As I sit on yet another airplane going from meeting to meeting, I think about how great it is that I get to share such positive news about how our industry is doing. What all my air travel means is that the industry is more united and stronger than ever before. After a few years of steadying and, according to some reports, declining pet ownership, and the prospect of dangerous legislation, all sectors of our industry have come together to ensure our collective prosperity. And I’m excited to report that what we have been doing appears to be working.
Several strong initiatives are underway, and pet ownership and spending on pets are at an all-time high. Spending surpassed $53 billion dollars last year, and projections for this year are looking to be around $55 billion. Last month, the American Pet Products Association (APPA) released its newest National Pet Owners Survey, which shows pet ownership reached its highest level ever, reaching 68 percent of U.S. households in 2012—up from 62 percent in 2010. That equates to 82.5 million pet-owning households. Fortunately, this increase in pet ownership spanned across all animal categories.
Pets Add Life
Of particular note in the new survey is that multiple-pet ownership has increased. Growing this category has been a specific focus of APPA’s social media campaign Pets Add Life, which is now in its third year. Based on extensive research, the campaign has targeted people who already have an affinity for pets—i.e. previous and current pet owners—encouraging them to get another pet. Not surprisingly, that research showed it is easier to convince someone in that group to get another pet, as opposed to someone who has a perceived inability to own a pet, either because of a lack of space, time, money, allergies, etc. We know that the primary reason people get a second pet is companionship for their other pet. So, the campaign’s messaging has been “pets need a pal to talk to.”
Another interesting bit of information in the National Pet Owners Survey came from a new question posed about how people learned about the availability of their pet. Most respondents cited word-of-mouth. This campaign is focused in social media, which as you know, is word-of-mouth on steroids.
Not only do the numbers show this campaign is on target, we are proud to announce that it recently won a national award for best viral word-of-mouth campaign. If you haven’t checked it out yet, visit youtube.com/petsaddlife.
Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI)
Also in its third year, HABRI and its research arm, HABRI Central, continue to grow and spread science supporting the concept that pets are good for human health. HABRI has grown to include more than 20 supporting companies and organizations. HABRI Central—the online hub for all studies relating to the human-animal bond—now contains more than 16,000 entries.
Seven strong areas of research on how pets positively impact human health have now been identified, including: childhood allergies and immunity, Alzheimer’s/dementia, depression, autism, cardiovascular disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and neurological disorders.
In addition, HABRI, along with Purdue and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) will soon produce a book series entitled Pets & People to help health and therapy professionals put this science into practice.
Pet Leadership Council
Another recent development was the formation of the Pet Leadership Council. This council is made up of leaders from all segments of the industry and is focused on strengthening and consolidating key objectives and initiatives to keep the pet industry strong and vibrant. This is an extraordinary accomplishment that I’m sure will prove a huge success for the industry.
As a matter of fact, as I write this column, I’m en route to Chicago to meet with some of these groups, and my plane is about to land. Thankfully for all of us, the industry is still flying high.
Bob Vetere is president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association.