Animal Welfare Act and How It Affects Pet Store Franchises

Animal Welfare Act and How It Affects Pet Store Franchises

Educate yourself on laws related to Animal Welfare and understand its implications on your pet franchise business


The pet industry saw an investment of 123 billion in 2021, nearly equalling the total expense on dental care in the USA. Our pets are clearly more valuable to us than our own teeth! Of this 123 billion spent, over 50 billion was spent on food and over 34 billion on medical care for pets. Other services, which includes pet walking, petting, and sitting, were worth nearly 10 billion dollars in total. 

While the number of places offering pet food and veterinary care has been increasing, other services such as pet walking, training, and grooming are becoming very popular in the United States. This has been largely due to the regulations that have come into effect, protecting animals and caring for them, though there are other factors that have helped too. 

Animal welfare

Animal welfare is a topic of great concern in the United States. As a society that believes in human freedom and the pursuit of happiness, in some ways such values are extended to our kindred souls as well - animals. Pet insurance has been around in the US since 1982, with the famous TV Show sensation Lassie the first to receive it in the same year.  Insurance helps too, and people have realized that it is a must for every pet. And nearly 3.5 million pets have insurance policies today. Pet insurance is certainly on the rise, but how is the legislation on the animal welfare front? The Animal Welfare Act was the first of its kind in the US in 1966 when it was enacted. Let us look at how the laws governing the care of animals have evolved in the USA.

Evolution of animal welfare laws

The Laboratory Animal Welfare Act of 1966 described minimum conditions to be maintained for animals and their care. This included rabbits, guinea pigs and cats, and dogs. The dealers, breeders and exhibitors had to be licensed and laboratories conducting tests on animals had to be registered. To prevent theft, cats and dogs had to be identified. In December of 1970, it was renamed to Animal Welfare Act, symbolic of extending the protection under the act to all warm-blooded animals in laboratories.

In another amendment to the act in April 1976, the US Government mandated that all animals, and dogs in particular, cannot be kept by breeders without a certificate, no matter what they are used for. They also needed to be offered veterinary care periodically. Transporters who move interstate had to register themselves and obtain permission from authorities before they transported animals and also carry a veterinarian’s certificate. 

The use of laboratory animals by the US Armed Forces also came under Federal Law and it was necessary to ensure that they were kept in humane conditions.

Pets and Franchising Industry

With pet care services becoming increasingly popular, the number of franchisees of larger pet stores and care centers also started to increase. Millennials are particularly fond of pets, with nearly 19% of those aged 21 to 29 having pets, and this has contributed to the pet franchising industry’s recent growth. Older adults are also fond of pets, with over 50% of all older adults in the USA having a pet. There are several other reasons why the pet care franchising industry is growing.   

Teachable and scalable

Most pet care routines are easily taught, and though it might vary from one breed to another, the overall techniques would remain the same for a particular pet. This means that techniques that have worked in one geographical region can be easily implemented in another. This also makes them very scalable as a company can grow easily by spreading to different areas much faster than otherwise.

Passion as a driver

People care about animals a lot. 70% of all households in the USA own a pet, that’s nearly 250 million people in the USA. It is very likely that a franchisee for a pet store will be a pet owner or a pet lover itself. This makes it easy to identify personas for recruitment based on the current pool of franchisees itself, possibly even by word of mouth. 

Maintaining a work-life balance

Since pet care is often afforded by people who strive for a work-life balance, most pet care franchisees themselves would be based on the same lifestyle. Being pet owners themselves, they would love to work from their homes, while taking care of the pets curled under their feet. Since work from home is immensely popular post the pandemic as well, prospective franchisees can be contracted by offering them such flexibility.

Relatively lower costs and risks

Care for certain pets may be costly, but largely pet care is viewed as something that is cost-effective as opposed to other franchise businesses, such as restaurants etc. the risk levels are also low running a pet care business and it is seen as relatively recession-proof, especially because of the number of increased adoptions that people saw during the pandemic.

If you are considering starting your own pet franchise business (pet care/grooming/training/breeding), there are a set of rules and regulations you must adhere to. In this guide we have put together various acts around animal welfare and protection which you must adhere to. Let’s get started with a few of them and how they apply to different groups of animals that form a part of our lives. As  a pet store franchise owner or a research laboratory franchise owner, you must be aware of these laws and ensure that these are followed.

Laboratory animals get a reprieve

The Food Security Act, a comprehensive farm bill, was passed in December of 1985. The Improved Standards for Laboratory Animal Act (ISLAA) is included in the Food Safety Act. ISLAA is a modification of AWA and it sought to reduce the pain and distress experienced by animals during research in laboratories.

In cooperation with the National Library of Medicine, an information service was established at the National Agricultural Library, to provide information on how to minimize the use of animals in research, help prevent unintentional duplication of experiments, and help institutions in training researchers on how to treat animals humanely, as required by the new law. 

Each research institution had to consult with a committee consisting of a registered veterinarian and another person who is actively contributing to animal welfare. Both were not to be affiliated to the institute in any way. The committee had to inspect the conditions in the laboratories every 2 years and report any discrepancies observed. 

If corrections were not made, a request had to be placed with the USDA, directing enforcement and revealing information to stakeholders so that grants for the research may be revoked or suspended. Researchers had to consult with a veterinarian before starting an experiment that can cause pain. All necessary standards had to be met during pre- and post-surgical procedures, and also when administering painkillers and performing euthanasia. 

Exceptions to the standards could only be made in accordance with the research protocol and deviations had to be explained. Penalties for violations ranged from $1,000 to $2,500 for violating the AWA and from $500 to $1,500 for failure to comply with a cease and desist order. Each day of a violation of the AWA or failure to comply with a cease and desist order was to be treated as a separate violation. 

Dogs and cats get a reprieve

The Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act (FACTA) was instituted in 1992.

The Pet Theft Act contained in FACTA includes an amendment to the AWA that requires dogs and cats to be held at the pound for five days before releasing them to dealers. The USDA can also move against any licensed establishment that handles stolen animals or seriously endangers the health of any animal in violation of the Act. 

The June Amendment of 2002 includes increased fines for violations ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 per violation per animal per day. A bill to gradually end the sale and use of stray dogs and cats was rejected before final passage, despite being approved by both the House and Senate. It was replaced by law directing investigation of Class B retailers by the National Institutes of Health, and demanding USDA to detail the results of the study to the House and Senate.

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Impact of welfare regulations: Compliance

With increase in pet-related legislation and animal welfare awareness among the people, the USA is largely a pet-loving country. Today pets are part of the social culture and way of life. Not just this but the provisions made in the acts that were enacted beginning in the 60s actually expanded the horizon of possibilities in the pet industry. More stakeholders are now present to ensure animal welfare and health. 

Whether it was a dog grooming service or a vet or even just a food store, there now was an established way of taking care of pets and everyone had to comply. This need for compliance has pushed many pet care companies to consult veterinarians and establish routines for the care and grooming of pets.

Impact of welfare regulations: Education and networking

The Animal Welfare Act and resulting amendments and agreements on the care of animals has created awareness around the need for better care and also created more people who are passionate about animal welfare. This includes both people seeking help and those ready to provide help and friendly advice. There are today forums and institutions that educate and connect these two groups of people. If there is a dog, for example, that is very old then 

Impact of welfare regulations: Pet food supply

In the USA, 41% of all cat owners and 43% of all dog owners purchase premium food for their pets. That’s how immensely popular the pet food industry is. Canines and felines definitely get the royal treatment. And there are regulations to match these requirements too. In every state, the State Department of Agriculture enforces these laws. Let’s look at some of them: 

Labels of bottles containing pet food must be registered with the state authorities and/or the firm itself must have a valid license to operate in the pet food industry.

Laws vary from state to state, with Texas requiring registration for every pet snack and a license for the facility where it is manufactured, whereas in California every pet food franchise location must be licensed apart from the manufacturing facility.

The registration cycles also vary from state to state, with few having a one-year cycle while others have a two-year cycle.

Pet food and their labeling must be submitted to the regulatory agencies for approval in exactly the same way they would be distributed. Once the changes requested by the regulatory authority are made, your pet food is good for distribution, and you can add franchisees to your business.  

The impact of covid

With the lockdowns and social distancing, there was a need for companionship in 2020-21, and this led to a sudden increase in the number of pets. In the USA, there were over 11 million new households with pets. The animal shelters were nearly empty, which was great news. However, there was a fear that as the need for companionship would reduce with the lifting of restrictions and the commute back to office would begin, people would start to give up or abandon their pets.

Abandonments rise post pandemic

With people returning to work, the number of pets being abandoned rose in July- August 2021. Animal care centers in NYC saw twice the number of people inquiring to forsake their pets as opposed to before the pandemic. People were abandoning kittens and cats in bags outside pet care societies, hoping they would be taken care of. Several of the pet care shelters did not permit euthanization, but few of them did and several pets were killed in these places. But there are people who have persevered through the pandemic too to take care of their pets. In fact, 43% of all pet owners work full time and only 11% work part-time taking care of their pets today. 

The pet care business remains resilient

The pandemic certainly brought us closer to our kindred souls, animals, but after the pandemic, many of us chose to abandon them. Despite this, the pet care market remained resilient and as the love for animals continues to grow, the number of pets being adopted continues to rise. The pet care market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.4% during the five-year forecast period of 2022-2027. This is also due to the favorable policies and regulations in place that promote better health for every pet and that are not overly stringent on pet care establishments either. This has led to the growth of pet care stores across the USA.

Closing words

The Animal Welfare Act and the amendments to it have been an eye opener for pet care givers, exhibitors, breeders, transporters and even researchers.  Every person involved with pet care had to be licensed, and every pet and organization had to be registered with authorities for continuous monitoring too. Animal welfare regulations act as a bridge to a tomorrow where animals lead better lives, have access to better healthcare options, and are guaranteed better hygiene, safety and security.