The association also reports U.S. pet spending in 2013 as “$21.6 billion for pet foods; $14.4 billion for veterinary care; $13.1 billion for supplies and medications; $2.2 billion for annual purchases; and $4.4 billion for miscellaneous services.”
That spending is expected to increase “to $60 billion this year.” The positive side of these increasing costs may be that more pets are receiving far better care than they did in past years.
Because of feeding higher quality pet foods, a growing awareness of the importance of regular visits to a veterinarian for exams and medications, such as those now available to prevent deadly heartworm disease, many pet owners are giving pets far better care now than was available in past years.
Another factor is that many of today’s pets are regarded as our much-loved companions who have feelings similar to our own. Most of us recognize times when our pets are happy or bored or worried or tired. Many pets are boarded at fine facilities if they are not taken on vacations with their human families. Some restaurants and retail stores now even permit leashed pets to accompany their owners when they are dining or shopping — a practice common in many European countries.
As one gentleman remarked, “This is a big contrast in the way many pets were regarded in the past when dogs were considered family protectors as watchdogs or used to herd cattle or sheep. They were often left outside to run and to find shelter in a barn or in a dog house in their unfenced yards. Cats were important to kill rodents and usually lived an outdoor life with none of the care and love that they receive in many homes today.
Regulations regarding pets have also improved. Neither dogs nor cats are permitted to run free in many localities, including Cleveland and Bradley County. Pets must be confined to their owner’s property which protects the pets as well as their human neighbors.
Yet, a major downside of increasing costs for pet care is that too many pet owners must give up pets because they can’t afford to feed them, can’t afford increased rents due to having a pet, can’t afford veterinary care for a pet that gets sick or injured. In these cases innocent pets suffer, both physically and emotionally. Many lose their lives because nobody wants them or they are adopted on a whim by someone who felt sorry for them and then in a few months decide they were not prepared to adopt the pet, and then the pet faces yet another difficult transition — or worse.
How many pet owners are in the U.S.? An Associated Press statistic reports that “95.6 million Americans own cats; 83.3 own dogs; 20.6 own birds; 8.3 own horses; 145 own fish; 11.6, reptiles; and 18.1, small animals.”
Obviously, many of us in America dearly love our pets and the unconditional love they give us in return. But we must always be certain that we can give them the loving care they so richly deserve before we adopt. They are innocent beings. We must protect them in every way and give them a happy, long lifetime free of emotional and physical pain.
Paws up this week to: Gene Smith, Cleveland Animal Shelter director; Roy Womack, animal control officer; Clara Ruth Campbell; Pat Hardin; Cathy Blocker; and all who adopted a pet with the assurance of providing a long, wonderful life in a forever home.
Call me with your pet & wildlife stories, 728-5414, or write to: E.S.P., P.O. Box 4864, Cleveland TN 37320.