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By Carmen Rustenbeck
Executive Director & Founder, International Boarding & Pet Services Association (IBPSA)

IBPSA hit the ground running in 2017! Hard to believe we’re already a month into the new year. But, before we press any further, we wanted to take a breath and reflect on last year and how it will impact the future of the pet care services industry.  Many changes took place in 2016 that will affect our industry – some good, some bad. Always with a preference for the good, we’ll start with the bad to get them out of the way and to consider how the good will ultimately help us overcome them. The very short 2016 bad list:

  1. Facilities damaged and/or loss of pet life.
  2. Legislation that passed because of 1.

Last year, it took the state of California 9 months to develop and pass legislative action that will forever change how facilities operate in that state. California facilities are already overwhelmed with city and county regulations and now they have state regulations that, when implemented, will have unknown regulatory consequences. The cause of this legislative action? A facility that caught on fire while the owner was away. Loss of pet life did occur.

What should have been left at understanding fire safety and fire prevention for pet care providers, turned into an overreaching action that resulted in a wide range of operational protocols. The stunning legislation – now law – also includes possible misdemeanor penalties that a facility owner could incur for simple violations.

The week before Christmas 2016, a South Carolina House Representative submitted a bill that would develop a process for certification of those individuals wanting to provide pet care. The bill, as currently written, would allow for a group of veterinarians, with participation from select consumers, to develop a certification process to ensure the educational level of those working in pet care services. The reason for this action? A death of a pet in a daycare situation.

Until 2016, we as an industry have not really had to fight legislative action like this. Now we must. But how?

Now, for the good news…
Not only is the availability and quality of pet care educational programs growing, we now have the opportunity to prove our knowledge and expertise through independent, third-party certification. Many of you may have heard about the Professional Animal Care Certification Council (PACCC) but were unsure how this certification would benefit you. The upshot? Independent certification is a big step in confirming that our industry is an educated, professional industry.

IBPSA has spent the last 6 years building educational programs and certification processes for facility owners and their employees. In fact, it is IBPSA’s mission – every year – to bring new and updated programs to the industry to inform and educate in best practices for pet care services. IBPSA educational programs have always served to not only prepare pet care providers for the daily challenges of caring for pets, but also for the day when independent, third-party certification would come to our industry. And that day has arrived.

PACCC now provides a means by which any individual in the pet care services industry can test their knowledge, both book-learned and via on-the-job training, in a way that ensures comprehensive understanding and knowledge. This high level of certification also ensures pet care providers stay educated and informed by requiring proof of continuing education to maintain active certification status.

How the good can help overcome the bad…
Let’s go back to that South Carolina bill and put this into context. How much easier would it be for facility owners to fight undue legislation if they could show that they were independently certified in pet care and were keeping their certification active with required continuing education?  In a nutshell, this industry would demonstrate that we could successfully self-regulate through education, testing, and best practices. There would be no need for another certification process to be developed as independent certification already exists thanks to PACCC.

But the good in independent certification is not limited to just helping avoid government overreach, rather, all of that tested education has practical applications and should be implemented in pet care boarding facilities. Not every facility will have the same needs, but all do need policies, procedures, and best practices. Taking what you have learned, implementing it, and then keeping that learning attitude and motivating employees to improve through education and third-party testing will allow for the greatest care of pets and safest work environment

But we must be organized and support each other…
How legislatures view our industry will depend on our willingness to come together and support each other in an organized manner. There is power in numbers.  Successful – and powerful – unity through collaboration happens when those in the pet care services industry join organizations such as IBPSA and other pet care professional organizations. For example, when IBPSA advocates for our industry on a state level, we are judged by the amount of support that is shown from the pet care services business owners in that state. While IBPSA is not a lobbying group, this educational, professional association advocates for our industry from an educational and informational perspective. It is through our collective voices that, together, we present and demonstrate that our industry is educated, tested, and implements best practices for the pets in our care.

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