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The latest pet trade news as the crisis unfolds
31st March 2020

By Karen Pickwick

Wednesday 1 April

 


New guidance on walking dogs for people
 

UK pet trade and welfare bodies have helped to produce guidance for anyone walking other people’s dogs.

“Pets provide invaluable companionship, especially at this time,” said a spokesman for the Canine Feline Sector Group, which includes the Pet Industry Federation and Pet Food Manufacturers Association.

“For many dogs, going out for a walk is an important part of their daily routine. However, measures introduced to reduce coronavirus mean that lots of owners won’t be able to do this so may be relying on others to help them.

“If you have offered to walk someone else’s dog, the Canine Feline Sector Group, comprised of the UK’s leading pet welfare organisations, has developed some guidance to help keep everyone safe.”

For more information, visit www.cfsg.org.uk/coronavirus

 


Vets bring forward video consultation app

In the light of government advice to the nationwide lockdown, the Pets’n’Vets Family has brought forward the launch of its PetsApp, which provides video consultations to help pet owners throughout the current pandemic. 

The Pets’n’Vets Family PetsApp is a bespoke version of PetsApp, a veterinary-specific client communications platform designed to bring vet practices and clients closer together by helping clients gain easier access to their vets.

A messaging system can support text chats – as appointment bookings, text consultations, and photo and video-sharing – and contactless payments can be taken via the app, which also offers video consults. 

The launch has been brought forward in response to recent guidance from The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons that, due to the coronavirus pandemic, rules have been relaxed on what vets can and cannot do with regards to tele/remote consulting in order to allow for this sort of interaction.

TEXT ADVICE

In order to help pet owners throughout the pandemic, as of yesterday (Monday), The Pets’n’Vets Family is offering veterinary text advice and video consult via the Pets’n’Vets Family PetsApp. 

Pets’n’Vets Family partner Ross Allan, an award-winning RCVS Advanced Practitioner in Small Animal Surgery at the Roundhouse Veterinary Hospital, said: “Given the latest government advice, there is a pressing need to separate ‘essential’ from ‘non-essential veterinary’ visits.

“We fear that pet owners, particularly those more vulnerable members of the community, may find difficulty knowing what to do in the case that their pet is not well: they may either take a trip out of their home to seek veterinary help at a practice, exposing themselves to the possibility of infection, or may choose to delay seeking treatment for their pet, not knowing what to do.

AMBULANCES 

“As a locally-owned practice and part of the Glasgow community for almost 50 years, we want to help! That’s why we have decided to put our resources into offering video consultations via our free-to-download app.”

Furthermore, The Pets’n’Vets Family will deploy its fleet of veterinary ambulances to offer a pet collection service should a pet’s health issue need further investigation at the Roundhouse Veterinary Hospital in Glasgow’s southside.

“Where the app, or telephone call can be used to update the owner, it will be the closest, safest alternative to bringing pets down to the vet practice,” said Allan. 

“In addition, we have developed a robust medications delivery system whereby we can offer contactless payment via the app. We have also taken steps to ensure that we have all the medications and resources required to ensure that we are in a position to treat sick pets come what may.”

The app has also been designed to protect The Pets’n’Vets Family team by reducing footfall and enabling some team members to work from home.

Non-Pets’n’Vets Family registered pet owners struggling to access veterinary care for their pets during this time can download the app by following the link www.petsapp.com/vetTV on their mobile device for advice and veterinary video consultations.



Tuesday 31 March

 

Pet food sales soar with panic buying

Sales of dog and cat food in the US last month (March) were up more than 50% over the same period last year as Americans stocked up on essentials in preparation for extended social distancing. 

And a new industry-funded study reveals that manufacturers contribute hugely to the US economy through purchases of ingredients, labour and services.

The fugures show that pet food manufacturers spend $6.9bn annually on about 8.65 million tons of animal and plant-based ingredients grown by US farmers.
 




New online courses

The Pet Industry Federation has introduced some additional online courses to help members run their businesses.

“During this difficult time, it is important to stay productive and PIF want to be able to help assist where we can,” a spokesman said. “We have made these courses FREE and easily accessible online for all members to provide you with some support during this time.”

The educational courses include: Fleas, Dealing with a bleeding dog, Rabbits & guinea pigs and A new intro to business management. 

“If you are interested in completing any of the courses available and would like to know more or sign up to begin the course then sign up to PIF.Talent and then please email education@petfederation.co.uk and state your username and Member ID and the courses you are interested in completing.”

There is a wide range of other courses available and all courses are discounted for PIF members.

 

 

High Street banks ‘should hang their heads in shame’

High street banks are failing to support small independent retailers in the current crisis, according to a survey by the British Independent Retailers Association.

Bira asked its members three key questions about the support they’ve received following the outbreak of coronavirus – and the results show a large majority are getting little or no help. 

Almost two thirds (64.5%) said they would not benefit from the self-employed income protection announced on Thursday (March 26). Many members said they would not qualify because they pay themselves in dividends, while others admitted they were confused over how it was claimed.

One said: “We haven’t had enough profit in the last three years as we are just about ticking over in a job I love.”

Secondly, Bira asked members whether they’d received a Business Support Grant from their local authority to which 91% said they had not. Despite Bira lobbying for local authorities to be more forthcoming about the support grants, the majority of members said they’d had no communication.

One respondent said: “I’ve been in touch with local authority but they do not have a timescale for the initial letter notification going out.”

High street banks came under fire in the survey with only 1% of the members who have applied for a business interruption loan being succesful so far. Nearly 20% of members surveyed have approached their lender for help – with many still waiting for a response.

OVERDRAFT – AT 6% INTEREST

One member said: “I was advised an overdraft would be better suited for my needs with an arrangement fee of £150 and more than 6% interest.”

Another said: “Had a rather lengthy discussion that was very downbeat and obstructive even though they hold security on my mortgage-free business premises.”

Andrew Goodacre, Bira’s CEO, said: “It is clear that the well-intended Government initiatives are not reaching the retailers that need the support. 

“I do not understand why it is taking so long to award the grants. The self-employed income protection scheme will only help a quarter of retailers.

“The high street banks are simply not willing to help and should hang their heads in shame. Independent retailers have no money coming in, have had low margins and low profits for many years and need more support than is currently available – otherwise many of these businesses will not re-open when the situation returns back to normal.”


Monday 30 March

 

Pet service businesses ‘should close during crisis’ – but it’s up to you!

Trade body the Pet Industry Federation has issued a statement to people running pet services businesses, such as groomers, dog walkers, and kennels and catteries.
 
PIF says it ‘strongly believes’ that pet service businesses should temporarily close during the outbreak but that it is still down to individual owners.
 
“The Government aims to curb the transmission of covid-19 and to save lives by reducing the movement of people through them staying at home; and by them adopting social distancing measures and hygiene protocols.
 
“PIF strongly believes that the best way for pet service businesses to act in these circumstances is to temporarily close their businesses during this covid-19 outbreak in order to keep them, their families and their customers safe. PIF hopes that many pet service businesses will be able to join the ones who have already closed to protect people from catching covid-19.
 
“While government information is still forming, the decision to close comes down to the individual business owner, unless new government guidance is issued which is beyond doubt.”

 


Drop-ship service goes live

Pet retailers are taking up a new drop-shipping service from specialist wholesaler Peregrine Livefoods.
 
“This service operates within your current account terms, protecting your margin at such a valuable time and the postage costs are below,” the company says in an email to customers. 

 


Government cracks down on false information 

Specialist units are operating to combat misinformation about coronavirus, with five to 10 incidents being identified and tackled each day.
 
The units across government are working at a pace to combat false and misleading narratives about coronavirus, ensuring the public has the right information to protect themselves and save lives.
 
The Rapid Response Unit, operating from within the Cabinet Office and No.10, says it sis tackling ‘a range of harmful narratives’ online – from purported ‘experts’ issuing dangerous misinformation to criminal fraudsters running phishing scams.
 
Up to 70 incidents a week, often false narratives containing multiple misleading claims, are being identified and resolved. The successful ‘Don’t Feed the Beast’ public information campaign will also relaunch next week, to empower people to question what they read online.
 
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “We need people to follow expert medical advice and stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. It is vital that this message hits home and that misinformation and disinformation which undermines it is knocked down quickly.
 
FALSEHOODS AND RUMOURS
 
“We’re working with social media companies, and I’ll be pressing them this week for further action to stem the spread of falsehoods and rumours which could cost lives.”
 
When false narratives are identified, the government’s Rapid Response Unit coordinates with departments across Whitehall to deploy the appropriate response. This can include a direct rebuttal on social media, working with platforms to remove harmful content and ensuring public health campaigns are promoted through reliable sources.
 
The Culture Secretary will be contacting social media companies this week to thank them for their good efforts to date, assess the progress made and discuss what other potential measures can be put in place to ensure accurate, honest information consistently reaches users of their platforms.
 
Penny Mordaunt, the Paymaster General, said: “Holding your breath for 10 seconds is not a test for coronavirus and gargling water for 15 seconds is not a cure – this is the kind of false advice we have seen coming from sources claiming to be medical experts.
 
“That is why government communicators are working in tandem with health bodies to promote official medical advice, rebut false narratives and clamp down on criminals seeking to exploit public concern during this pandemic.
“But the public can also help with this effort, so today we implore them to take some simple steps before sharing information online, such as always reading beyond the headline and scrutinising the source.” 
 


Comedian backs emergency appeal

Ricky Gervais has thrown his support behind the RSPCA, which has launched an appeal today to raise funds to keep its rescuers on the frontline saving animals.
 
Animal rescuers at the charity have been designated key workers by the Government but vital funding is needed to keep them out on the road, continuing to rescue animals from the worst cruelty and neglect.
 
Although RSPCA centres have closed to the public, the charity continues to provide vital care to thousands of animals across England and Wales at its centres and hospitals. It is expecting even more to come into its care in the coming weeks as its rescue teams bring in more animals in need. Alongside this, the charity is facing ‘a huge financial strain’ as it is already seeing the damaging effect of this crisis on its fundraising income, while the costs of saving, treating and caring for animals continue.
 
Animal lover Ricky said: “It is really important for us all to pull together to help each other at this difficult time and someone needs to be there for animals too. I would urge people to give whatever they can spare at this really difficult time to support the RSPCA so they can stay out on the frontline rescuing the animals who need them most.
 
“They are facing huge challenges through this crisis, but their amazing staff are committed to being there for animals in danger in any way they can and they can only do it with your help.” 
 
EMERGENCY-ONLY
 
The national RSPCA is currently caring for more than 3,000 animals including more than 880 dogs, 870 cats, 840 horses and 200 rabbits, plus many more.
 
RSPCA Inspectorate staff are providing an emergency-only service throughout the lockdown period.
 
Dermot Murphy, chief inspectorate officer, said: “This is a time of national crisis, and many of us are anxious about the future and our loved ones. This crisis has touched all areas of life and the RSPCA is no different. As we all face the biggest challenge of a generation, the RSPCA must continue to be on the frontline, rescuing and caring for the animals who need us most.
 
“Our rescuers, vets and nurses have been designated key workers by the Government which means we can carry on saving animals from cruelty and neglect but we rely entirely on generous public donations to fund our vital services.
 
“We are facing immense challenges and huge pressures on strained resources, but our hugely dedicated teams are out there dealing with emergencies and our centres continue to deliver vital care to thousands of animals, with more expected in the coming weeks.
 
“We know that this is a difficult time for everyone but we must still be here for animals who are suffering and we are appealing for animal lovers to give whatever they can to help us.”
 
Since the crisis deepened at the beginning of March, the charity’s animal cruelty line has already received nearly 60,000 calls.
 
To donate, go to www.rspca.org.uk/covid


Sunday 29 March

 


Job Retention Scheme: your questions answered

Law firm Womble Bond Dickinson answers some of the most frequently-asked questions about the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, intended to pay employees who would otherwise be redundant or asked to stay away from work without pay and are instead designated as ‘furloughed’.
 
This information is frequently changing so please keep up to date via the Government’s financial help portal at https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/campaign=business_support_covid
 
Who does the scheme apply to?
The scheme applies to all UK employers and will include, for example, companies, partnerships, LLPs, charities and sole traders. It is unlikely to apply to the public sector.
 
How long will it last?
It starts with effect from March 1, 2020 and will last for at least three months (ie to the end of May 2020). It will be extended if necessary.
 
How will it work?
HMRC will reimburse employers for 80% of the wage costs of employees who are kept on, up to £2,500 per employee per month. Employees will stay on the payroll while they are furloughed. The payment will operate as a grant, not a loan, and grants should be available by the end of April. There is no limit on the amount of funding that can be given to an employer. Employers will have to submit information to HMRC (via an online portal that is being set up urgently) regarding employees and their earnings.
 
How do we furlough an employee?
Employers have to designate employees as ‘furloughed workers’ and notify them. This is stated to be subject to normal employment law and may require negotiation, which means that their consent will be required unless there is a lay-off clause in their contract of employment. Very few contracts include such a clause.
 
Generally this will require employers to consult with employees and seek their agreement to be furloughed. It is likely to be necessary to advise employees as part of those discussions that an alternative would be for the employer to consider redundancies, otherwise there may be no incentive for them to accept the reduction in pay. There is debate over whether or not commencing such discussions may require collective consultation in circumstances where at least 20 employees may be furloughed at one geographical establishment. It would be advisable to take specialist advice in such situations as, depending on the circumstances, there may be options an employer can use to implement furlough quickly.
 
Such consultations should be followed up with a letter explaining how the scheme will apply to the employees, and asking them to sign and return a copy of the letter indicating their agreement. 
 
Can employees make a request to be furloughed?
Employees have no right to ask to be furloughed. However, one way of employers potentially avoiding cumbersome consultation requirements would be to go out to employees and seek volunteers to be furloughed prior to entering into formal consultation. 
 
What is included in the £2,500?
It includes ‘all employment costs’. 
 
If the grants are not available until the end of April, what happens in the meantime? Do employers have to continue paying furloughed employees until they start receiving grants?
If employees have agreed to be furloughed then the employer should be able to move straight to paying 80% from the date agreed. The employee will have contractually agreed to the reduction in pay so there should be no unlawful deductions or breach of contract issues. 
 
Does the scheme cover employees on maternity leave?
This has not been explicitly mentioned in the advice to employers or employees but we do not think it would apply to women on maternity leave or an employee on family-related leave because they would not be working.
 
What about atypical workers?
Again, this is not covered in the advice document but we consider that an individual who has the status of an employee or worker and is on the employer's payroll will be included. We do not consider that it will cover self-employed individuals or agency workers. [However, the Government has now introduced a similar scheme for self-employed people and freelancers].
 
What happens if there is a salary sacrifice scheme in place?
Depending on the wording of the scheme, employees may be able to cancel their salary self-sacrifice arrangement in order to increase their pay and thereby receive a higher amount. This may well be the case if for example an employee has entered into a salary sacrifice arrangement in return for childcare vouchers, which they will not be able to use while their child's nursery is closed as a result of covid-19.
 
Do we have to top up wages to 100%?
Employers can top up wages if they want to but there is no requirement to do this.
 
How will the scheme affect employees’ entitlement to the national minimum wage?
Since an employee will not be working, we do not consider that they will be entitled to the national minimum wage while they are furloughed. However, this is yet to be clarified.
 
Can employees work while they are furloughed?
Employees will not be able to do any work for their employer during this time. Managers will, therefore, need clear instructions that they cannot just call on furloughed employees if they need them to do some work.
 
Can furloughing be backdated in relation to employees who have already been made redundant?
It is not clear from the government announcement whether this will be possible and we need to see what the guidance says when it is published. However, given that the scheme starts from a date in the past, we believe that it is intended to be used retrospectively for employees who have been made redundant and are reinstated or who have been formally laid off.
 
What happens at the end of the furlough period?
The expectation is that employees will go back to normal working hours at the end of this period. However, the period could be extended.
 
Will they retain their continuous employment?
We expect that they will have continuous employment throughout the period when they are not working since the period of furlough will be treated as a temporary cessation of work.

 


Stores install plastic screens

Central England Co-op has rolled out the installation of plastic screens at its stores to help keep staff and customers safe.
 
The retailer, which has more than 240 stores across 16 counties, has also revealed that it is bringing forward its annual bonus and doubling its colleague to discount to say ‘thank you’ to those who have gone ‘above and beyond to support their communities’.
 
Central England Co-op has hired more than 500 new staff to ensure shelves continue to be stocked with food and essentials.
 
Stores are also now closed early from 8pm to enable staff to clean and replenish stores as well as get home to see their families. And all bread is now sold wrapped.
 
SAY THANK YOU
 
Central England Co-op chief executive Debbie Robinson said: “Our colleagues and key workers are doing everything they can to ensure our communities continue to be supported during this uncertain time.
 
“In the spirit of co-operation, we wanted to say thank you by giving them a little something to showcase our gratitude for their hard work and dedication…
 
“If you’re able to say thank you to our colleagues and to key workers when you see them, we are sure they would really appreciate the support at this time. Please be kind and respectful to everyone around you.”

 


Northern Pet Trade steps up

With a number of charities struggling during the coronavirus crisis, parrot wholesaler Northern Pet Trade is making donations to five bird rescue centres. 

The charities to benefit are All Star Parrots Rescue and Rehoming, Joan’s North Wales Parrot Rescue, Birdline UK Parrot Rescue, Safehaven Parrot Refuge and Problem Parrots.

The charities chosen to receive support are those that Northern Pet Trade has worked with before. Each will receive a voucher to exchange for essential parrot supplies, to assist them through this challenging period. 



Saturday 28 March


Team spirit gets the job done

The Golden Paste Company, a division of I’Anson Brothers, is continuing to run as it provides supplements for pets and livestock, alongside sister company British Horse Feeds that produces Speedi-Beet, Fibre-Beet and Cooked Linseed.

With skeleton staff following strict guidelines to maintain a safe working environment, the company is working hard to keep deliveries going out. Sisters Hattie and Ellie I’Anson are running the office and warehouse manager Kev Jones is overseeing warehouse operations.

“Members of the on-site team are in regular contact with employees working from home and everyone’s positivity and hard work is keeping the business running smoothly,” said the company’s Claire Tew.




Call for lifting of dog-walking restrictions

Councils are being urged to consider relaxing any locally-imposed restrictions on dog walking during the coronavirus shutdown period.

The RSPCA made the call in a bid to prevent people from travelling further afield to walk their dogs – and so risk spreading the virus – and instead to encourage them to walk nearer to home.

Many local authorities have previously introduced Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) to stop dogs being walked in certain areas, often including local sports pitches. However, concerns have been raised that PSPOs can limit suitable dog walking spots within some communities.

The RSPCA fears that without a relaxation of the orders, some dog walkers may feel they have to travel to exercise their dog and protect its welfare – something councils could help avoid with a temporary lifting of restrictions.

The RSPCA has also urged walkers to keep dogs on leads at this time to help ensure social distancing and avoid owners having to come into close contact with one another should they need to retrieve their dog; or in the event of an incident that could cause a potential veterinary visit.

AVOID CONTACT

Dr Samantha Gaines, dog welfare expert and head of the RSPCA’s companion animals department, said: “Since the introduction of these new measures to help combat covid-19, we’ve received many queries from dog walkers. The RSPCA is reminding the public that – while each person in a household can walk their dog once a day – it is imperative they stay two metres away from others, and avoid contact with other people’s pets when doing so.

“We know that many local authorities have previously introduced PSPOs that stop dogs being walked in certain areas, including some sports pitches and fields. This has previously heightened concerns about the availability of dog walking spots near to some people’s homes.

"The RSPCA is concerned that if some dog owners do not have adequate space to exercise their dogs near their homes they may make unnecessary journeys.

“It won't be possible, appropriate or safe to relax PSPOs in all areas. However, where it is possible and safe to do so, we're urging local authorities to be flexible and consider relaxing enforcement of PSPOs on dog walking.”

 


What a treat for crisis-hit rescues

A family-run pet treat manufacturer is donating treats to animal rescue charities as part of its zero-waste policy.

The Innocent Pet Care Company wants to ensure that no product goes to waste during the coronavirus crisis and is using any product left over from the production process to create treats especially for rescue centres.

Founder Chloe Heaton explained “We use any excess ingredients to create our Charity Chunks – they are a grain-free, mixed meat healthy treat that we donate in bulk to animal charities and dog rescues across the country.”

More than 150kg of the specially made dog treats have been donated in the last week to help struggling rescues, which have had to close their doors in line with UK government advice, meaning a significant loss of public donations.

RESCUE

Chloe said: “All three of our dogs have come from rescue centres, so we’ve been able to see first-hand just how donations like ours can help and are relied upon to help feed the dogs in their care.”

The luxury pet food manufacturer has been able to stay open during the pandemic, as the factory has been classed as an essential workplace, supplying stock to pet food retailers across the country.

Marketing executive Charlotte Wright said: “We usually ask for animal rescue nominations through our social media pages, and our customers choose the charities. However, under these unusual circumstances, we have chosen rescues at random from previous nominations in order to send the treats out as quickly as possible.




CASCO to the rescue

Casco Pet has created a new portable adoption shelter to cope with any increase in the number of unwanted pets during the coronavirus crisis.

The enclosure, designed as a temporary housing for animals in rescue centres, sits on locking wheels and simply unfolds to stand wherever needed. It is fully collapsible so can be easily stored away when not in use.

CASCO is donating 10% of any profits from the sales of these enclosures to animal shelters across the country.


Friday 27 March


Laughing Dog spreads a little happiness

Dog food manufacturer Laughing Dog has launched a campaign to share ‘happy’ tips, advice and activities for people at home with their dog.

At 10am today (Friday), ‘pet parent’ and dog duo Rachel Grant and Layla are launching the company’s first live video stream on Instagram sharing a ‘dog-happy’ fitness challenge, and asking customers and their dogs to get involved.

Entitled the ‘Laughing Dog Relay’, Rachel and Layla demonstrate a fitness activity in the garden and then challenge the audience to get involved, spreading their ‘dog happy mission’ all over the UK and beyond.

Rachel Grant – granddaughter of Ted Grant, founder of the dog food’s umbrella company, Fold Hill Foods – said: “Since the country went into lockdown we have been inundated with requests for ideas and tips to keep dogs and their owners occupied while at home.

TOUGH

“It’s a tough time for everyone and everyone’s situation is different and, understandably, many people feel isolated. We’ve been sharing our own ideas (including many coming from our staff working from home) as well as re-posting ideas and activities that are being sent in from our followers and customers – from hide and seek dog treat games, training tricks, to dog-friendly craft ideas and podcasts for dogs.

“The whole family, spanning all ages, have been getting involved and we, of course welcome anyone to join from their home. Not a pet parent? It doesn’t matter – we’re building a community of positive mental and active stimulation that anyone can enjoy.”

Laughing Dog has competitions, tips, tricks and advice on its website at www.laughingdogfood.com and its You Tube Channel as well as all of its social media channels. Live videos will also be published on Facebook and Instagram each week.

Laughing Dog’s Farm Bakery range of dry completes, treats and mixer meals is made at its site in Lincolnshire and is available in wheat-free and grain-free varieties.
 

 


Youths spit in RSPCA inspector’ face

Members of a group of teenagers shouted, “have corona, b****” and spat in an RSPCA inspector’s face while she was rescuing a swan in Hull, East Yorkshire.

Animal Welfare Officer Leanne Honess-Heather was helping a swan that was tangled in fishing line when she was approached by the five male youths aged 16 or 17.

The incident happened on Saturday close to Rush Lyvars Fishing lake, in Headon, Hull.

Leanne said: “While the rescue itself was much the same as any other, the reaction from these teenagers was far from it.

“The group were in the park nearby and walked over to see what I was doing. I was on my own and wrestling with the swan on the ground when I asked them to stand back for their and the swan’s sake.

INJURED

“They seemed to take offence to this, which led to two of the group spitting directly into my face, going in my mouth and eyes, as they yelled “have corona, b****,” at me.

“Like many other frontline services, most of my team are still out during this crisis, trying our best to continue to do our job, tending to, collecting and rescuing injured animals.

“It's really challenging working in these difficult conditions and we are doing our very best to keep ourselves and the public safe, while helping the animals who most need us, so this was a really upsetting experience.

“I'm happy to say the swan had no long-term injuries and, after being cut free of the fishing line at the vets and being checked over, I released him back to the river.”

The RSPCA is providing an emergency-only service to animals through the coronavirus crisis in the wake of Government advice.



Monkfield supports pet shops

Specialist reptile products wholesaler, livefood farm and manufacturer Monkfield Nutrition has responded quickly to the coronavirus crisis in order to support ‘bricks-and-mortar’ pet stores and ensure that pet reptiles are fed and cared for properly throughout the UK.
 
Monkfield – one of the largest livefoods farms in Europe, has even bought forward an new Livefood tub that has been designed to protect insects in shipping but that also fits through more than 90% of letter boxes. This means that the recipient does not have to answer the door to physically accept the ‘fresh, expertly-grown and safely-packed’ livefoods when they are delivered.
 
“It is essential that the specialist reptile trade carries on as normal through and after the current crisis,” a spokesman said.
 
DROP SHIP
 
The Cambridgeshire-based company has also brought forward a new ‘drop ship’ facility that enables stores to take orders and payment by phone or web and then pass these orders directly on to Monkfield, which will despatch the goods direct to the keeper’s home on the store’s behalf.
 
Monkfield says it is able to quickly and affordably ship by post almost anything that a reptile keeper may need from its large range, including livefood, frozen food, lamps, electronics, vivariums, thermostats, heaters and most other consumables.

“We at Monkfield feel that it is essential that pet animals are correctly fed, that keepers feel safe knowing that essential foods and consumables are only a phone call away and that we show active support to shops by allowing profitable and easy trade in each and every store.”



Cat catches virus from owner (not the other way round)

A Belgian woman has infected her cat with the coronavirus, according to the country’s Public Health Department (FPS).

“The veterinary medicine faculty in Liège reported that a coronavirus infection has been determined in a cat. The cat lived with her owner, who started showing symptoms of the virus a week before the cat did,” said professor Steven Van Gucht at a news conference. 

The animal lived in close contact with its owner, and started showing symptoms a week after the woman did.

“The cat had diarrhoea, kept vomiting and had breathing difficulties. The researchers found the virus in the cat’s faeces,” he said.

Worldwide, it has been highly exceptional for the virus to pass from human to animal. So far, only three cases where the pet has been infected by humans are known across the world.

It’s unclear whether the cat is still alive or not.

“We want to stress that this is an isolated case. Additionally, in this case, we are talking about a human-to-animal transmission, not the other way around,” said Van Gucht. “There are no indications that this is common. The risk of animal-to-human transmission is very small.”



Chancellor’s package won’t help all self-employed

The British Independent Retailers Association has welcomed last night’s rescue plan for the self-employed – but has raised concerns that many of its members still won’t benefit.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak unveiled a package of support for self-employed people unable to work following the coronavirus outbreak.

The bumper package will see self-employed workers paid up 80% of lost wages by the Government, capped at £50,000.

However, Bira’s CEO Andrew Goodacre said some members would still be left to struggle because of certain exemptions to the package.

"I welcome the fact that the Chancellor is committed to providing direct financial support to self-employed retailers," he said.

"However, many of our members are not sole traders and so a grant based on profit may not work for them as our members might pay themselves a dividend, which is excluded.

"We need to understand the detail on this one – as with all the other announcements."

Bira is calling for more transparency and detail over the financial support packages announced in the last fortnight and has promised to continue to fight for ‘the best deal for small, independent retailers’.

 

 Thursday 26 March


 

Coronavirus hub to help independent retailers 

The British Independent Retailers Association has launched a dedicated coronavirus hub to guide members and the wider retail community through the crisis.

The online resource, accessible through the Bira website, is a one-stop shop featuring an information and advice. The hub – at bira.co.uk/coronavirus/ – is being updated every day, throughout the day.

Information on the hub includes:

The list of businesses still allowed to trade, and those being asked to close

* How and where to access emergency Government support, including the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans

* Employee/employer guidance including details on sick pay allowance

* The latest legislation with regards to ‘relaxed’ trading. 

There are also guides to wellbeing, as well as ‘inspirational’ stories of what members are doing to adapt to the currrent situation. 

Andrew Goodacre, Bira’s CEO, said: “Everyone at Bira has been working hard to ensure that our members and the wider retail community receive the support they need at this time.

“Our focus has been to provide accurate guidance based on information we have received for the various government departments. The dedicated hub on our website will updated on a regular basis.”

Bira is the umbrella group of the Pet Product Retail Association.

 

 

Beaphar offers clarity on covid next steps

Pet pharmaceutical and welfare company Beaphar has issued a statement offering reassurance to its retailers.

It said that with the current level of uncertainty across the industry - and indeed all areas of life - it wanted to let retailers and customers know about the steps it was taking to ensure continued supply.

Dr Sue Huggett, UK business manager, said today: “These are unusual and uncertain times, and Beaphar thought a few words from suppliers might be welcome and help to settle at least some concerns that you may have. 

“As has happened in the UK, the majority of European governments have designated businesses supplying pet foods and veterinary medicines as ‘key businesses’ for maintaining public health and wellbeing. This means that all our production sites, both in the UK and the Netherlands, remain operational, as does our logistics partner.

“As you probably know, Beaphar is a family company and consequently has the health and wellbeing of its personnel at the heart of everything we do. And so, adjustments have been made across all aspects of the business to keep our workers safe, so that we can continue to support the UK’s pets and support you, our retailers.  

“Where possible, all staff are now working from home, with only those essential to the production process remaining on-site. In terms of our production and distribution, adjustments have been made to our working practices to accommodate the government  guidelines concerning social distancing. Production schedules are also being monitored and adjusted daily to try and keep everything in stock.  

“Our Sales Team will continue to call on you, but via phone. If they call at an inconvenient time, please just let them know and they will call back when things are calmer.  

“Our Customer Service Team are also on hand to answer questions and queries – they are still picking up calls and emails, but please bear with us if it takes just a little longer to answer a particular enquiry. “

The company added that queries should be directed to the usual sales executive or via email, rather than the usual office number, which is on divert to just one mobile phone.

It is also planning social media posts to help reassure worried customers and to ask them to shop respectfully, and not to panic-buy.  

Sue said: “We are all anxious in the current climate, both on a professional and a personal level, but we want to reassure all of our customers that we are doing, and will continue to do, everything we can to support your business during these uncertain times. 

“From everyone at Beaphar, we send our thoughts and very best wishes for the coming weeks. Undoubtedly it will be a challenge, but by working together, we can continue to keep the nation’s pets fit and well.”


Vital offers extended credit during crisis

Vital Pet Group has set up a dedicated ‘Lifeline Fund’ offering extended credit terms to as many retail customers as possible.

Director Ravi Sharma said: “While the government has made promises to help the self-employed and employed workers, there’s still a great deal of anxiety over what the future holds for the pet trade. The supply chain has been recognised as an essential business and we are still working to fill the need, as well as service the demand created by panic buying. It’s a time when we all need to pull together and think of others.

“While we can’t promise to support everyone, we’ll do our best to support as many loyal customers as we can with extended credit lines. Both retailers and suppliers have been hugely supportive of us, as we’ve made the changes we needed to turn Vital into a business fit for the 21st century. Now it’s our time to recognise that and support them.”

The fund will be available to access for the next 90 days and will be reviewed thereafter. 

DIFFICULTIES

Many suppliers are also facing difficulties with distribution and Ravi says Vital is working hard to fill the gaps where suppliers have been let down on the transport front.

“We’ve invested heavily in our infrastructure and right now we are seeing the benefits of having in place new technology and vehicles and a robust approach that allows us to flex capacity,” he said.

“If suppliers are experiencing difficulties with their delivery, we encourage them to speak to their Vital buyer to enable us to help them complete the supply chain and get their products to the point of sale.”

Retailers who want to apply to the lifeline fund should send their account number and reasons for the request to simon.shaw@vitalpetproducts.co.uk and add Vital Lifeline Fund to the subject line. The Vital team will aim to review applications and respond in no more than five working days. 




Putting the record straight on pet care

Trade and welfare bodies have come together to offer authoritative advice about caring for animals and each other during the coronavirus crisis.

The organisations joined forces to combat some of the confusing and often conflicting advice currently circulating – often via social media channels – around how to care for pets during the shutdown.

The group has produced a series of colourful graphics giving tips and advice on looking after pets while protecting yourself, how to care for pets while social distancing or in self-isolation and how to help others look after their animals. 

Organisations who have joined forces are: the ABTC (Animal Behaviour and Training Council), ADCH (Association of Dogs and Cats Homes, Battersea, Blue Cross, BSAVA (British Small Animals Vet Association), BVA (British Vet Association) Cats Protection, Dogs Trust, PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, PFMA, (Pet Food Manufacturing Organisation) PIF, (Pet Industry Federation) RSPCA, Scottish SPCA, Canine and Feline Sector Group and The Kennel Club.

They are urging pet-owners to share the easy-to-understand graphics across their networks. These will be also posted on the organisations’ websites - so owners get good, clear advice.

CONFLICTING INFORMATION

Chris Laurence, chairman of the canine and feline sector group, said: “We are concerned that rapidly changing and conflicting information was leaving pet owners confused and worried. Those of us who work with animals are concerned that this information could leave animals at risk as pets could end up abandoned by anxious families unsure if they pose a risk or how they can care for them in isolation.

“We have come together to reassure people that there is no evidence that pets can get sick from coronavirus so not to panic or worry. We have also written some clear and simple tips about how to continue to care for them through this crisis.

“Like many others, the animal welfare sector is facing huge strain, with reduced staffing, loss of volunteers and pressure on resources. We need to reassure owners with good advice so they can continue to look after their pets and this will help prevent rescue centres being overwhelmed at this challenging time.”

“Pets are a big part of our families and it is important to make sure they stay happy and healthy during these difficult times. Isolation for us can mean some big changes for our pets and they won’t understand why. We hope this advice will help owners help their pets, while looking after themselves, too. ”

 


Wednesday 25 March


Pet food makers reassure public over supplies

The UK pet food industry is calling on pet owners to ‘shop sensibly’ as there is plenty of pet food for everybody.  

Michael Bellingham, chief executive of the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, said: “Thanks to the work of our PFMA members and recognition by Government, there is a good supply of pet food and we encourage pet owners to shop sensibly.

“The PFMA represents over 90% of pet food manufacturers in the UK and we are responsible for feeding a nation of around 50 million pets. Our members are working tirelessly across the pet food supply chain to ensure everybody continues to have access to nutritious, safe, and affordable pet foods during the coronavirus pandemic.” 

THANKS

The Government recognises that food for pets is as essential as food for people, which is why those working in pet food production and the ingredients supply chain are classified as ‘key workers’ and why pet shops can remain open during mandatory retail closures.

Michael concluded: “Our heartfelt thanks go out to all those who are striving on our behalf. Ensuring human health is also a number one concern. Our members have instructed their workforces to follow appropriate measures by adhering to the official Government advice to protect themselves and others from Coronavirus.”  



CSJ working ‘flat out’

CSJ Specialist Canine Feeds says trade has TRIPLED over the past two weeks, with more than 500 new customers coming on board.

In the interests of staff safety, the Welsh company has reduced office staff to two working on a rota with others at home.

Owner and founder of CSJ Ceri Rundle said: “The factory is also working wonders to keep orders fulfilled and we are grateful to everyone involved including customers for pulling together during these times.

“We are dog owners ourselves and understand how important it is for people to ensure their dogs are fed properly. We have exciting new products coming on line shortly but our priority now is to ensure that we continue to meet the current high demand.”



Companies get three-month extension to file accounts


From today (Wednesday), businesses will be able to apply for a three-month extension for filing their accounts.

This joint initiative between the government and Companies House will mean businesses can prioritise managing the impact of coronavirus.

There are about 4.3 million businesses on the Companies House register, and all companies must submit their accounts and reports each year. Under normal circumstances, companies that file accounts late are issued with an automatic penalty.

As part of the agreed measures, while companies will still have to apply for the three-month extension to be granted, those citing issues around covid-19 will be automatically and immediately granted an extension. Applications can be made through a fast-tracked online system, which should take only 15 minutes to complete.

BUSINESS SUPPORT

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “We have outlined a business support package on an unprecedented scale, backing companies and their employees through these challenging times.

“But it is important that our support is not limited to financial assistance. We are determined to help businesses in any way we can, so that they can focus all their efforts on dealing with the impact of Coronavirus, and this new offer of a three- month extension for filing accounts is part of that.

Companies House chief executive Louise Smyth added: “We recognise that these are uncertain times for businesses and that’s why we’re doing all we can to help.

By easing the burden, we can help businesses through this period and enable them to thrive in the future. I would encourage companies who believe they would benefit from this new flexibility to make an application in good time.”

For more information on how to apply for an extension, go to gov.uk/ch/extend-accounts-deadline





Dobbies U-turns on opening after backlash


THE UK’S biggest garden centre retail group Dobbies - which has extensive pet departments in its stores - has made a U-turn on a decision to stay open despite a government order to shut all ‘non-essential shops’.
 
Dobbies had announced on its Facebook page that its 69 stores nationwide would remain open, stating: “We have carefully reviewed the guidance provided by Government, which clearly states that food shops, home and hardware shops, and pet shops should continue to operate to provide essential goods. In all of these categories Dobbies already provides a comprehensive range so we have taken the decision to continue to operate our stores to serve our local communities.”
 
But Dobbies’ stance resulted in an immediate backlash with more than 2,000 comments, criticising the company’s decision, being posted on the Facebook page.
 
The backlash prompted Dobbies to close its stores 24 hours later, issuing the following statement on Facebook: “Following updated guidance from the Government, our shops will temporarily close with immediate effect. The welfare of our customers and team members is and always will remain our number one priority.”

 
 


You CAN carry on selling fish

Pet and aquatic shops can still sell fish following Monday’s government guidance on the sale of ‘essential’ items, the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association says.

OATA was seeking to clarify the situation regarding fish sales, as originally it believed that livestock sales were banned as non-essential items. However, its guidance to members now says: “The Government has not published any advice on this. So the decision on whether or not to sell fish is yours providing you can do it within the social distancing rules, which are that retail and public premises that expect to remain open must: 

* Ensure a distance of two metres between customers and shop assistants; and

* Let people enter the shop only in small groups, to ensure that spaces are not crowded

* Queue control is required outside of shops and other essential premises that remain open.

The association added:  “It is up to each individual business as to whether to stay open to the public. 

ESSENTIAL SUPPLIES

“You know your personal circumstances and those of your staff and how practical it is to stay operating some kind of service within your premises to enable your customers to get essential supplies for their animals, like food and medicines/treatments or replacement kit that has broken down.

“If you decide to close to the public totally we believe you can still travel to your shop to look after the animals under your care. You should carry some kind of proof of where you work to explain to officials should you be asked.”

Other advice it was offering included to follow Gov.UK guidance on safeguarding staff and customers, such as queue control, social distancing measures and contactless payments.

It also suggested instigating a click-and-collect system, and home deliveries where these are not already in place. 

Websites should be kept up to date with information about availability of essential items that can be bought, and OATA suggests limiting these to essential items such as food, medicines/treatments and replacement equipment for items that have broken down.



 

Vets carry on and may now prescribe ‘remotely’

In light of current guidance on reducing the transmission of coronavirus by limiting non-essential contact, vets are temporarily permitted to prescribe remotely whether no other option is available.

Under normal circumstances the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons does not allow them to prescribe vet-meds without a physical examination of the animal(s) – but this restriction has been lifted ‘under the current exceptional circumstances’.

This will continue to be reviewed on an ongoing basis and, in any event, no later than the end of June.

Dr Niall Connell, RCVS president, said: “In these unprecedented times we recognise that undertaking a physical examination of an animal may no longer be safe for people or practicable under the restrictions on movement and contact that the UK Government has recommended and is likely to enforce. 

“Vets and vet nurses will always have animal health and welfare as their key professional priority, but they must now prioritise their personal safety and that of their practice teams and clients, and do as much as they can to ensure the protection of public health. Personal and public safety overrides animal welfare.”

EMERGENCY CARE

Veterinary practices are remaining open to focus on emergency care and urgent treatment for animals while reducing face-to-face contact between staff and clients as extensively as possible, following the Prime Minister’s announcement of new restrictions to curb the spread of covid-19.

The British Veterinary Association, which represents more than 18,000 members in the UK, has advised that veterinary practices can be considered essential services under the new measures, as they deliver emergency care and work to maintain the food supply chain.

In the interests of safety, however, and to comply with government advice, practices should be delivering only emergency treatment and urgent care and should be cancelling routine and non-urgent appointments. 

Vets are also insisting that animal owners comply with strict social distancing measures in order to keep clients and colleagues safe. For animal owners, this will include calling the practice ahead of time for advice and may mean waiting outside while an animal is seen and treated. 

URGENT CARE

Daniella Dos Santos, BVA president, said: “It’s incumbent on all of us do everything we can to curb the spread of covid-19 and follow the government’s #StayHomeSaveLives instructions. For vets, that means limiting our provision to emergency and urgent care and working to maintain food production from farm to fork.

“Practices are following strict social distancing measures and asking owners to make sure they follow the same steps in the interests of everyone’s safety. Please call your vet before attending a practice to get up to date advice on what measures they have in place to safely treat your pet in an emergency.

“We appreciate that some pet owners may be frustrated that routine appointments are being cancelled, but these are vital measures to curb non-essential travel and contact and keep everyone as safe as possible during this challenging period.

“I’d like to pay tribute to all my veterinary colleagues across the country who are working hard to maintain their vital services, both for companion animals and in making sure the UK has a steady supply of food produced to high standards of health, welfare and safety.”



Pets at Home open but salons closed 

Pets at Home will keep its stores and veterinary practices open during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic but has closed its grooming salons.

“We have implemented all government advice regarding social distancing across our business and are fully committed to serving the needs of UK pet owners through this unprecedented period,” the company said.

The retail group has seen an increase in online orders but said orders may take up to 14 days to be delivered.

In stores, pets will no longer be on the shop floor but are being looked after in their own isolation behind closed doors.

“We have implemented all government advice regarding social distancing across our business and are fully committed to serving the needs of UK pet owners through this unprecedented period,” a spokesman said.






RSPCA provides only emergency service during lockdown

The RSPCA is providing an emergency-only service to animals through the coronavirus crisis in the wake of Government advice. 

But the animal charity, which has a team of frontline officers, 17 animals centres, four wildlife centres and four animal hospitals across England and Wales, has reassured animal lovers they will still be dealing with emergency cases.

Chief executive Chris Sherwood said: “Despite most of the country staying at home, there are still animals which need our help and I’m so incredibly thankful for frontline officers helping animals in emergency situations, our hospital workers for providing emergency treatment and our centre staff and volunteers, who are giving love and affection to the hundreds of animals in our care.

“We’ve taken steps to make sure that we are dealing with emergency cases only so we can play our part in stopping the spread of this virus and safeguard our staff and volunteers.

“We rely on the public’s help and we would ask them to only call our helpline in an emergency and visit our website for all other enquiries.”

PROTECTIVE

The RSPCA has a team of frontline officers working around the clock across England and Wales to deal with emergency-only cases. They are wearing protective clothing, regularly handwashing before and after handling animals, avoiding entering premises and asking people to bring animals to the door where appropriate and keeping their vans clean. They are sanitising their hands whenever they leave their vehicles. 

RESCUE LINE

Each year the RSPCA answers more than a million calls from the public concerned about animals. The charity has appealed to the public, to call only in an emergency. For everything else, people should please look on the charity’s website.

“Those calling with emergencies, please be patient as, despite contingency planning, we have fewer people available to answer calls.

ANIMAL CENTRES
The RSPCA has 17 nationally-run animal centres, but these are now closed to the public and the charity has ‘paused’ rehoming and fostering and will not resume until it is safe. Staff and volunteers ‘will be focusing on giving love and attention to the hundreds of animals in our care”, a spokesman said.

HOSPITALS
Our four hospital teams in London, Birmingham and Manchester are still working to help emergency cases of sick and injured animals, prioritising our animals rescued by frontline staff, but also providing services to our clients on an appointment only basis. 

WILDLIFE CENTRE
Our four wildlife centre teams are still working around the clock to help rehabilitate and release sick and injured wild animals. Our centres are not open to the public. If you find a sick or injured wild animal please contact our emergency line - 0300 1234 999. If you’ve found a baby animal which appears to be orphaned there’s also advice on our website.

BRANCHES
There are more than 150 RSPCA branches, registered charities in their own right, which run clinics, rehoming centres and charity shops. The centres and shops have now closed to the public. 

Chris Sherwood said: “We know these are really worrying times for everyone and I hope hearing that we are still helping animals is a little piece of good news.

“We know many people will be financially worse off as a result of this crisis but if anyone is in a position to make a donation to help our services continue we would really appreciate it.”


Tuesday 24 March




Trade welcomes pet shop exemption

Pet trade and welfare bodies have released a statement this morning in the wake of the Prime Minister’s announcement last night (Monday).

The statement – signed by the Companion Animal Sector Council, the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, the Animal Medicines Training Regulatory Authority, the Animal Health Distributors Association, the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association, the Reptile and Exotic Pet Trade Association and The Pet Charity – is reproduced in full below
: 

“Given the very serious situation our country faces we support the Prime Minister’s announcement to close all but essential services. 

“We are pleased that pet shops have been recognised as an essential service and are exempted from closure. The Government’s guidance on further businesses and premises to close can be found at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/Revised_guidance.pdf?

EMOTIONAL SUPPORT

“As a nation of pet-lovers, it is essential that the needs of our much-loved pets can be met in this difficult time. Our pets will be key in providing much needed emotional support to many millions of people during this time of crisis. 

“The provision of pet food and other essential care products is important in securing the continued welfare of our beloved pets during this time. Of course, this requires the continued supply of essential pet products from wholesalers and other providers in the supply chain. 

“We emphasise the importance of pet shops and other businesses in the pet supply chain adhering to the Government’s latest advice. Your trade association can provide advice on how you can ensure the continued supply of essential pet products whilst ensuring the health of your staff and the public.”
 


A quarter of shoppers support independents in crisis

Nearly a half of UK pet-owners have changed their shopping habits during the coronavirus crisis.

In a survey of more than 500 cat and dog owners, conducted by the Tailster Pet Panel, 43% said they had changed their ‘typical’ behaviour and shopped ‘ elsewhere’. 

The biggest shift has been from retail stores to online, with Amazon achieving the biggest gains, followed by direct-to-consumer brands and own-brand web shops, and then Pets at Home and Fetch/Ocado. 

Online convenience and perceived safety are not the only driving force behind the change in behaviour, however, with around 26% of people choosing to ‘shop local’ and support small independents. 

CHEAPER 

“Disruption has also been felt in terms of brand choice, with 36% of pet owners feeding a different brand than usual,” a spokesman for Tailster said. “While for the majority of these (80%), their preferred brand was out of stock, interestingly we are already seeing purchase intent change in readiness for the next few months, with 11% switching to a D to C brand that is readily available and nine per cent switching to a cheaper brand as worries about household income become a reality. 

“Looking ahead these patterns look set to continue, as the normal dynamics of the pet food market are flipped, with a massive 70% of pet owners reconsidering their chosen pet food brand, with 42% of these owners looking for a food that is readily available online, and 35% of owners already looking for a cheaper brand.”

The Tailster Pet Panel pet-focused data panel more than 50,000 fully-opted-in pet-owners on hand to respond to ‘brand needs’. 



‘Heartbroken’ organisers cancel show

Organisers of the Lincolnshire Show yesterday became the latest in a long list of county show to have made ‘the difficult decision’ to cancel this year, due to the ongoing coronavirus situation.

The annual show welcomes more than 60,000 visitors, 6,000 students and 600 trade stands each year, and has been running for more than 135 years.

Jayne Southall, CEO of the Lincolnshire Showground, said: “We are extremely sorry to have had to make this devastating decision. We have been monitoring the news and advice continually but as the situation has unfolded and intensified, we know we have no alternative but to cancel the 136th Lincolnshire Show.

“The team are heartbroken, but we fully understand the government’s guidance to cancel large public gatherings and national events to help reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus. The safety and wellbeing of our staff, volunteers, competitors, exhibitors and visitors is as always our number one priority.” 

WORLD WARS

The show has had to cancel only a handful of times in the Lincolnshire Agricultural Society’s 150 year history – during both world wars and more recently because of the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001.

Jayne added: “We would like to thank everyone for supporting the show and for their hard work and commitment during this difficult time. As a charity, the cancellation of the show has a significant impact on us, as all of our surplus funds go towards our educational work, but also affects our exhibitors, businesses and the local community around us.

“In the next few days, we will contact our traders, sponsors, suppliers, livestock and equine exhibitors, schools and ticket buyers regarding the next steps. We will now focus all of our attention on making our 2021 show the biggest and best show to date and we look forward to welcoming you all back next year.”

The 2021 Lincolnshire Show will take place on June 23-24 next year.

 

  

‘Close up to stay safe unless you are exempted’

Trade body the Pet Industry Federation is still receiving queries from pet industry businesses seeking clarity on whether they can still operate during the lockdown to stem the tide of the coronavirus outbreak.

Guidance published last night on www.gov.uk confirmed that pet retailers would be exempted from closure during this lockdown, as reported by pet business world shortly after the Prime Minister’s announcement last night.

In a statement issued this morning (Tuesday), PIF said: “However, it is clear that the Government’s rationale behind their decision to close a range of businesses and shops last night is to curb the movement of people and, as far as possible, ensure that people remain at home to slow the transmission of the disease. 

“Therefore, until we obtain specific information to the contrary, PIF believes that unless exempted, businesses should close in order to keep themselves and their customers safe from the covid-19 virus.

“We are also seeking clarity from the devolved governments on their positions with regard to businesses and service provision from pet professionals during lockdown.” 

PIF says it has put a range of measures in place for its members and that it will continue to liaise with and support members with as much information and guidance as it can during this time. 

Further information will be available from PIF at pifmembers.petfederation.co.uk/ 



 

Wholesaler reassures retailers and offers advice

Specialist wholesaler Peregrine Livefoods has reassured its customers that it will continue operating to the best of its ability in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting lockdown of the country. 

In an email to the trade, managing director Chris Jones says: “While many of you will worry about what this means for your business, we want to ensure you we are classified as ‘essential’ and will continue operating to the best of our ability. We are here to support you as best as we can.” 

Given the Prime Minister’s statement regarding restriction of movement, Peregrine ‘highly advises’ its retail customers to write an official letter for staff, confirming their position in the company and their requirement to attend their place of work. 

IMPORTANT

Chris says: “The letter should be specific to their employment status and also your status as a pet shop, and thereby excluded from a business required to close. This may become important should your staff be stopped and questioned by authorities.

“Operating in these circumstances clearly poses risks, being on the front line it will be essential that you observe the ‘social distancing’ measures and strict hygiene advice. 

“This means you should strictly operate a one-in-one-out policy and not allow gatherings within your stores. The law states people should be maintaining two-metres distance between each other, and that social gatherings of more than two persons are not permitted. 

DIFFICULT

“While these regulations can be difficult to adhere to, we strongly recommend you adhere as best as you possibly can. Should your local authorities or police notice large crowds gathered closely together, they may seek to force closure of your store.”

Essex-based Peregrine says it will continue to operate as normal, ‘supplying the needs of hundreds of thousands of pets up and down the country’.

“Many of our staff will be working from home, while many others will be taking care of our livefoods and live animals and assisting to despatch them to you as quickly as possible,” Chris says.

We don’t expect to see any disruption to service, but we ask that you continue to send your order over as early as possible and when possible via the website or email.”

 

Emergency fund will help rescues and clubs hit by virus fall-out

A relief fund has been set up to support rescue centres and other canine organisations affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Kennel Club, The Kennel Club Charitable Trust and The Kennel Club Educational Trust announced the creation of the emergency fund this morning (Tuesday).

The Trust says it will help support those in the community needing emergency funds to prevent the unnecessary suffering of dogs, such as providing additional support for rescue centres. The Trust, established in 1987, has distributed grants totalling more than £11m to a wide variety of causes.  

In parallel, it will be setting up an emergency fund to support training clubs affected by the negative consequences for dogs due to covid-19.

CANCELLATIONS

Meanwhile, the Kennel Club is currently exploring funding and support arrangements for clubs and canine societies worst hit by the outbreak of the virus, particularly those societies affected by cancellations.

“The coronavirus pandemic is devastating for so many communities, including all those involved in dogs,” said the Rev Bill King, chairman of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust. “Many of those affected run small, but incredibly vital and dedicated organisations, clubs and rescues, which make a huge difference for dogs and now urgently need support to be able to survive these unprecedented times.

“We are only as strong as our community and the Kennel Club and its related charities are fortunate to be able to help those hardest hit through this challenging time.”

Details of the funds and how to apply will be announced shortly by the Kennel Club and its charities.

The Kennel Club has dedicated information pages and further information on how to care for dogs during the coronavirus outbreak available via the homepage on its website: www.thekennelclub.org.uk



Monday 23 March

Latest guidance on covid-19 for pet retailers

Pet retailers should still be able to operate during the covid-19 breakout by adopting social distancing measures and adequate hygiene protocols, the Pet Industry Federation said today (Monday).

The decision to remain open is entirely down to each individual business and their own circumstances, however.

“Pet retailers still have a crucial role to play to the millions of pets and their owners, even during this covid-19 outbreak,” PIF says, recommending that retailers should consider adopting the following measures:

1 Limiting customers in your shop at any one time (the exact number is difficult to determine as it depends on the size of the shop but the decision should be based on being able to maintain protocols in point 2

2 Asking customers to observe a two-metre distance from any other people

3 Card payments only to be taken

4 Hand sanitiser provided to be used upon arrival and upon leaving (to reduce the risk of any handled products being exposed to the virus)

5 Door handles, doors and payment areas should be disinfected regularly.

All customers should be made aware of these protocols verbally and with notices in the shop.

Pet retailers provide essential food and supplements to their local communities and PIF – along with other welfare groups and trade bodies – has already lobbied the government to ask them to consider pet retailers as an exempted business in the event of a lockdown. 

PIF will be monitoring the situation closely and will update this guidance as necessary.


US names pet food workers as ‘critical’ during pandemic

The US has defined certain dog, cat and other pet food and packaging workers as ‘essential critical infrastructure workers’ during the covid-19 pandemic.

The sector has been deemed necessary for ‘ensuring continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security’, according to Christopher Krebs, director of US Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, in a memorandum released last week. 

The federal memo was not an order or directive, but intended to advise and guide state and local governments on their own strategies, according to a report from Pet Industry News in the US.

“All decisions should appropriately balance public safety while ensuring the continued delivery of critical infrastructure services and functions,” the memo advised.

ESSENTIAL 

Various roles related to the pet food industry were listed, including the following:

‘…pet and animal feed processing facilities; human food facilities producing by-products for animal food… and the production of food packaging.

‘Farm workers to include those employed in animal food, feed, and ingredient production, packaging, and distribution; manufacturing, packaging, and distribution of veterinary drugs; truck delivery and transport…

‘Animal agriculture workers to include those employed in veterinary health; manufacturing and distribution of animal medical materials, animal vaccines, animal drugs, feed ingredients, feed, and bedding, etc…’

In the UK, the PFMA and other pet trade organisations including PIF, OATA and REPTA, wrote to the Government last week calling for pet food workers to be listed as ‘essential workers’. See report on this website: Urgent call to name animal feed workers as ‘key workers’.




Pet shop staff ‘must be designated as key workers’

A long-established retailer says the pet industry will play an increasingly important role as the coronavirus crisis develops and it is vital that all pet shop staff are designated as key workers.
 
In an email to pbwnews, Ken Burgess, owner of Burgess Boys Pet Centre, in New Addington, South London, said: “Quite apart from being the best port of call for informed animal care advice and appropriate nutritional products we are also seen as an important hub for social interaction…
 
“We are seen as an integral part of our local community and not just another retailer.
 
“This applies to the vast majority in our industry because we interact with the pet-owning community and as such are a vital point of contact which will become even more important as time progresses, not just for animal welfare but the mental wellbeing of their owners.” 
 
COVID-19 TASK FORCE
 
Ken – a local Covid-19 Business Task Force member and former director of the then Pet Care Trust – said: “Since we sell live pet animals they are, and always have been a priority in the scheme of things, and must be tended to daily. This factor alone means we have to be classified as key workers
 
“Unfortunately, I fall into the at-risk over 70s category and must stay away from my shop during opening hours. My staff have come up to the mark in a brilliant way and are working longer and harder hours to keep our customers supplied with appropriate products.
 
“The demand has certainly increased to date by about 50%; we have not experienced panic-buying, our customers in general are sensible. They seem to be buying goods in the same manner they would over the Christmas period although we are seeing people we have not seen before.”
 
UNDERSTANDING 
 
Ken, who has been trading for 40 years and whose business is up for sale, said that, ‘unlike the major supermarkets, local pet shops have a understanding of their customers.
 
“I am chairman of our local business partnership…and as such have been requested by Croydon Council to participate in a Covid-19 Business Task Force pulling together a number of business leaders, councillors and council executives. We have had our first telephone conference meeting to discuss immediate issues surrounding communication to all retailers and the mechanisms required to ensure government financial assistance reaches them in a timely manner.
 
“I shall be making it very clear that the pet sector should be clearly designated as a key workers.”






Plea for rates ‘holiday’ for boarders and groomers

The Pet Industry Federation has written to the Chancellor asking him to bring boarding kennels, catteries, commercial daycare and pet groomers within the list of businesses eligible for the new emergency business rates ‘holiday’, which currently applies to the retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery sectors.

In the letter to Rishi Sunak, PIF chief operating officer Alexandra Baker says the ‘vast majority’ of the trade association’s members are small and medium-sized enterprises, which are experiencing ‘unprecedented challenges in the face of the covid-19 outbreak. 

“This is particularly acute for our members in the pet boarding sector (kennels, catteries and commercial dog daycare businesses), as they have received a huge drop-off in the number of bookings and wholesale cancellations because of the collapse in holidays and breaks being taken by people during the current crisis; and the move from office working to remote working for many dog owners.

PERILOUS

“It’s not just existing bookings that have been wiped out; peoples’ inevitable reluctance to commit to any holidays at present means that no future bookings are being made, which makes the long-term situation for these businesses even more perilous.”

Alex says pet groomers operating from high street salons are also reporting a ‘large-scale decrease’ in bookings as people self-isolating or looking to save money have cancelled appointments. ”

One business, for example, posted on Facebook: “Total nightmare ¬– so far we have a 90% cancellation rate. Contacted the local council to see if we can apply for a hardship fund on business rates and still after three days have not had a reply! Trying desperately to keep staff employed but at this rate we won’t be trading by summer!”

And another said: “We’re aware that so many in our community are vulnerable and suffering. We’re going through the biggest financial crisis that our business has faced in our six years. We’ve had so many cancellations that we have now lost over £5,000 worth of bookings [as of last week].”

SURVIVAL

Alex told the Chancellor in her letter: “Many of these businesses are having to lay staff off currently to give their enterprise ‘any chance of survival’ beyond the virus outbreak. Reports received from PIF members indicate that some of these businesses will simply not be able to exist for much longer.

“Yet it is crucial that they do survive, because their services are of vital importance for pet owners who will once again want to rely on them when the country returns to normality.” 

PIF says pet boarding is an ‘essential allied business to the leisure industry’ and exists primarily because people go on holiday and need to find somewhere safe and secure to leave their pet.

SUPPORT

“We believe that their services should fall into the same category as hotels, guest and boarding premises. In addition, we believe therefore that any services underpinning pet ownership, such as pet grooming, should be considered in the same way as businesses who provide services to visiting members of the public, such as hair and beauty salons.” 

Alex said Government support ‘could make the different between survival and bankruptcy for many of these small businesses’. 

“The Pet Industry Federation therefore urges the Government to consider amending the guidance on this the business rates holiday and extend the eligible business types to include commercial pet boarding accommodation, including daycare and high street pet grooming salons.”



‘Speed and simplicity’ key to making emergency measures work

The Government’s latest raft of emergency measures to save jobs and businesses amid the coronavirus crisis is being backed by the British Independent Retailers Association, the umbrella group of the Pet Product Retail Association.

Bira’s CEO, Andrew Goodacre, has called for ‘speed and simplicity’ in how these financial support packages are made available. 

On Friday evening, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced a new scheme of measures to protect workers. They include:

* Coverage for 80% of salaries up to £2,500 aw month

* VAT bills deferred for the next quarter – worth £30bn

* £7bn boost to the welfare system

* Extra protection for those in rented properties.

Andrew said: “We welcome the grants being made available to support salary payments to keep people in work.

“We also welcome the more generous terms for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, and the deferral of the next VAT payments.

“It is absolutely vital that the guidelines on how to access these all-important grants are made available as soon as possible, with clear instructions on how businesses can access these much-needed funds.

“Speed and simplicity will be of the essence of this if we are to protect as many businesses and employees as possible.”



Friday 20 March



Reptile groups reassure hobbyists – so no need to panic-buy

Reptile trade and hobby organisations are working together to ensure that animal welfare is not compromised in the growing coronavirus crisis.
 
“With the current situation seemingly worsening we would like to reassure everybody that REPTA [Reptile Trade Association], the FBH [Federation of British Herpetologists] and the NCRW [National Centre for Reptile Welfare] will be working together to ensure that nobody should have to compromise animal welfare, regardless of their health or circumstances,” a spokesman said.
 
The group’s priorities are:
* To try to ensure everybody has access to food and equipment for their animals 
* To try to support keepers who are vulnerable, such as the elderly or those with underlying health issues 
* To try to address veterinary issues arising from the current crisis. 
 
COPING WELL
 
“REPTA wholesalers have no issues with stocks of equipment and food items and the supply network is currently coping well with demand. Remember, panic-buying or stockpiling will not help the situation and could lead to shortages if not kept under control!”
 
“Many shops already have contingency planning for delivery to customers who cannot get out, but it is possible they may get overwhelmed and, in this event, the members of FBH-affiliated clubs will be happy to support their local suppliers, so nobody need worry about supplies for their animals. 
 
“Supporting keepers who are vulnerable, elderly or have health issues is likely to be more challenging, but please be assured that a robust support network is in place. A large number of reptile club members have already joined our voluntary register willing to do home visits, clean out and feed animals and generally offer support to anyone struggling to cope due to health issues. 
 
SUPPORT
 
“If you are hospitalised, or can no longer care for your animals, the NCRW will do our best to offer temporary boarding and will endeavour to collect animals from you if you are unable to travel. 
 
“We are currently working with the veterinary profession to support owners who have animals with health issues. Obviously, some people will find themselves unable to access normal veterinary care and we can try support to anyone in this unfortunate position.” 
 
If you need assistance with any of these issues, the three organisations have set up an emergency contact number for anybody with concerns regarding the welfare of their animals. Telephone 02380 440999 or email emergencies@ncrw.org.uk 
 
You can also visit the NCRW Facebook page for further information https://www.facebook.com/TheNCRW/ or website: www.ncrw.org.uk

 




Urgent call to name animal feed workers as ‘key workers’

Pet trade and animal welfare groups are urging the government to for workers in the animal feed sector to be treated as ‘key workers’ so their children will still be able to attend school.

In a letter to Environment Secretary George Eustace, the organisations – co-ordinated by the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association – say they have had numerous enquiries and that the issue needed addressing as a matter of urgency for the benefit of the nation’s pets, who are ‘vital for both the mental and physical welfare of the human population, especially over the coming months’.

“We have seen the Cabinet Office Guidance for schools […] on maintaining educational provision…” they write. “We note that the list of essential services covers ‘Food and other necessary goods’ but no reference to animal feed.”

The letter says that ‘food and other necessary goods covers those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery, as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines)’ and adds:

NECESSARY GOODS

“We would urge you also to include reference here to the production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery of animal feed and other necessary goods.

“Not only will this ensure the continued production and supply of the feed necessary for UK livestock farming, vital to keep the food supply chain flowing and stores and warehouses stocked, but also without such a provision we are very concerned that people will not be able to access the essential provisions needed to ensure the health and welfare of their companion animals, which help provide companionship to their owners, including elderly and vulnerable people who may feel increasingly lonely in the months ahead.

“If workers in this sector need to stay at home to provide childcare, they will be unable to produce and distribute the food and other necessary goods needed to keep people’s companion animals alive during any extended period of isolation.” 

The letter was from Bryan Lovegrove, secretary general of the Animal Health Distributors Association; Chris Laurence, chair of the Canine Feline Sector Group; Michael Stanford , chair of the Companion Animal Sector Council; Dawn Howard, chief executive of the National Office of Animal Health; Dominic Whitmee, chief executive of the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association; Michael Bellingham, chief executive of the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association; Nigel Baker, chief executive of the Pet Industry Federation; Chris Newman, chief executive of the Reptile and Exotic Pet Trade Association; and Tim Wass, chair of The Pet Charity. 



‘No evidence that covid-19 can be contracted from pets’
 
The World Small Animal Veterinary Association has moved to reassure pet owners following the news that a dog in Hong Kong – quarantined after it had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 – has died. The dog had been released after two weeks of quarantine having subsequently tested negative for the virus. 

The dog, a 17-year-old Pomeranian, had shown no clinical signs of covid-19. However, it did have significant unrelated health problems including cardiac and renal issues and is believed to have died from these and old age, possibly exacerbated by the stress of quarantine away from familiar surroundings.

The WSAVA confirms that there is NO evidence that the dog contracted covid-19 nor that it could have passed the viral cause to another human or animal.

On March 19, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) in Hong Kong revealed that a second dog, a German shepherd, had also tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. The dog was quarantined after its owner was confirmed with covid-19.  Although the dog has tested positive, it has no clinical signs of disease.

TESTED NEGATIVE

Another dog from the same residence has tested negative for the SARS-CoV2. It also has no relevant clinical signs and has been quarantined. The dogs will continue to be tested for the remainder of the quarantine period.

WSAVA president Dr Shane Ryan said: “While there is still much we don’t know about covid-19, we do know that the Pomeranian dog did not die from the virus, and the second dog is also showing no signs, either of the disease or of being able to transmit it to other pets or people. The current evidence still strongly indicates that covid-19 CANNOT be contracted from pets.”

The WSAVA says its priority is to support its member vets, who care for companion animals around the world, and it urges pet owners not to panic and, instead, to continue to care for their companion animals and to enjoy their company.

“In difficult times, such as these we face today, pets can play a very positive role, providing companionship to the isolated and lonely,” a spokesman said.

The WSAVA’s Scientific Committee and One Health Committee have worked together provide Advice to its members and pet owners, which can be found at https://wsava.org/wp-content/up






Calls for vet clinics to be classed as ‘essential’

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association and British Veterinary Association are calling for animal hospitals and clinics to be classified as ‘essential businesses’.

As governments seek to introduce risk mitigation measures that may involve the closure of non-essential businesses during the covid-19 outbreak, the groups are concerned that animal hospitals and clinics may also be forced to close, which, they say, could jeopardise the health and welfare of countless animals.

BVA president Daniella Dos Santos wrote in a letter to MPs: “Veterinary practices must be recognised as providing a critical service to many vulnerable people as further measures are considered and implemented over the coming weeks.

“We urge government to do whatever it takes to support the veterinary profession to continue to provide essential care to animals and, in doing so, support public health and wellbeing across the UK.”

 



Aquatics meeting put back

Ornamental Fish International has postponed its annual general meeting in line with the postponement of Interzoo 2020, which was due to take place in May.

OFI President Shane Willis said: “Interzoo is an institution for our industry. It is very sad that the event is postponed but very understandable due to the health risk to exhibitors and visitors of the covid-19 pandemic.

“It is unclear when Interzoo will be held but we will advise OFI members and industry as soon as we have a new date. ”

 

Thursday 19 March

Retail rates relief extended to Scotland

A decision by the Scottish Government to temporarily abolish business rates in a bid to minimise the impact of coronavirus has been welcomed by the British Independent Retailers Association.

Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop MSP has unveiled a new economic package to the Holyrood Parliament in response to coronavirus, including 12 months of full relief from business rates for retailers and hospitality businesses.

The move follows Bira's direct plea to Scottish Ministers to follow the measures outlined by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak on Tuesday.

Bira’s CEO Andrew Goodacre said: “We are pleased Scotland has decided to follow the English Government’s lead in scrapping business rates for all retail businesses for a year. It is something we have been asking for and this shows they were listening.”

Echoing the plea he made to the English Government, Andrew says the funds must be made available immediately to stop the collapse of many small independent retailers already seeing reduced trade.

Bira is also calling for the new latest rates relief measures to be extended to Wales and Northern Ireland, where the decision to do so is devolved.

 

 

We’re all in it together, retailer tells customers


Piers Smart

   
Award-winning East Anglian retailer Scampers has sent a message to customers updating them on what it is doing to protect its customers and reassuring them that there is no need to panic.

The email, from Piers Smart along with ‘Michelle, Rooster, Sardine and the whole Scampers team’, reads: “From Brexit, storms, floods, stock market crash and now the horror of coronavirus it is clear these have been, and continue to be, very difficult times indeed…
 
“Thank goodness all the horror stories about our dogs and cats being able to get covid-19 were just stories.
 
“Firstly, let me reassure you that we are following all government guidelines regarding hygiene within the building. We are disinfecting every surface, door handles, tills, card machines and anywhere else, every opportunity we get.

GALLONS OF SANTISER
 
“Our cashiers have gallons of hand sanitiser, which they are using often between transactions and even have bottles on their belts! Everyone is frequently washing their hands and I would also remind you that there is always hand soap in our customer toilets for you to use when visiting or leaving…and we have plenty of toilet roll!
 
“Fortunately we forecast a few weeks ago that there might be higher demand for many of our best-selling foods, treats, litters and other essentials and, although we have been exceptionally busy, I assure you we have plenty of stock and are refilling on a daily basis, so please don’t panic.
 
“If you do feel uncomfortable visiting because you feel at risk please let one of our team know and they will all happily keep their distance as much as possible during your transaction and you can ask for a free squirt of hand gel before you leave.

HORRENDOUS SCENES
 
“Scampers are very fortunate in that we have such a very large store and very wide aisles, which means you are able to keep a little distance from other visitors and you won’t see the horrendous scenes we have all witnessed at some of the supermarkets! Thank goodness.
 
“We have a brilliant business and we are not going to let this virus ruin 35 years of blood, sweat and tears! Every independent retailer relies on the support of their community and Scampers are no different. These are clearly exceptional circumstances but we as a team are not going to let this get us down and we will continue to need your support.
 
“And finally, although you might think we would batten down the hatches we are still adding many new products with more on the way so please keep an eye on our Social Media and website for details including any covid updates.
 
“May we now take this opportunity to wish all of you stay healthy and we will all beat this together.”

 

 

Plea to do right by suppliers, shops and pets



In an open letter to pet shops, Phil Gibbs, owner of Essex Breeding Centre, makes an impassioned plea to retailers to do what is best for both the trade and the livestock. He writes:

“We are currently experiencing a once-in-a-generation situation, with advice from the government changing daily. This uncertainty is bringing as much fear to our pet industry and your business as the virus itself.

“At this moment there is no guidance or directive from DEFRA or the Government on pets in our pet shops, so we are left to use our common sense.

“The first reaction of many of our regular and valued customers has been, ‘We will simply stop our regular order of pets.’ Small pets are a great asset to any pet shop but they require the correct care, attention and staff to perform the necessary husbandry. So the thought is, ‘Let’s not risk it!’

“All the animals we sell at Essex Breeding Centre are bred and cared for on our site. Here are the facts that will put that decision to stop your regular order into perspective:

“If your shop orders 10 hamsters and four guinea pigs a week we will have eight weeks’ worth of hamsters in the system for you – that’s three weeks in the pregnant mum and four-five weeks to be weaned properly before being sent to you. Then the guinea pigs, which have a nine-10-week gestation and five-six weeks weaning and growing so a minimum of 15 weeks before they come to you. This is a total of 140 animals that are in our system for you and we cannot stop them!

“We, like you, are passionate about the small animals we breed for you. We are asking all our customers to talk to us before stopping their small animal orders and together we can work out what is best for your business, our business and the pets involved though the coming months of uncertainty.”
 

 

Pet shops go the extra mile



Some pet retailers are diversifying and laying on extra services to help their local communities – we had a message from a South coast pet shop last night saying they had started selling toilet rolls!

Just like many other stores up and down the country, they have been extra busy, telling us ‘business has gone mental’.

But they added: “It doesn’t feel real. Feels a bit like a war has broken out.”

And a retailer in the East Midlands reported: “We are a family run pet shop and we’ve seen a huge increase in sales over the last week. We also have a website and delivery service and customers are now enquiring about delivery if they become isolated.”

The shop is offering free delivery nationwide on orders over £20.

Many other pet stores are also delivering pet supplies to people in isolation.

A retailer in Scotland said: “We are offering home delivery to anyone who needs it. Mainly carrying on as normal with lots of hand sanitiser!”

- Let us know what you are doing to help customers and how the pandemic is affecting your trade. email editor@pbwnews.com or post on the pet business world facebook page.

 

 

Wednesday 18 March


Funds needed NOW to save retailers

Bira supports latest emergency measures to help small businesses through coronavirus crisis

The Government’s £350bn bailout of the UK economy in response to coronavirus has been welcomed by the British Independent Retailers Association, umbrella group of the Pet Product Retail Association.

But Bira’s CEO, Andrew Goodacre, says the funds must be made available IMMEDIATELY to stop the collapse of many small independent retailers already seeing reduced trade.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced the enhanced packaged of emergency measures last night. These include:

- Business rates abolished for all retailers for 2020/21 (previously it was just for businesses below £51,000 rateable value.) It is worth approximately £7.9bn in savings for retailers
- Cash grants of between £10,000 and £25,000 for smaller retailers (below £51,000 RV)
- Further availability of business interruption loans.

MORE SUPPORT

Andrew said: “We are pleased with these further announcements by the Government.

“Following on from the Budget, we stated that more support was needed for small retailers and the Government has now shown it was listening to Bira.

“The rates holiday for all retailers is worth approximately £7.9bn and that is very welcome. The higher grants and business interruption loans will also help maintain cash flow.

“It is really important now that the details of how to apply for these grants is made available as soon as possible as we are already seeing the impact of the latest Government guidance with lower footfall and some businesses closing.

“And even though all this is in the news, some members have informed us that local authorities are not helping and claiming not to know about this extra support. That situation must also be addressed to avoid confusion and frustration.”

Bira is calling for the new latest rates relief measures to be extended to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, where the decision to do so is devolved.



Top cattery hit by cancellations

Leading boarding business Pets Country Manor says it is receiving more than six cancellations a day.

“Like many other small businesses this is a tough time and we hope it doesn’t last too long,” the owners say in a post on Facebook.

“We don’t think anyone could have predicted this happening. Hope everyone is staying safe.”

The Liverpool business – which was named the UK’s NO.1 Cattery in the 2014 Pet Industry Awards – is currently remaining open, with special measures to protect customers and staff from the coronavirus.

Also, for anyone going into hospital, having building work done, or still travelling/visiting loved ones in the UK then Pets Country Manor has put the following optional measures in place to try to help with any bookings that are made as of today (March 18) with arrival dates between now and May 30, 2020:

- A half price collection service to pick up and drop off cats to people’s homes
- Extended times for pick-ups and drop-offs throughout the day (subject to availability)
- A non contact service for all arrivals whereby customer can take a photo of their pet’s vaccination card and vet-prescribed flea treatment proof and send it to Pets Country Manor the day before arrival via whatsapp or email
- Payment over the phone by debit card or by bank transfer to limit contact.



Vet group issues advice on pets
 
The World Small Animal Veterinary Association is giving guidance on the new coronavirus.

The group’s Scientific Committee and One Health Committee have worked together to produce an advisory document and a series of frequently asked questions to help WSAVA members when talking with pet owners concerned about the risk of infection.

In addition to the document, Dr Michael Lappin, chair of the WSAVA’s One Health Committee, has recommended that vets tell owners to keep their pets with them if they are self-quarantined, keep cats inside, arrange care for any animals left at home if family or friends are hospitalised and contact their vet immediately if they have questions or concerns.

The WSAVA’s full advisory is available here: https://wsava.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/nCOV_WSAVA-Advisory-Document-final-05.02.2020.pdf



Vital works to ensure ‘continuity of supply’

Wholesaler Vital has been busy planning its response to the coronavirus outbreak over the last few weeks.

“We appreciate that everyone is very worried and we are doing all we can to ensure continuity of supply for pet product retailers,” a spokesman told us.

“Our warehouses are being kept well stocked and we’ve largely been able to accommodate any panic-buying as it has affected pet food stocks and other staple products.

“Our delivery drivers have also been advised to take the precautions recommended by the government, including regular hand-washing. We’re accommodating anyone who is practising social distancing at the point of delivery.

ROBUST RESPONSE

“We have reviewed our business operations with the aim of improving operational efficiency and preparedness in extenuating circumstances such as the covid-19 pandemic.

“As part of our business continuity planning, we have engaged a third party courier network, which will ensure a more robust response in the event of different scenarios and give us an additional safety net.

“This is obviously a fast-moving situation and we’ll be providing regular updates on our social media platforms, so encourage our customers to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for the latest news. Retailers can also contact their dedicated account manager if they have any questions.”



Pet business turns production to facemasks

‘Pet brand Project Blu has temporarily turned its production away from pet accessories to making face masks for the ‘at risk’. The manufacturing operation is in Larciano, Tuscany – an area that has been badly affected by the outbreak.

Michele Carbone, co-founder of Project Blu, said: “Covid-19 is the first globalised emergency for mankind, it has woken our conscience. From this point onwards, worldwide viruses will be the biggest threat for humanity. All members of the community must be organised like an army ready to fight; if we lose time we will lose lives.”

Tuscany has one of the oldest populations in the world, so the local community is already at increased risk. Of its 3.5 million inhabitants, about 800,000 (22.7%) are 65 years of age and older and, of these, about 10% are disabled in one or more activities of daily living.

Italy is the most severely affected country in Europe and, outside of Asia. Italy is facing a shortage of personal protective equipment, including face masks. To help relieve the pressure Project Blu decided to turn its resources away from manufacturing pet products into manufacturing face masks, providing some relief to local mask production companies and donating 1,000 masks for use in the local community.

GUARANTEED SUPPLY

Project Blu has guaranteed supply and resources of the masks for as long as they are required. Mayor of Larciano Elisa Amidei said: “I would like to thank Project Blu for their generous support. It is of great help to know that we won’t have to worry about a shortage of masks for our community. This is a big help especially for people that have health issues.”

Project Blu has recently partnered with global pet health and nutrition leader Mars Petcare to jumpstart the marketplace launch of its pet beds and accessories. The partnership secures a $200,000 investment and direct access to experts in the pet market via the Leap Venture Studio accelerator programme.

Geryn Evans, CEO and co-founder said: “Covid-19 has highlighted how vulnerable the world economy and healthcare system is. Both Project Blu and Mars are purpose-driven brands so our immediate priority is helping out all stakeholders including our workforce and local community. We hope for everyone’s sake the virus passes as quickly as possible and we can return to normality as soon as possible.”



It’s all hands on deck at livefoods wholesaler

Specialist wholesaler Peregrine Livefoods has appealed to customers to place their orders as early in the day as possible.

In an eshot yesterday (Tuesday), the Essex-based company said: “As we continue to rise to the challenges of covid-19 and the restrictions in place, the majority of our office team, including sales and accounts will soon be working from home including your sales reps, with the very real possibility some may be self-isolating. During this time, it will be incredibly helpful to place your orders as early as possible in the day.
 
“We understand how critical it is to your operations to order as late as possible in the day, however we are in unprecedented times and we would be very grateful if you can please help us to help you by placing your orders as early as 9am and when possible no later than 12 noon.
 
“This will allow us to continue to strive to deliver our same day dispatch and next day delivery options with a reduced number of team members on site.

EXCEPTIONAL TIMES
 
“Additionally, where possible we ask that you place orders to us via email and the website to reduce phone traffic and allow your order to be processed by one of our team working remotely.”
 
Peregrine says ‘it’s all hands on deck’, trying to ensure its continues to serve the trade and customers’ help will be greatly appreciated during these ‘exceptional times’.

Earlier in the week, assured customers: “…we understand there is worry about the supply of goods during this time, including livefoods. Peregrine is taking several steps to further protect our customers to ensure we can continue to supply livefoods throughout this difficult time…

“At every step we will keep you fully updated on any changes that will affect you and the service and goods we provide via email and our trade-only Facebook group to ensure the critical supply of livefoods throughout the country is maintained.”



How to protect your business


Premier Epos is running a webinar tomorrow (Thursday) for business owners on how to protect their business against the coronavirus pandemic.

Managing director Kris Bark, who is hosting the webinar, said: “Some people have been bulk-buying toilet paper, some people have been stocking up on hand sanitiser but, as a business owner, I had a very different question on my mind: ‘How do I protect my business from the coronavirus outbreak?’

“After spending several weeks thinking about it I wanted to come up with a strategy.

“I then started to think about how many other businesses could struggle with the coronavirus and how much this strategy could help them.

“Not only am I going to show you how to inoculate your business against the coronavirus pandemic, I’ll also reveal every step you can take to make this work for your business. I will answer any questions or worries that you have.”

“So if you want to survive the dire times ahead and grow your business without closing down your store because customers are scared to go into your store and you're suffering from declining sales, then you need to attend this breakthrough webinar event.”

‘How to Inoculate Your Business From Coronavirus’ will be held this Thursday at 11am. It is free to register here:

https://survive.premiereposlive.com/squeeze-page37082995?utm_campaign=12cb8be1d0-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_03_16_10_22&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Premier+EPOS+Complete+List&utm_term=0_98779dab0a-12cb8be1d0-78021561



Tuesday 17 March



Boarders hit hard as holidays are cancelled

Kennel and cattery owners and home-boarders have been among the first to be hit by the fall-out from the covid-19 pandemic, as borders were closed and holiday flights cancelled.

In response to a post on the pet business world Facebook page, pet businesses were quick to share their experiences so far.

One, Steve Belgrau, of The Pet Joint, in North Wales, wrote yesterday: “We’re a licensed pet boarding establishment for cats and small pets and a registered dog home boarder, too. So far we have had nearly £4,000 in cancellations due to the virus and are now in a dangerous and vulnerable position but are trying to carry on as normal for as long as we can while we await contact from our bank about options available to us in the short term until we can return to normal.”

Another, Marie Worthington, posted: “I’ve lost thousands in home boarding and day care. I am offering short-notice day care and walking for those who need to self-isolate but no takers so far. Pretty non-existent help from the government means I may have to close.”

DISCOUNTED RATES

And Jo Pick, from Lumphanan Pet Hotel, in Scotland said: “I’m a boarding kennels, lost massive amounts of bookings.”

Jo has offered to take dogs for those affected by coronavirus – those who are sick or caring for someone who has it – at ‘massively discounted rates’.

She also says she will take ‘high-energy’ dogs from those on the frontline in the NHS, etc at a 50% discount.”

Other business owners, such as Jenny Donohue, are also offering to help people hit by the virus. “I’m a dog walker and have offered to collect/deliver shopping to those in need.”

And the story was the same around the trade, with pet business owners rallying round to help customers.

Wag N Tails Pet Shop and Dog Grooming Salon, in the West of Ireland, if offering free delivery on any items, including a delivery run to older customers – and even gave them a box of chocolates as a gift!



Dog event postponed ‘until further notice’

London Dog Week has been postponed until further notice due to the on-going covid-19 pandemic.

Event founder Aneka Johnson said the health and safety of guests was the ‘top priority’.

“We want guests to truly enjoy the experience without feeling worried about how they could be infected.”

The event was originally scheduled for March 23-29 and Aneka said that it would now most likely take place in the summer.


Petfood Forum put back

The Petfood Forum and Petfood Essentials trade events in the US have been put back to August 19-21. The event, in Kansas City, Missouri, was scheduled to take place on April 27-29.


Call for more help for struggling retailers


“Tens of thousands of retailers face an uphill struggle as a result of coronavirus,” Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, has warned.
And she has called for the Treasury to go ‘much further than the limited efforts’ outlined in last week’s Budget.
“Fewer store visits, lower demand for many goods, and the possibility of further restrictive public health measures, all threaten the survival of shops and jobs,” she said. “As businesses are squeezed many run the risk of liquidity issues, further harming their ability to operate.
“It is essential that the Treasury goes much further than the limited efforts outlined in the budget. The first step should be to follow Scotland’s lead by reversing yet another rise in the business rates burden this April, but more will be needed. 
“Prompt action could be the difference between survival and administration for some businesses, and with it, the jobs and shops that are essential to our communities around the UK.”

RATES RELIEF

The British Independent Retailers Association – umbrella group of the Pet Product Retail Association – is backing the new measures by the Scottish government to help limit the impact of covid-19 on small businesses.

Finance secretary Kate Forbes said the following steps – totalling £320m – would be put in place during the 2020-21 financial year:

• A 75% rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a rateable value of less than £69,000 from April 1, 2020
• An £80 million fund to provide grants of at least £3,000 to small businesses in sectors facing the worst economic impact of covid-19
• 1.6% rates relief for all properties across Scotland, effectively reversing the planned below-inflation uplift in the poundage from April 1, 2020
• A fixed rates relief of up to £5,000 for all pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000 from April 1, 2020.

Kate will also write to all local authorities urging them to respond positively to requests from rate-payers for payment deferrals for a fixed period.

Last week, Bira urged Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to follow England’s measures to support businesses announced in the Budget.

Andrew Goodacre, Bira CEO, said: “This a common sense move. We asked the Scottish government to follow the measures set out in England and they listened. Any support which can be given to small retail businesses at this challenging time gets our full support.”


PetQuip backs UK’s Interzoo exhibitors

PetQuip has pledged to keep updating UK pet businesses scheduled to exhibit at Interzoo, in light of yesterday’s decision to postpone the event.

The international trade exhibition – believed to be the world’s biggest – was due to take place on May 19-20 in Nuremburg, Germany but the organisers have decided to move it to a later date because of the spread of coronavirus.

PetQuip director general Amanda Sizer-Barrett said: “We will continue to monitor the coronavirus situation and will be providing our members and show exhibitors with more updates as and when we hear from the organisers.

CHALLENGING TIMES

“We will be working hard to support our members through these challenging times.”

PetQuip will shortly be announcing a new package of publicity and support to ensure that all exhibitors’ brands and product introductions are promoted to buyers during the postponement period.

“Then nearer to the new exhibition dates we will distribute our comprehensive press material to all key international journals, plus send our multi-lingual preview to our exclusive database of international buyers.”

Interzoo organisers say they expect to announce a new date for the show by the end of March.