BRUSSELS — As members of the United States pet retail community have advocated for exemption from store closure mandates in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, FEDIAF, the European Pet Food Industry Federation, has issued an open letter to government authorities across Europe to do the same.

The organization stated that pet retail associations and companies “stand in solidarity” with the precautionary measures taken to combat the spread of coronavirus but should remain open as part of the region’s essential infrastructure.

FEDIAF estimates there are 140 million dogs and cats living in households throughout the European Union. The federation pointed to the role of pets as a source of comfort in uncertain and otherwise lonely times as the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain and other countries in the region are under lockdown to limit the spread of the virus.

“It is therefore vital that businesses that provide products or services for the care of pets are included among the essential infrastructure that is allowed to remain open throughout the crisis. Just as food stores/supermarkets provide necessary supply to humans, pet businesses must remain operational to ensure the continued care of millions of pet animals,” the organization stated in the open letter.

FEDIAF also noted that grocery stores and other mass retail outlets may not provide all the necessary materials or nutrition products needed by companion animals. Specialized pet stores and veterinary clinics are often the source for necessary supplements and medications needed by companion animals, and therefore should remain open to continue providing necessary treatments and products to pet owners.

The request to list European pet stores as essential infrastructure exempt from closure was also extended to the 71 million birds, small animals, pet fish and reptiles owned throughout the EU.

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