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A former ASPCA executive has been hired as president and CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council in a move the organization acknowledged is controversial because of his past statements condemning animal breeding and sales.
Edwin J. Sayres served for 10 years as president and CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and became a consultant after resigning in 2013. He replaces Kenneth Oh, PIJAC’s chairman, who filled in as president after Mike Canning was fired in January without explanation.
PIJAC is a nonprofit industry group that promotes responsible pet ownership and animal welfare and lobbies against initiatives that seek to curtail the sale and availability of pets.
Humane Watch, which acts as a watchdog over another animal welfare group, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), called Sayres’ hiring a “strange move.”
“In a nutshell, the trouble with ASPCA and HSUS is that they admit that pet stores sell from some good breeders but that we should boycott them anyway,” Humane Watch wrote in a blog post.
Humane Watch published excerpts of statements Sayres made while at ASPCA, including one asking supporters to “take the ASPCA’s pledge to refuse to shop at pet stores and on websites that sell puppies.”
PIJAC’s board approved Sayres’ hiring Aug. 20 by a 9-7 vote. Looking to head off any uproar from PIJAC members, Sayres released a 678-word “Open Letter to the Pet Breeding Community.”
“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,” he wrote.
“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,” he added.
PIJAC’s chairman admitted that Sayres’ hiring created what he called “significant controversy.”
“This move is all about change,” Oh said. “[It’s about] changing the conversation and finding a reasonable path to an environment where responsible businesses—whether they are livestock providers, distributors or pet stores—are able to operate without the constant threat of legislative action that shuts them down.”
PIJAC member Andrew Hunte, the founder of Goodman, Mo., dog wholesaler Hunte Corp., stood behind Sayres, stating in an open letter that the hiring had 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,” Hunte wrote.
“Our industry is, indeed, endangered,” he added. “That is why the Hunte Corp. chooses to embrace the PIJAC decision and fully support the board and staff in their efforts to unify the industry behind a fresh approach to drive a positive impact that we all hope comes with it.”