Good for Pets, Good for People

Recent studies led by respected researchers illustrate just how important a role the pet industry plays in making sure that pets and people are well cared for.



Millions of U.S. households own pets. Whether they have fur, scales, wings or fins, these companion animals provide and are the recipients of great love and affection.

Until recently, the pet industry’s role in helping to put pets in the hands of the best owner was anecdotal. Little data existed to show the real value brought by retailers, breeders and others who play critical parts in connecting pets with animal lovers. 

Now, however, a new series of studies proves that the pet industry is great for consumers, pets and those who work to place pets in loving homes.

Caring for Pets is Good for Business
In early February, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) proudly introduced the results of a George Mason University study that showed that the pet industry supports or provides 1.3 million jobs and provides $221 billion in direct and indirect economic activity across the country.

Dr. Terry Clower, professor of public policy at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government and director of its Center on Regional Analysis, joined me and Pet Leadership Council chairman Bob Vetere to present the results of the study at the Pet Industry Leadership Conference earlier this year. 

According to Dr. Clower’s findings, the industry generated nearly $23 billion in taxes at the federal, state and local levels in 2015. Dr. Clower’s study showed the industry-wide average wage was more than $46,500. According to calculations done by PIJAC, the $77 billion spent directly by consumers on pets and pet food, toys, grooming, veterinary care and other pet purchases works out to $8.8 million per hour—that’s $147,000 per minute or more than $2,400 per second.

How does the pet industry compare to others? Going to the movies is an American pastime, yet Americans spent seven times as much on their pets as they did at the box office in 2015. Americans spent $29 billion more on their pets than they did on daycare in 2015. And out of the top 450 companies listed in Entrepreneur Magazine’s most recent assessment of franchises, seven are in the pet industry. 

Consumers and Pets Also Benefit
The benefits of owning a pet are clear to anyone who has spent time around a companion animal. While many of these benefits have not been scientifically determined, a 2015 study by Dr. Clower found that pet ownership brought health benefits that totaled over $11 billion annually. 

According to that study, pet owners visit their doctors less frequently. Additionally, dog owners who walk their pets at least five times a week have a lower incidence of obesity. 

This measure of the benefits of dog ownership equals $250 per year of savings, on average, for all of the 43 million-plus households that own dogs in the U.S. However, this estimate is quite conservative, as it cannot account for the benefits of dog ownership that are specific to each household that owns a dog. Additionally, the study only examined health related to dog ownership, meaning that the benefits of owning a cat, a bird, a reptile or some other pet have not been analyzed. 

It takes work to make sure the human-animal bond benefits both pet and owner. The responsible pet industry includes retailers, distributors and breeders who are self-regulated and federally overseen as they partner to take care of pets by providing them high-quality care. 

Meeting the Need
Like retailers and breeders, many shelters do tremendous work to place pets in loving homes. However, a recent study showed that they alone cannot fulfill the needs of the U.S. pet market. 

According to the study, conducted by Mississippi State University’s College of Veterinary Studies, dog euthanasia has dropped at the thousands of shelters nationwide to fewer than 800,000 annually out of the more than 5.5 million dogs received. With at least eight million Americans looking to acquire a dog each year, it is clear that shelters cannot provide enough dogs to even maintain current levels of dog ownership. 

This means the responsible pet industry is absolutely critical to fulfill the growing demand among Americans for their four-legged friends. As a well-regulated industry under both U.S. Department of Agriculture and many state and local measures, we are clearly a valuable and necessary source of beloved pets. 

Time to Make Our Case
Across the country, hundreds of pet retailers, breeders, groomers, veterinarians and others are facing increased pressure that, if left unchecked, could severely harm the responsible pet industry and the millions of Americans who want a companion animal in their home. Armed with data and decades of experience, we are ready to make our case on behalf of small businesses, consumers and pets alike. 

Mike Bober is the president and CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC). Since 1970, PIJAC has protected pets, pet owners and the pet industry–promoting responsible pet ownership and animal welfare, fostering environmental stewardship, and ensuring the availability of pets. PIJAC members include retailers, companion animal suppliers, manufacturers, wholesale distributors, manufacturers’ representatives, pet hobbyists and other trade organizations.


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