The companion animals industry embraces a huge range of diverse
and in many cases, highly specialised operations. From small-scale
“cottage industry” businesses supplying a small niche
market, through the Veterinary Services to the multi-national manufacturers
of pet foods supplying the mass-market retailers in grocery.
Currently the annual turnover
for the whole pet care industry (including veterinary services &
products) is around $4 billion and employing some 40,000 people.
Less than 50% of this total value is spent on pet foods and slightly
more than 20% is spent on Veterinary services and products. This
leaves the non-grocery sector and specialist pet care providers
with an approximate annual turnover of $1.2 billon. This figure
does not take into account the considerable amount contributed in
private sales of pet companion animals by registered breeders and
other hobbyists who make their sales directly through the classified
sections of almost every newspaper. In Australia in 2003 there were
approximately 700 Aquariums, 1000 Pet Retail Shops, 1500 fixed and
mobile Pet Grooming Services, 1500 Pet Boarding Facilities and 500
Animal Training Facilities. In addition to these services there
a numerous specialists including licensed dealers trading in captive-bred
reptiles, birds and the more unusual companion pets like spiders/insects
as well as tropical and marine Aquarium Maintenance Services. Private
sales account for 99% of puppies and kittens and it is one of the
great misconceptions of many animal welfare groups and urban animal
managers that the “retail pet industry” is responsible
for creating impulse purchasing and the subsequent abandoned animals
in council pounds and shelters. In fact, the pet industry as such,
probably does more to educate the community and actively promote
responsible pet ownership than any other group.
Employment within the non-veterinary
and non-pet food market sector is between 16,000 and 20,000. The
size of this workforce has often been overlooked because of the
culture that has existed within this diverse and fragmented workforce.
This “pet care” workforce does not have a traditional
culture of training and a significant proportion consists of small
operations that are undercapitalised. However, the highly specialised
skills that exist amongst these smaller operators are a very important
part of the success and strength of the industry. Classroom based
teaching is unlikely to be accepted on a large scale by the workforce
in this industry. Workplace and competency based training with minimal
classroom teaching is far more appropriate and likely to be accepted
by pet industry workers and therefore enrolments will be encouraged
by many employers. In the past, traineeships and appropriate finding
for this workforce has been minuscule. Following the ANTA endorsement
and release of the Animal Care & Management Training Package
in Feb 04, the “Companion Animal” sector’s Pet
Industry Association of Australia (PIAA) will be very actively promoting
and most importantly assisting in the creation of appropriate training
courses in conjunction with their Registered Training Organisation.
It is of paramount importance
that industry endorsed competency units are made available to the
companion animal industry. With a suitable training product, the
industry will continue to mature and overcome the need for over-restrictive
regulation and reduce the demands on animal welfare agencies. It
is the companion animal industry that has a direct interface with
the community and as such, an industry with higher skills will educate
the pet owning public.
There has been a slowing down
of the traditional pet ownership (Dog & Cat) in recent years.
In fact, the cat population has been in slow decline for ten years
and the dog population in now on a plateau or even in slight decline.
The awareness of animal welfare issues and the general status of
pets in our community has seen a huge increase in the special pet
care services currently being offered. This maturing of the industry
and the general trend towards specialised servicing continues to
grow. Ornamental aquarium fish sales have increased by 75% in the
past five years; this is due to housing density, lifestyles and
new technology allowing “non-experts” to successfully
keep these animals.
There has been a considerable increase in the number and variety
of creatures being kept by the community under the general term
“companion animals”. As well as aquarium fish, reptiles,
pet ferrets and companion birds have seen unprecedented growth in
the past five years, even unusual insects and spiders have taken
their place in the industry. To only think of cats and dogs in reference
to the term “companion animals” is a gross mistake and
massively underestimates the companion animal services sector.
Amongst the growing number of people keeping these less traditional
animals, there has also been a change in philosophy from being a
“collector” to being a “breeder”. This in
turn has created a demand from the industry to provide more detailed
information, more specialised products, assistance and better advice,
allowing their clientele a greater level of success in captive breeding.
Whilst the variety of these non-cat/dog “companion animals”
held by the community is restricted by some State Government regulators,
the actual number of captive animals successfully bred by the private
individuals in the community far out weighs the numbers produced
by all State and private fauna parks and zoos.
The current push for “No
animals in pet shops” makes absolutely no sense at all. It
is an ill-considered, knee-jerk reaction to the number of animals
being put-down each year. The numbers are unacceptable to everyone
including the pet industry. But with no animals in shops the animal
welfare issues for councils and animal welfare regulators will become
a nightmare because there will be no compliance to licensing requirements
and no public or inspectorate scrutiny. If you think about it, anything
banned from legal sale is in fact “illegal”. Does society
really want to develop yet another underground trading environment?