Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=223024
Story Retrieval Date: 7/29/2014 1:51:29 PM CST

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Diana Blass, Medill

Pet owners spend big bucks on food, grooming and even dental care.


Your furry friend’s price tag

by Diana Blass
Jun 11, 2013


An expensive pet is a happy pet, or at least that’s what Americans think.

“We just spent $280 at Pet Smart,” said pet owners Mary Heeney and Michael Silkas of Chicago.

Americans consistently dish out 1 percent of their annual budgets on their pets, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That revenue totaled $53 billion for the pet industry in 2012, and the American Pet Production Association projects that number will only get higher despite a struggling economy with choosier shoppers.  In 2013, APPA expects revenues to jump 4 percent to roughly $55 billion.

“Increased high-end grooming services are fueling new growth in the high-income end of the category along with increased use of all services,” said APPA CEO Bob Vetere in a statement. The reported categories include food, supplies, medical care, new pet purchases and other services like grooming. Food proved to be the most biggest, bringing in roughly $20 billion. And, considering the latest products on the market, that may not be a surprise. 

“I spend about 60 bucks a bag,” said Roxanne Folk in Chicago.But, she said the price is worth it.  “It’s natural balanced, no fillers and stuff.  It’s better for his digestive system.”

Folk said that she also gives her dog fish-oil pills, which she said helps counteract shedding. 

“I probably spend around 100 bucks a month,” she estimated.

And she’s not the only one.

“You know I have two kids and I don’t know who is more expensive,” said Jonathan Rosenfeld, a lawyer in Chicago.

Rosenfeld said his wife buys organic dog food online. “I’m hopeful and optimistic that this dog food is keeping my dog nice and healthy that I don’t have to pay for a lot of pet bills,” he explained.

Mary Heeney said that her own organic lifestyle has had a large impact on the care of her pup.

“The preservatives, all that stuff aren’t that great,” she said.“It’s not great for humans, so it can’t be great for a dog."

Companies serving these owners’ needs are not hard to find.

Arrfscar-Lick Lick, a dog treat and accessory start-up, is just one example.The company sells organic, preservative-free ice cream for dogs, in flavors said to satisfy an array of canine taste-buds: dried cherry coconut, peanut bacon, beef brisket, pulled pork and gouda burger.

“We get to enjoy fresh, local, organic and preservative free treats, so why shouldn’t our furry friends?,” the company asks on its Facebook page. 

So, you may be wondering, who are these big spenders?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics labels them as baby boomers and single parents. Those who spend the most are typically in rural areas, spending almost 50 percent more than owners in cities.

The industry doesn’t seem to be fading any time soon.

“People will cut corners on themselves before they cut corners on their kids or their animals,” declared Jonathan Rosenfeld.