Indie Pet Vendors and Advocates Shine at Super Zoo, Las Vegas

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Bev Gun-Munro’s eyes glowed with tender ferocity. The kind of gaze that emanates from someone who is clearly watching out for you.

Munro and her legion of volunteers at SaveARescue.org received a tip about a family of cats living in a dry culvert along the Los Angeles river. “Someone was tossing food down to them and thought, ‘There must be more I can do.’ That’s when we came in,” Munro said.

SaveARescue boasts the only 911 “hotline” for dog and cat emergencies throughout the U.S. and Canada. They are the largest rescues, shelters and animal control search directory. Currently, more than 22,000 dogs and cats are available for adoption. Soon, the group will be partnering with the American Red Cross in coordinating animal rescues in all future natural disasters.

Munro was one of countless individuals and companies whose loving reach was felt at Super Zoo, North America’s largest gathering of world-wide pet professionals, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas this past week.

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Strolling the cavernous, 300K square-foot venue, Rescue Legacy’s Director of Development, Joy Gaston, and I noted the small, independent enterprises proudly displaying their wares beside the monoliths of the pet product and services industry. This close proximity occasionally evoked thoughts of social media wars in some vendors.

“We’ll post about the health benefits of a certain ingredient and minutes later, one of ‘The Big Four’ will blast our claims on social media,” said Melinda Miller, Chief Executive Officer of Bravo! pet foods. “But we hold our ground.”

And they do. “Making Healthy Happen” has been Bravo!’s guiding principle over their 20 years’ in creating species-appropriate, meat-based diets and treats for companion animals. The poultry, lamb and venison used is humanely raised and contain no antibiotics or preservatives — ever. Hmm. The ‘Big Four’ must be intimidated if they're constantly on the troll.

Other companies are taking concrete steps to protect our environment. As of this writing, nearly 10,000 separate fires rage in the Amazon Rainforest. Member nations of the G7 Summit convened in France this weekend are not the only ones addressing threats to “The Lungs of the Earth.”

Between now and August 30th, the folks at BioDOGradable Bags will donate 100% of their net profits from online sales of Grow Bags Products to the Rainforest Partnership (RP). RP partners with indigenous countries to find economic alternatives to logging. The BioDOGradable line of poop, all-purpose and trash bags is made of a patented vegetable blend that breaks down easily and provides food for the Earth’s microorganisms, thus supporting the cycle of life.

Jill Stephens’ transition from the beauty biz to pet product developer was more personal. In 2013, Stephens endured several surgeries to both remove a Basal Cell carcinoma from her nose and restore the tissue to a natural look. While on a boating trip, she noticed that her dog’s nose was turning lighter and becoming spotted.

“I could kick myself for all those years of being a sun-worshiper,” Stephens quipped, “and I wasn’t about to let the same thing happen to my best buddy!” Working with a chemist, Stephens developed My Dog Nose It!, a non-toxic sunscreen specifically for our dog’s most receptive — and vulnerable — part.

The topper of our day was meeting with Dr. Karen Becker, DVM, animal advocate and an edifice of the paradigm shift toward integrative pet health. The Cedar Falls, Iowa native began volunteering at the local humane society when she was 13, became a state and federally licensed wildlife rehabilitator while still in her teens and later founded the first proactive animal hospital in the Chicago area.

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Unlike the vast majority of veterinarians, Becker does not tow the industry line when it comes to pet nutrition. You would never find a bag ‘o chow cranked out by one of “The Big Four” in her clinic lobby. And there she was, laughing and chatting with us like we were brethren in the forever endeavor to educate pet parents about better choices.

Under Mandalay Bay’s gold-tinted windows, amid the nearby ringing and clanging of hungry slots, Joy and I hit a jackpot of humanity no material fortune could match.