“The pet market has been steadily increasing in America since the 1980s, with people not only acquiring more furry little dependents, but spending more on them, too,” writes Last, a colleague of mine at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
“In 1994 Americans spent $1.7 billion on pets; by 2008 that number had risen to $4.3 billion. By 2010, even in the face of a massive recession, it had climbed over $4.8 billion. The evidence suggests that pets are increasingly treated like actual family members: In 1998, the average dog-owning American household spent $383 on medical care for their dogs; by 2006, that figure had risen to $672.”
Dog grooming costs jumped, too, “from $59 to $127,” all of which is part of what Last calls “pet mania.”
“Auto insurance companies now offer policies for pets traveling in cars,” Last explains. “Wealthy dog owners have successfully lobbied for changes in estate law allowing pets to legally receive inheritances and trust funds. A bill put forward in Congress recently called for a $3,500 tax break for pet-care expenses—which is more than families get for a child. The HAPPY Act (Humanity and Pets Partnered through the Years) happily failed to reach a vote on the floor of the House.”
This has, naturally, coincided with an explosive growth of pet owners. “In surveys from 1947 to 1985, fewer than half of American reported that they owned a pet,” writes Last. “Today American pets now outnumber American children by more than four to one.”
Last contends, “At the micro level, the pet boom is … unsettling.”
“[E]ducated, middle-class people have all but stopped having babies,” he writes. “Pets have become fuzzy, low-maintenance replacements for children.”