Before Entering the Pet Products Industry

APPA frequently gets questions from people that have a great product idea and want to start manufacturing. Unfortunately we can not help you decide whether your product is going to be the “next big thing”, and APPA membership is not available until you have begun to sell your product, but we can give you some help in determining whether your product will be subject to regulatory requirements.

Many of APPA’s members are small start-up companies that got started with one good idea. There are many considerations before going into the pet product industry- some of which are general business considerations, and some of which are unique to the pet product industry. While we suggest that you obtain legal advice from an attorney before entering the business, without providing legal advice, here is some general regulatory information and other resources to point you in the right direction.

Regulatory Requirements for Pet Products
  1. Pet Food
    1. Pet Food, for regulatory purposes, consists of any product that is used to feed pets or specialty pets. These products may include treats, and chews, bones or even toys. A product is considered pet food if the manufacturer, in its product labeling or advertising makes any claim that the product is intended for use as an animal food, or that the product provides anything of nutritional value to the animal (i.e. digestible). (In regulatory terms generally "pet" means a dog or cat and a "specialty pet" means any domesticated animal normally maintained in a cage or tank.)
    2. Pet Food is regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Agriculture (or equivalent department) in each State. The State Department of Agricultures and the FDA work together in an organization called the American Association of Feed Control Officials, or AAFCO. AAFCO develops Model Laws and Model Regulations for the labeling, sale and manufacture of commercial feed which then may be adopted in part or in whole by the states. Although there are certain Federal requirements that must be followed to sell pet food everywhere, there are numerous variations from State to State.
    3. We highly recommend that in trying to understand the requirements for the manufacture and labeling of a pet food product that you obtain a copy of the AAFCO Official Publication (OP) which is published each year and which provides the model laws and regulations as well as a complete list of ingredients that are approved for use in animal feed.   AAFCO has a web page called The Business of Pet Food page to assist pet food producers that are new to the business or are small producers. This page will provide the basic AAFCO requirements. This is an excellent resource to familiarize yourself with. Also, take a look at the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) Webpage on Pet Foods . The FDA also has certain general labeling requirements for food products. Under the US Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, pet food as well as all animal feed are considered "food" and thus many laws and regulations that regulate human food  also include animal food, which generally includes food for pets.
    4. Without getting into the details of pet food regulatory requirements, be aware that there are specific labeling requirements for pet foods, as well as limitations as to what ingredients can be included in the feed, and limitations as to what claims you can make about the product. Also, most States have a procedure for registering each pet food product that is sold. Each state generally charges a fee for each product registered and may review the label of the product to ensure regulatory compliance before allowing registration. For any food product including pet food, you will also be required to register your facility with the FDA under the Bioterrorism Act, and update that registration biennially. 
    5. APPA retains a pet food nutritionist consultant to assist APPA's members with labeling and regulatory issues. APPA also provides Web links to each State's regulatory requirements, the federal requirements and provides its members with regular updates of new regulatory developments with regard to pet food. We suggest, as a first step, that you contact the State Feed Control Official at the Department of Agriculture in the State where you are located. Often they will be a great resource for additional information.
  2. Pesticide Products
    1. Most people would recognize flea and tick collars as typical pet products that are pesticides. However, certain grooming products, such as shampoos and salves, and products used in aquariums may also be considered pesticide products. Even "all natural" products may be considered pesticides, depending on the claims made for the products.
    2. If the product claims that it is intended to "prevent, destroy, repel or mitigate any pest" it will be considered a pesticide regardless of the ingredients. Devices may also be considered pesticides. Pet products that are considered pesticides include flea and tick powders and collars, shampoos and grooming aids that claim to control fleas or ticks, certain water clarifiers and algae control products, as well as some dog and cat behavior modifiers.
    3. If your product is considered a pesticide you may  be required to register with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and with each state where the product is sold. Like pet food, each state may require a registration fee for each product. Certain pesticides considered minimum risk are exempt from some of EPA and/or State requirements. For a product with pesticide claims to be considered exempt from some of the requirements, all the ingredients must be on the exempt list. For more information see the EPA's Pesticide Web Site  devoted to pesticides and a web page devoted to Pesticide Registration.
  3. Other Products
    1. Although less regulated than food or pesticide products there are other regulatory considerations for each product. In general, you will have to comply with labeling requirements. For information on general labeling considerations, such as placement of required information on labels like weight or volume see the NIST Handbook of Uniform Packaging and Labeling Regulations  which have been adopted by many States.
    2. Claims--Claims made for pet products, like other products must be able to be substantiated as truthful. Advertising claims are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. In the case of remedies, depending on the claim and the particulars of the product, the remedy formulation may be considered a drug which will need approval from the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine before being marketed.
    3. Other products such as pet cosmetics are called grooming aids and are not regulated by the FDA unless they are considered drugs, foods or pesticide products. For example, pet shampoos without claims that it controls fleas or ticks is unlikely to be regulated.  Some products may have safety or performance standards set by retailers that are more stringent than any regulatory body.
    4. Toys-there is no specific regulatory requirements for pet toys other than general safety requirements  for consumer products which would be overseen by the Consumer Products Safety Commission. However, many of the larger retailers now require safety and durability standards for pet toys that are very similiar to  requirements for childrens toys.
    5. Clothing-Be aware that you may be required to comply with fabric labeling requirements which is overseen by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  4. Other Pet Industry Resources:
    1. Global Pet Expo: This is the United States largest annual pet products trade show produced by APPA and the Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA). For more information visit the Global Pet Expo Web Site  .
    2. National Pet Owners Survey: Since 1988, APPA has been collecting and publishing the industry's most comprehensive consumer research study of demographics, buying habits and other traits of owners of dogs, cats, fish, birds, reptiles, small animals and now equine. Published every other year, The APPA National Pet Owners Survey has become the premier resource of its kind for manufacturers, retailers and investment professionals alike.See the APPA Web site under the heading Market Research. 
    3. Pet Food Institute: PFI is the pet food industry's public education and media relations resource, representative before the U.S. Congress and state and federal agencies, organizer of seminars and educational programs, and liaison with other organizations. PFI represents the manufacturers of 98 percent of all dog and cat food produced in the United States.  
    4. American Association of Feed Control Officials: A basic goal of AAFCO is to provide a mechanism for developing and implementing uniform and equitable laws, regulations, standards and enforcement policies for regulating the manufacture, distribution and sale of animal feeds; resulting in safe, effective, and useful feeds. The Association thereby promotes new ideas and innovative procedures and urges their adoption by member agencies, for uniformity.
    5. US Food and Drug Administration: For specific information on pet foods see FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine's Web Page on pet food .
    6. Pet Business Magazine: Publication devoted to helping pet retailers improve their profits, Pet Business delivers significant editorial content that gives pet retailers essential information to help them increase their current and future financial success. Editorial content provides vital how-to information and analysis from industry experts.
    7. Pet Products News: News on, provided by BowTie News, consists of reporters that specialize in covering the pet industry and its communities. News is supplemented by Pet Product News
    8. Pet Food Nutritionists/Consultants: We have the names of consultants that can assist you in both formulation and regulatory/labeling requirements for pet food, treats and chews. For additional information contact Debora Eisen at   or by phone at 203 532-3608. We also have a listing of laboratories that will test pet foods and ingredients.
    9. Pet Food Industry Magazine: Pet Food Industry magazine is a trade magazine devoted to the pet food industry. They hold a yearly forum for pet food professionals in Chicago.
    10. The World  Pet Association: The WPA is involved in the trade show and consumer pet show realm. The WWPIA hosts  the annual trade show for pet retailers and manufacturers called SuperZoo generally in Las Vegas.
    11. Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC): The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) has been the unified voice of the pet industry - promoting responsible pet ownership and animal welfare, fostering environmental stewardship, and ensuring the availability of pets.
    12. National Animal Supplement Council: An industry organization of the manufacturers of companion animal and equine supplements. NASC  is a non-profit trade organization comprised of companies committed to providing health supplements and nutritional supplements of the highest quality for companion animals, primarily dogs, cats and horses.  For more information contact Bill Bookout at the NASC  760-751-3360 or visit their Web Site at
    13. Federal Trade Commission:
    14. Consumer Products Safety Commission:
    15. Environmental Protection Agency: Note that any product that makes pesticide claims, such as shampoos making claims regarding fleas and ticks even though it may be all natural may be required to register with the EPA.