You come most recently from the food industry. What types of unique issues have you encountered in the pet industry?
Actually, my 14 years of experience in the food industry have helped a great deal as I acclimate to the pet industry. There is a tremendous amount of crossover in the types of legal issues that my team and I tackle on a day-to-day basis. For example, Petco’s initiative to remove pet foods with artificial colors, flavors, and ingredients from our stores mirrors the same focus on health for pets as exists in the food industry for people.
There are also the same accompanying issues of food safety and traceability. Petco’s expansion into veterinary services, pet insurance, and at-home services brings additional areas of focus for my team, too. While the regulatory framework for human health is well-developed, the regulatory landscape for veterinary and other pet services is more on a state-by-state basis. Oftentimes the questions presented do not have a clear-cut answer and it’s up to my team to provide legal direction based on their best judgment and to extrapolate from the laws that do exist.
What are your and your team’s top priorities for 2020?
Privacy and readying ourselves for the California Consumer Privacy Act’s Jan. 1, 2020 effective date is a key priority. Focusing on how best to get in front of issues — “upstream thinking” — and being proactive in compliance training and communicating “lessons learned” to operations is always a top priority for us as well.
With over 1,500 stores and more than 26,000 employees, that isn’t easy, and we’ve had to get creative in how best to communicate effectively. That’s a work in progress and remains a top focus. We also have the top priority of staying integrated with the company’s many lines of business so legal can help in strategies and approach from the start.
You’ve just celebrated your one-year anniversary with Petco. Do you have any reflections about that?
First, it’s certainly come quickly! The company has gone through many changes in the last year and a half. There’s a new executive team and, with that, a real invigoration in our initiatives and goal to be the catalyst for the betterment of the lives of pets and their pet parents.
I am also proud of the legal team we’ve built at Petco over the last year. Every one of our new hires self-identified as diverse, and we’ve initiated new RFP practices for our retention of outside counsel with diversity as an important factor. We’ve also instituted new practices for our budget management, as well as in educating the other functions and operations about the part they play in the overall legal spend of the company.
Looking forward, I am excited to help the company continue its trajectory of growth, with Petco’s legal team as a key contributor in establishing the company as the destination for all things pet and as the go-to place for your pet’s well-being.