This article was written by Bob Croucher for the Nov-Jan issue of Pet Industry News.

It all began on 3 September 1979 when the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) – now the Pet Industry Association of Australia (PIAA) was legally established.

The Memorandum of Association and Articles of Association were signed on 21 August 1979 by five industry visionaries who were committed to the establishment of an industry association, “to protect and advance the interests of the pet industry in the Commonwealth of Australia”. These visionaries were Alan Brian Whelpton, Lawrence Trevor Small, Enrico Vincent Datodi, Normal Leslie Chinn and Michael Forster.

The industry was fragmented into retail pet shops, boarding kennels, groomers, aquariums, breeders, and trainers along with other ancillary industries with very little link to each other. Regulations were decided without representation from the pet industry as a whole. Despite this, business was thriving with new ideas and technologies. What it lacked was a strong united voice.

Now retired from the pet industry, Alan Whelpton AO was founding President of PIJAC and contributed greatly to the pet industry. He acted as Managing Director of Pets International, Australia’s oldest and largest importer, distributor and wholesaler of pet products (sold to Masterpet Corporation in 2002) and was honoured with PIJAC’s first Pet Industry Man of the Year award in 1980.

“The industry benefited greatly because the majority of the industry believed in what we (PIJAC) were doing and devoted many hours in assisting,” says Whelpton. “Even prior to having an executive director we formed various sub-committees that did a lot of work for the industry behind the scenes.”

After just 12 months, at the first Annual General Meeting there were 42 financial members.


In the early 1970s, the Fisheries Council of Australia convened a meeting of the Chief Fisheries Officers in all states to meet in Darwin, at the request of the Tasmanian Salmon Industry. The prime subject of importance – a ban of all live goldfish coming into Australia. PIJAC was invited to attend, and the then President of PIJAC Australia, Frank Williams, was sent on behalf of the aquarium industry members to represent their interests.

Following a blistering attack surrounding the dangers of importing sick goldfish into Australia, the Salmon Industry went on to explain how all our native fish could be wiped out, by both disease and the eating of spawn by these imported species. However, Williams then addressed the meeting telling of a recent visit to Tasmania, where local fauna officers told him of their grave concerns of the regular large escaping of salmon fingerlings from local hatcheries into the Franklin River system. They advised as these fish grew, they were slowly wiping out most of the native fish species in the surrounding area.

This was heard with deafening silence, and when asked to deny this, nothing positive came forth from the Salmon Industry representatives. From that time on, the subject of banning goldfish imports was never mentioned again.

In 1989, the workload of PIJAC was such that a full time Executive Director was required. This was Kevin Pakes who continued holding that position until his passing in 1993.

Some of his major achievements were forming state administrations for the association and education programs involving TAFE, ensuring that young people enter the industry with a complete education on animal care.

Red tape was an issue in the early days of the industry, particularly when it came to animal medications and their registration. Not only requiring expensive packaging changes for imported medications but the requirement to register each product in every state, and because it was a small industry, medications were lumped along with primary industry animals such as cattle, sheep, and pigs. Around 1992, changes were made to offer national registrations. PIJAC made representation to include exemptions for treatments to ornamental fish and exotic caged birds.

While it took a while, PIJAC started to be included in many state and national meetings relating to the welfare of animals and given the opportunity to contribute to making new laws and regulations.

In 2004, the name of the association was changed to Pet Industry Association of Australia (PIAA) as the board felt that industry members and the public would have a better understanding of what the association was all about.

Pet Industry News

It was in late 1990 that PIAA’s then President, Frank Williams approached me with the idea of publishing a regular magazine. It was agreed that good communication was important between wholesalers and retailers as well as those in other sectors of the industry, including groomers, boarding kennels, and others. The magazine filled that requirement with the first issue distributed to more than 3,000 in January/February 1991. The magazine continues today, be it with new owners. Now there are weekly newsletters, a high-quality website, and regular podcasts.

Trade Shows

Overseas trade shows have always been important for Australian wholesalers seeking out new products and overseas trends within our industry.

It seemed that to hold a trade show in Australia would be an obvious move, and that PIAA would be the one to organise such a show. So began the first ‘Pet Expo 91’ which was held in World Trade Centre, Melbourne, Victoria on 5-7 October 1991.

An important part of the trade show was the dinner, which was always well attended and gave industry members time to relax and socialise with like-minded people. Many new friendships have been linked to these dinners, where awards were presented in all sections of the industry, both to individuals and companies.

Educating the industry is also an important role taken on by PIAA. This began in 1994 with ‘Pets*Mart’ held at Darling Harbour, Sydney. Two of the key speakers were John Pease aka Mr Body Language and Professor John Gratzek who was a Professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia. Since then, education became an important part of the Trade Shows.

An early industry victory

Ornamental fish expert Rick Datodi was an early Vice President and headed up the live fish sub-committee. He ran Aquarium Industries, which began as a small retail shop and gradually grew into wholesaling as well as expanding the retail side of the business to eight shops

[Aquarium World] around Melbourne. But the aquarium sector of the pet industry was under

threat of proposed government regulations.

“The government at one stage was bent on banning importation of goldfish, as mentioned earlier, but PIAA was successful in stopping that,” Datodi said. “They also had proposed limiting permissible fish for import, to just 100 species, which would have knocked the industry off the perch.”

Datodi was heavily involved in negotiating quarantine issues with the government and became successful in opening the biggest quarantine station in the country, which industry members

criticised at the time but benefited from the compromised quarantine outcome in the end.

“It was for the survival of the overall industry. There was no consideration for individual benefits,” he explained.

Most of the lobbying and issues PIAA had to tackle over the past four decades were around retail, which were fundamentally the perception of pet shops among the public and the sale of livestock in some name, shape or form.

I spoke to pet shop members from Queensland, NSW, and Western Australia about their long-lasting affiliation with the PIAA and how it has benefited their business, especially during challenging times. Every pet shop’s achievement added to the PIAA’s success.

A founding member of the association, Kim Peries (Pet City) has never been on the board but has always been a great supporter of PIAA, especially in the early days when she volunteered to meet with government officials on issues, such as legalisation of rabbits in QLD or to organise training functions in the state.

“I like to build relationships with the RSPCA, animal welfare organisations and the government to discuss different issues that affect our business,” she said.

Peries said the pet retail sector has benefited greatly from PIAA’s long-term efforts in raising standards and changing negative perceptions of pet shops, but there is still work to be done.

The battle against extremists

PIAA has always responded and continues to react to criticism and/or proposed legislation to ban the sale of animals in pet shops. Many will remember the petition Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore MP launched a couple of years ago to ban the sale of animals in pet shops and markets [Animals Regulation of Sale Bill]. PIAA fought back against the inaccurate and misleading information disseminating about pet shops through the media.

This was ongoing, despite two Senate Enquiries (one in Victoria and one in NSW) finding that pet shops and large breeders were not the problem, but the cure in maintaining good animal welfare. NSW accepted the findings of this report. Victoria, with an election coming up at the time, feared losing votes to the greens and ignored their report and banned the sale of pets in pet shops and reduced the number of breeding dogs that could be kept.

Sale of reptiles in pet shops

For many years PIAA has been lobbying the NSW Government to allow the sale of reptiles in pet shops and for many years kept hitting a brick wall. Several times we would get close and then the Minister would change, and we would have to start again. In 2013 we were successful. The Hon. Robyn Parker MP, Minister for Environment signed the document, witnessed by CEO Roger Perkins and myself. A restricted list of animals was issued, and many shops are now selling the hand reared animals successfully.

International associations

Over the years relationships were created with likeminded industries overseas. PIJAC USA included a visit from its Council, Marshall Myers, who stated at the 30th Anniversary, “your achievements over the past 30 years have set standards that your sister organisations around the world should replicate”.

Susan Dankert from PIJAC Canada, and the PIAA regularly exchanged ideas and for a couple of years published their magazine here in Australia.

Nigel Baker of the UK Pet Industry Federation was always complimentary of the PIAA’s achievements.

Meetings were often held with these and other associations at the Interzoo Trade Show held in Germany every two years.

There are many other achievements over the past 43 years, but space doesn’t allow a mention of all of them.

There was fire in the bellies of past directors and CEOs who fought for what is right for animal welfare in Australia, not always recognised by the public and those making the laws. Media has often been unkind, usually for the sake of grabbing a headline but most of those in the industry are in their chosen jobs because of their love of animals.

It is my wish and hope that the newly appointed directors have that fire and can put the Association back where it belongs, a leader in our industry.

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