Americans clearly love our companion animals. There currently are 78.2 million dogs in the USA. (American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA) 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey.) We also own 86.4 million cats. (Id.) In terms of households, 46.3 million own one or more dogs, and 38.9 million own one or more cats. (Id.) Every year (including the recent recession) Americans have spent an additional $3 billion on their pets over the prior year. (APPMA, http://www.americanpetproducts.org/press_industrytrends.asp, accessed 6/27/2011.)
Our yearly bills for veterinary surgery are $407 for dogs and $425 for cats. (Id., APPMA website.) Routine veterinary care averages $248 for dogs and $219 for cats. During the December 1999 holiday season, the average pet owner spent $95 on gifts for pets. (Anne R. Carey & Marcy E. Mullins, USA Snapshots – Surfing For Man’s Best Friend, USA Today, Dec. 16, 1999, at B1.)
67% of pet owners take their pets to the veterinarian more often than they see their own physicians. 53% of pet owners have taken time off work to care for a sick pet, 52% have cooked special meals for their pets, and 34% talk about their pets more than their children. (1999 American Animal Hospital Association's national pet owner survey.)
The vast majority of pet owners – as many as 90% – view their pets as family members. (Alan Beck & Aaron Katcher, Between Pets and People – The Importance of Animal Companionship 40-45 (2d ed. 1996); Mary E. Thurston, The Lost History of the Canine Race – Our 15,000-Year Love Affair With Dogs 275 (1996).)
Pets have the ability to enhance our health and quality of life. Medical and psychological research shows that pets appear to be associated with a broad range of health and emotional benefits, such as increased general health, decreased stress, decreased risk and slower progression of coronary heart disease, enhanced cognitive development in children, and emotional support. (Friedmann, E., The Role of Pets in Enhancing Human Well-Being: Physiological Effects (1990); Poresky, R. H. and Hendrix, C. (1988) Developmental benefits of pets for young children; Pets as Sources of Support for Mothers, Fathers and Young Children. Gail F. Melson, Ph.D., Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907; Rona Schwartz, M.S., Purdue University; Alan Beck, Sc.D, Purdue University.)
Given our love of pets, it is easy to understand that we suffer when they suffer, and grieve for them when they leave us. The death of a pet can have the same emotional impact as the death of a human being. (Lagoni, Laurel S; Butler, Carolyn, Hetts, Suzanne. The Human-Animal Bond and Grief. Saunders, Philadelphia, PA. (1994); Carmack, Betty J., The Effect on Family Members and Functioning After the Death of a Pet, in Pets and the Family 149, 150 (Marvin B. Sussman ed., 1985).