The Petfood Consumer Rights Council, a first-of-its-kind consumer protection and animal welfare organization, has launched and announced its first key initiative, a 90-day founding member drive. The PCRC is the first 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization in history devoted exclusively to advancing the rights and interests of American pet owners.
"I'm delighted to announce that this revolutionary organization is finally ready to begin its work," says Daniel Schulof, the PCRC's founder. Schulof, a companion animal author, entrepreneur and activist, says that he created the organization to address a modern-day animal welfare paradox: pet owners have never in history spent more time and money on the health and welfare of their companions, but the more than 100 million dogs and cats in the United States have never been less healthy.
"With the record amounts of money pet owners are spending every year on veterinary care and other animal health services, we should expect to see falling rates of chronic, noncommunicable diseases like obesity, diabetes, arthritis, and cancer among household pets. But those rates aren't falling, they're rising faster than ever. Obesity alone impacts more than half of the dogs and cats in the country. Something is very, very wrong."
Schulof contends that these trends aren't the results of pet owners being negligent or under-informed. "I believe that the fundamental cause of these scary trends is that many of the regulators and scientific authorities that are supposed to be helping pet owners make good decisions are instead putting industry interests ahead of the constituencies they're supposed to be serving."
To combat the problem, Schulof says that solutions need to be focused not on pets but on their owners. "There are hundreds of animal welfare non-profits operating in America today, and most of them are doing terrific work. But the vast majority work directly on behalf of animals," he explains.
"The PCRC is designed to be different. We recognize that hundreds of millions of household pets already have smart, caring human guardians that are deeply invested in their health and well-being. We believe that the best way to help those animals live long and happy lives is to ensure that their guardians have all the tools and information they need to make good decisions on behalf of their pets."
That's where the PCRC comes in. According to Schulof, the PCRC will pursue its mission primarily by aggregating donations from individual pet-owners and using the funds to provide grants for scientific research initiatives that have struggled to obtain funding from the usual source of grants for companion animal research---the pet food industry.
"Since its inception, the pet food industry has been essentially the only significant source of funding for veterinary nutrition research in the United States. That's a problem, because it means that vital, ground-breaking studies can't get funding if their findings potentially aren't good for industry. Tobacco and lung cancer makes for an instructive comparison: if the only source of funding for lung cancer research was cigarette companies, we'd never have learned that smoking causes cancer."
But, Schulof says, providing funding for new research is only one of the ways the PCRC will deploy its money. "Science is just one of the domains in which modern-day pet owners are being made to take a back seat to industry interests. Decades of industry influence have also produced pet food labeling laws and regulations that are shockingly anti-consumer. And these bad laws make it incredibly difficult for pet owners to make smart decisions on behalf of their pets."
Citing the work of Ralph Nader and other consumer advocates, Schulof notes that consumer protection organizations have played an important historical role in protecting and improving the welfare of American consumers. He hopes that the PCRC can carry on this important tradition.
To prevent the organization from becoming just another vehicle for advancing the interests of the pet food industry, Schulof says that the PCRC has been specifically designed to be entirely within the control of its individual members. "According to our bylaws, the PCRC cannot accept donations from corporations and other organizations, only individual pet owners. Moreover, we won't accept more than $1,000 per year from any single donor. And our voting members will be the ones choosing our leadership and setting our agenda each year, not some deep-pocketed corporate benefactor. My hope is that these structures will ensure that the PCRC continues to authentically and independently pursue its mission for years to come."
For more about the Petfood Consumer Rights Council please visit www.petfoodconsumerrightscouncil.org.