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Increase in pandemic pets leads to fresh challenges

Australia now has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, with 69 per cent of households owning a pet.

A study by Animal Medicines Australia (AMA) saw that while pet owners found the emotional and social benefits of having a pet during lockdown were extremely beneficial, a small number did find issue with accessing services, pet products and food.

Steve Adams, Managing Director of FiberCycle, said one of the big things is that the pandemic has significantly increased household penetration.

“Keeping up with demand is probably our biggest area of challenge in some respects as an industry as Australia has seen a massive uptake and upswing of pets. So, today as a manufacturer, being able to provide additional products and opportunities for these new pet owners is a real pain point.”

Adams also said that the way consumers interact with brands has changed due to the pandemic, forcing companies to adapt to a new way of thinking.

“The challenge for us is probably about fragmentation of the channel and the rapid development of e-commerce is providing both challenge and opportunity. So that kind of fragmentation where you traditionally need to either go to a supermarket or a pet specialty store, that’s now really kind of blurring, which means omni channel retailers like Amazon obviously coming to the market.

“Pet Circle who are obviously e-commerce pet specialty experts, and then you’ve got companies like Woolworths that are now starting to leverage e-commerce platforms and they’ve created a JV with another company that sells pet insurance to create a brand called Pet Culture. This kind of you ever evolving kind of channel matrix is something that’s a challenge and opportunity, depending on your perspective,” said Adams.

Another challenge, brought partly on by the number of households now owning pets is a shortage in veterinarians. This is a problem that not only effects those looking for pet care, but also on veterinarians themselves.

Dr. Claire Jenkins, founder of VetChat, said: “We are experiencing a veterinarian shortage, which together with the booming intake of pets during COVID is placing increased strain on veterinary clinics.  Particularly in areas with no easy access to open emergency centres, there is a lot of pressure on the after-hour services, with many vets experiencing after hours fatigue.”

If you are a veterinarian who is experiencing a difficult time, please call the Australian Veterinary Association on 1300 687 327 for confidential telephone counselling.