Are we obsessed with spending on our pets?
The first time Harrison Ford licked my hand, I knew I wanted to adopt him.
Oh, right — I should have probably led with the fact that Harrison Ford was the first, and only dog I've ever had. Harrison was a mutty lab, and as boys do, I named him after the movie star who portrayed Han Solo and Indiana Jones (nerd alert: yes, I know that Indiana got his name from a dog).
I thought about Harrison Ford today because the 135th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show opened its doors at Madison Square Garden yesterday, welcoming 2,597 dogs from 49 states.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the process of making it to the most prestigious dog show of the year can cost owners hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some dogs arrive via private jets, while other dogs, like a Norwich Terrier named Poker Chip, arrive via Volvo. Poker Chip's owner estimates that she has spent $75,000-$100,000 on her beloved terrier, who was bought with winnings from a poker game.
For the rest of us average pet owners, the American Kennel Club estimates that we'll pay an average of $646 to adopt or buy a dog, and an additional $1,500 or so on supplies, training, and visits to the vet.
A 2010 survey by the American Pet Products Association estimates that 62 percent of households in the U.S. own a pet, the majority of which are dogs and cats. Freshwater fish, birds, other small animals, and reptiles also make the list respectively, and are all part of the U.S. pet industry with expenditures reaching $47.7 billion. This is an industry that has been untouched by the Great Recession. In 2001, U.S. pet expenditures were around $28.5 billion, and it has nearly doubled within the decade.
Why are we so willing to spend on our pets? Bundle data shows that the average U.S. household spends $45 a month on pets. We also tend to obsess over our pets: In a survey of more than 1,000 dog owners by the American Kennel Club, 97 percent of owners said they're willing to eat more meals at home to have more money to spend on their dogs, 72 percent were willing to cancel their gym memberships, and 9 percent even said they'd scale back on gifts for their spouse before cutting back on presents for their dogs. Some pet owners, fueled by their desire to feed their pet a hormone-free diet, will even go online to buy illegally obtained raw game.
Our pets also felt the love on Valentine's Day. The American Retail Federation estimates that the average person spent $5.04 on their pets, while they spent an average of $3.41 on their co-workers.
When did we get so obsessed with spending on our pets? When Harrison Ford was in my life, my family didn't buy him gifts on Valentine's Day. We didn't buy him fancy food and expensive toys, or carry him around in designer handbags. He was perfectly content running around the park with me, or sleeping underneath the fruit trees we had in the backyard.
What about you? Are you a pet owner? How much do you spend?
Should you buy pet insurance?
Will your pet bankrupt you?
What your pet really costs you