WASHINGTON D.C.––The board of directors of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, the lobbying umbrella for pet stores and breeders, on August 20, 2014 “voted to offer the positions of President and CEO to Ed Sayres,” PIJAC announced two days later.
The choice of Ed Sayres to lead PIJAC was immediately controversial both with rank-and-file PIJAC membership and within the animal advocacy community. Relations between PIJAC and leading animal advocacy organization have often been strained, especially in the areas of dog breeding and regulation of the exotic pet trade.
Edwin Sayres Jr., 65, retired in June 2013 after a decade as president of the American SPCA. Under Sayres, the ASPCA aggressively pursued stricter federal and state legislation governing pet breeding, advertising, and commercial transport, and was frequently involved in law enforcement actions against “puppy mills.”
2nd generation lifelong humane worker
Sayres’ father, Edwin Sayres Sr., was the founding director of St. Hubert’s Giralda, the former Rockefeller family hunting kennel in New Jersey, converted into an animal shelter by Geraldine Dodge Rockefeller in 1939. Frequently helping his father at the shelter, Ed Sayres Jr. briefly pursued a teaching career, but eventually succeeded his father as chief executive at St. Hubert’s Giralda.
Ed Sayres Jr. left St. Hubert’s in 1993 to head the American Humane Association animal protection division. In that capacity, Sayres and the AHA in 1996 co-hosted the second of the No Kill Conference series, attempting to improve relations between the no-kill and mainstream sheltering communities. Sayres later headed PetSmart Charities, then was president of the San Francisco SPCA from 1998 to 2004.
On June 17, 2014, Sayres announced via PRNewswire that he had formed Sayres Consulting LLC, described as “a nonprofit management consulting and philanthropic advisory firm,” intending to assist “directors, chief executives and other senior leaders of nonprofit organizations on fundraising, strategic planning and Board development.”
Taking the PIJAC job would appear to mean putting Sayres Consulting LLC on hold.
Said PIJAC of the choice to hire Sayres, in a prepared statement, “This decision followed a lengthy search process and internal discussions. Ed’s unique combination of experience and perspective distinguished him from other candidates. We have discussed his previous statements and actions with him at length and believe that he shares our firm commitment to the health and well-being of pets and all of the businesses and individuals who support them, both within PIJAC and the broader pet trade.
“PIJAC will continue to promote responsible pet ownership and animal welfare,” the PIJAC statement pledged, to “foster environmental stewardship and ensure the availability of pets across the country through legislative and regulatory engagement on behalf of the pet industry at the federal, state and local levels.”
Said Sayres himself in an open letter to PIJAC membership, “I have the skills necessary to reduce the polarized dynamics between animal welfare organizations and the industry. I know, after 40 years in animal welfare, that regulations that are well thought out protect animals and facilitate commerce…I am especially interested in the challenge of breeding pure-bred dogs on a large scale with humane care standards that prioritize the care and conditions that matter most to the well being and lifetime care of the dog. I may be the only person in the animal welfare field who believes this is feasible. After spending two days visiting the Hunte Corporation, I now know it is possible.”
Sayres’ endorsement of the Hunte Corporation was in itself controversial. The Humane Society of the U.S. on May 5, 2014 published a report entitled 101 Puppy Mills, spotlighting “harsh truths about puppy mills and the abuses of dogs occurring on a widespread scale within the pet industry,” blogged HSUS president Wayne Pacelle.
“At least three dealers in this report have supplied dogs to the Hunte Corporation, believed to be the largest national broker selling puppies to pet stores,” Pacelle said, denouncing “the industry’s general callousness toward animals, along with its commitment to fighting meaningful government and industry humane standards at every turn.”
Denunciations of “puppy mills” and expressions of hope that shelters might somehow capture adoption market share from breeders have been recurring themes in animal advocacy since the very early 20th century, when Humane Society of Central New York founder O. Robinson Casey was a popular speaker on the humane circuit. A former professional baseball player, believed in his own time to have been perhaps the original Casey of the 1888 Ernest Thayer poem “Casey At the Bat,” Robinson vehemently denounced “Doggie Millers,” who like fellow former pro baseball player Doggy Miller bred excessive numbers of hunting dogs in miserable conditions.
Yet no survey has ever showed breeders losing market share to shelters when actual pet acquisition behavior is investigated, as opposed to stated intent. On the contrary, as pet dog sterilization rates have soared toward 80% for all breed categories except pit bulls, whose sterilization rate has slipped to about 20%, accidental puppy births have plummeted. Shelter inventory has skewed toward pit bulls, who were 32% of the dogs in U.S. shelters as of June 2014, and Chihuahuas, who were 10%. Puppies and young small dogs have all but vanished from animal shelters. Breeders’ market share has correspondingly increased to just over half of all dog acquisitions.
Adoption vs. purchase
Richard Nasser found 26% of dogs coming from breeders in 1981. More than two decades of adoption promotion later, the American Pet Product Association found 29% of dogs coming from breeders in 2002. After another decade of escalated adoption promotion, the American Veterinary Medical Association discovered in 2012 that although 47% of people who have dogs claim that a shelter or rescue would be their first choice for getting another dog, 54% of the dogs actually in homes came from breeders, either directly or through pet stores.
“In the future, we will not be debating adoption vs. purchase,” Sayres said. “Thankfully, shelters are reducing the number of homeless dogs who are euthanized each year, leaving a deficit of seven million dogs to be acquired through other channels, including retail stores. Retail bans,” recently adopted in Los Angeles and proposed in other cities, “generate theatrics, but not solutions. If regulations are too stringent, they will drive breeding to the unregulated underground,” Sayres predicted. “If they are too lax, they will allow substandard operators to stay in business. I believe my professional experience,” Sayres finished, “makes me well qualified to lead the discussions around these issues and find common ground.
“I do have a lot to learn about alternative pets,” Sayres added, referring mostly to birds and reptiles. “To that end, I would engage PIJAC directors and members who specialize in these animals to educate me on the priorities facing these species and how I could best act on their behalf as the leader of PIJAC.”
Added Sayres, “In retrospect, given the nature of the ASPCA’s mission, I had a rather limited view during my tenure as the organization’s CEO, responding in the field to horrific substandard operators who represent a small minority of breeders—not the majority. My view in light of those circumstances,” Sayres said, “formed the basis for the statements I made during that period and campaigns that were developed under my leadership. I know now that I was misinformed about the majority of breeders who work diligently to raise puppies humanely and to find lifetime homes through retail channels. While many in the animal welfare field still want to paint all breeders with the same low standards brush,” Sayres concluded, “I look forward to opening their eyes to the true nature of the breeding business.”
Sayres’ candidacy for the top job at PIJAC was endorsed by Hunte Corporation chief executive Andrew Hunte. Wrote Hunte in an open letter to fellow pet breeders and brokers. “The recent decision by the PIJAC board to offer Ed Sayres, former CEO of the ASPCA, the position of PIJAC President has caused considerable disagreement within the pet industry. We encourage all industry members to set their doubts aside and unify behind PIJAC in an effort to focus our attention where it belongs–on preserving and protecting the pet industry as we know it.
“We are all painfully aware,” Hunte said, “of the extremely hostile and adversarial environment that our highly regulated and legal businesses face. To date, by PIJAC count, at least 62 municipalities across the country have imposed live animal retail bans. New ban proposals continue to surface at unprecedented rates. Our industry is, indeed, endangered. That is why the Hunte Corporation chooses to embrace the PIJAC decision.”
(See also Why we cannot adopt our way out of shelter killing, and Pit bulls were 32% of U.S. shelter inventory in June 2014.)
Anne Streeter says
Shame on Ed Sayres! Is he that desperate for a job! To go from the ASPCA to PIJAC is mind boggling! What is he thinking! It is so far fetched a switch that justification is ludicrous. There is no serious mention in this article of pet over population which is at the root of the problem – too many animals, not enough homes. Humane societies pick up the excesses while PIJAC, the “industry” promotes breeding, exotic animals, pet shops and all that is wrong – the opposite of what the humane movement has been trying to do all of these years.
When Ed Sayres should be sailing off into the sunset, he pulls a trick like this! Shame, double shame!
Christine Heidt says
Anne, I fully agree with your statement. The very wording of this traitor ‘pet industry’ and pet business’ says it all : MONEY !!! And people who make money on innocent animals are no better than slave traders in times gone by.
This man could have used his knowledge and influence on working for better Animal Welfare.
He sold himself to the pet ‘industry’. No nobility there !
the rich get richer…
Priscilla Feral says
What a disgusting development and you could have done better than snagging a quote from Ed Sayres’ former colleague Wayne Pacelle at HSUS. Those overly wealthy groups worked in concert and Sayres works the animal exploitation industry to his financial advantage entirely with no concern whatsoever for the harm this commerce and commodification causes animals called pets.
Wayne Pacelle is in no position to pass judgement regarding Sayres’ new position. Not when HSUS just sponsored the Hoofin’ It meat festival in Colorado and not when HSUS spent millions of donor dollars pushing the failed “Rotten Egg Bill” alongside the United Egg Producers.
Wendy Haugen says
I wonder if Sayres can make some headway with the Pet Food Industry toward adopting a minuscule tax (comes out to 58 cents per animal per year) on pet food sales that would go to subsidize low income spay/neuters. The state of Maryland is already doing it although the program is relatively new the results are looking promising.
Decent idea but the words spay and neuter were completely absent from his comments. I suspect spay and neuter would not sit well with many breeders but hopefully he will keep an open mind.
Did you not read the stat that 80% of owned dogs are already castrated? how many more.. and a new tax?/no thanks.. dog food will already be getting more expensive as HSUS/ASPCA and now PIJAC work toward pet extinction except for Hunte puppies.. meanwhile I wonder where Clifton gets that 20% of pit bulls ? out of a hat?
Merritt Clifton says
The sterilization rate for any breed of dog is relatively easily calculated from the birth rate, which is in turn easily estimated from the numbers of dogs of any given breed advertised for sale or adoption. At a 70% sterilization rate, the numbers will remain stable from year to year; at an 80% sterilization rate, there will be a decrease. A rapid rise in the numbers of any given breed, especially if sustained over several years, indicates a sterilization rate that is low and declining. The pit bull birth rate appears to have doubled in less than five years. For particulars 2010-present, see “Large retrievers still nearly twice as popular as pit bulls,” http://www.animals24-7.org/2014/07/22/large-retrievers-still-nearly-twice-as-popular-as-pit-bulls/.
He makes no comment at all about the numbers still being euthanized in shelters or the large expenses municipal shelters incur to try and save those animals. Instead he seems to focus on how to breed more. and now apparently believes their are a number of good breeders out there.
Ruth Steinberger says
Did PIJAC really hire Ed Sayers or are you having an off-date April 1?
we ALREADY spay first.. over 80% of owned dogs are already spayed/ neutered.. PIJAC is sleeping with the enemy and they do not even know it
Clova Abrahamson says
I am speechless. When I regain my voice, I think I will scream.
Elliot M. Katz, DVM says
There Is Absolutely No Such “Thing” As A Responsible Breeder. Not While Millions Of Adoptable Dogs Cats, Horses And Other Fellow Beings Are Killed Every Year In Our Nation’s Shelters and Mexican and Canadian Slaughter Houses. ALL Breeders, regardless of who they are, and all those who “buy” from them, are being grossly irresponsible. Let us not forget the silliness and arrogance of the Westminster Dog Show and the American Kennel Club, purveyors of inbred dogs. Rescue and Adopt, never buy or sell a fellow being. Think and act as their Guardian, their family, never as their ‘owner.’ Elliot M. Katz, DVM. Founder and President Emeritus, In Defense of Animals
Jamaka Petzak says
Agree 100%, and am glad to see you posting! Hope all is well with you and yours.
Christine Heidt says
Bravo Dr. Katz ! I wished there would be more people like you. I respect and support your wonderful organisation ‘In Defense of Animals’. Animals are our fellow beings and should not be ‘owned’ but should be guarded by responsible and kind people.
“I hold that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
And PIJAC is cruel !!!
Nicole Joncas says
In a few lines Dr, Katz, you have said it all and ever so clearly. I support every word.
Charlene Inglis says
Amen, Dr Katz! You stated it well!
“There Is Absolutely No Such “Thing” As A Responsible Breeder. Not While Millions Of Adoptable Dogs Cats, Horses And Other Fellow Beings Are Killed Every Year In Our Nation’s Shelters and Mexican and Canadian Slaughter Houses. ALL Breeders, regardless of who they are, and all those who “buy” from them, are being grossly irresponsible. Let us not forget the silliness and arrogance of the Westminster Dog Show and the American Kennel Club, purveyors of inbred dogs. Rescue and Adopt, never buy or sell a fellow being. Think and act as their Guardian, their family, never as their ‘owner.’ ”
We miss you, and are delighted to hear from you!
Love and hugs,
Conflict of interest comes to mind …… keep on reporting on this development. The wealthiest lobbyists hire the best at what they do. And are usually the ones that make the most money and will do what they have to do to keep their market share. Thank you for your article.
Mary Cummins says
Great article, Merritt. It’s still so shocking. Even Humane Watch is scratching their head over this one. Reminds me of a certain LA ex-GM who tried to get work consulting but couldn’t. Then he got a gig lobbying for declawing cats, a completely 180 from his previous position besides all other animal lovers. Sayres working for breeders is as shocking as if he were lobbying to make it legal to eat dogs and cats. Was he that desperate for money? Who can ever take him seriously?
Oh, that’s funny. I would think Berman’s vermin would be dancing in the aisles of Petland–a supposed animal welfare person has come over to the unfettered animal use side.
Nicole Joncas says
In one paragraph Dr. Katz you have encompassed it all. I fully support your every word.
Leon Seidman says
I was a member of PIJAC for many years. They represent manufacturers of pet products as well as retailers, breeders and importers. I quit over a decade ago because of their unwillingness to call out the truly bad players in the animal industry. There are really some good, kind and responsible breeders.. But they cannot compete against the low ball prices of animal mills. Besides there is no escape from the fact that it is morally repugnant to kill an animal with one hand while breeding another animal with the other.