032020 RICH Fetch RI pet supplies 2022.JPG

Johnna Devereaux, owner of Fetch RI, stocks shelves on Friday, March 19, 2020. Devereaux is trying to have the state declare pet supply stores essential businesses so they won't be closed during the coronavirus pandemic. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun

RICHMOND — Many retailers confronting the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic are doing what they can to ensure that their businesses aren’t forced to close.

The owner of Fetch RI in Richmond has joined other pet supply retailers across the country in asking federal, state and municipal governments to declare their businesses essential so they can continue to operate during the coronavirus crisis.

Fetch RI owner Johnna Devereaux, who is keeping her store open but has added a prepay and pull-up service, said she had not been told to close yet, but closures had been ordered in other parts of the country.

“It’s not necessarily that they wanted to close the stores in Rhode Island, but it’s happening across the country where a lot of pet stores are being closed, so the only essential businesses are grocery stores, pharmacies, things like that,” she said.

The Pet Industry Advisory Council, a national organization, sent an open letter on Friday to government officials, asking them to refrain from closing their members’ stores. The letter reads: 

“You are already taking important measures necessary to protect the most vulnerable members of our society, including the elderly and the immuno-compromised. We ask you to also ensure that your community has the ability to provide appropriate care for the pets and animals that depend on them, and list pet stores as essential retailers that are exempt from any mandatory closures.”

Devereaux, a certified dog and cat nutritionist, said specialty pet supply stores provided food, nutritional supplements and other items not available in grocery stores.

“The nutritional diets, supplements, nutraceuticals, these are all things that if a dog needs it for their GI tract or any other system of the body, they just can’t go on grocery store food,” she said. 

The objective of the advisory council's letter, which has been signed by large and small business owners across the country, is to have the stores declared essential before closures begin.

“It’s not that it’s a threat of closure right now,” Devereaux said. “It’s to identify it before it becomes an issue, because with all of the catastrophe that’s going on, it’s going to be very easy to move right through it, close all businesses except for essential, and then you’re dealing with an after-the-fact, trying to go back and readdress what might have been overlooked as an essential businesses. So we’re trying to be proactive, which is what I think we are all trying to do in the current environment.”

The open letter is on the PIJAC website:

https://pijac.org/press/open-letter-federal-state-and-local-government-officials-regarding-pets-and-covid-19

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