American society. 62% of US households -- or 64 million homes --- currently own companion animals. Approximately 20 million households maintain one or more “exotics.” Studies indicate that the pet population in the United States is larger than our human population.
Historically, the US pet industry breeds and/or imports millions of specimens annually of numerous species of aquatic organisms, reptiles, amphibians, and birds that come from various parts of the world. In many instances, these animals are captive-bred and reared in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America, as well as in the United States.
When examining the role of “exotics” and human health, one must place it in perspective relative to other vectors (including humans) in our global economy. The actual number of human health related incidents involving traditional, as well as non-traditional, pets is really extremely small compared to the numbers of animals maintained as pets. The risk is also relatively low compared to diseases associated with the import and trade of non-pet animals for other industries.