Animals and Money: People putting pets first in the recession

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For the last year we've heard some pretty horrific stories about the ways animals are really getting the shaft in the recession. People abandoned dogs in houses to get back at real estate companies. Shelters everywhere are packed as people give up their dogs and cats. But this week the American Kennel Club came out with an unscientific survey showing that dog people are putting their animals first in lean times.

The survey was totally unscientific--just based on a 1,088-person poll on the AKC site. But it was still a bit of cheerful news for animals in the downturn. The question that got all the attention was that 96% would give up fancy coffee for their dog and slightly more would forgo spa treatments. That means only 4% are complete self-absorbed jerks who would favor Starbucks over their dog Sparky. But I'll chalk that up to the crazy quotient that shows up in every survey--like those that say they've seen a UFO or are totally satisfied with President Bush.

Businesses have noticed that because pets are a bigger part of our families than they were a generation ago, we're less inclined to skimp on them during a recession. Earlier this year Wal-Mart announced it was pushing further into pet supplies because pets, like kids, are recession-proof.

The survey went on to show that people are willing to give up more than their lattes. Roughly two-thirds of us would put ourselves on a ramen noodle diet before skimping on our dog's nutrition. And two-thirds of us would cancel their travel plans if they couldn't afford to board their dogs. Though, that one is a bit odd. Are one-third of purebred people saying they would just leave their dog locked up at home? I don't think so.

In more mundane ways, for the sake of our dogs
  • 97% of us would eat more meals at home
  • 94% cut clothing spending
  • 89% put off home remodeling
  • 88% not spend as much on a new car
  • 72% cancel gym membership (oh, yeah, big sacrifice)
  • 50% cancel cable
  • 30% give up the internet


That's not to say that people aren't cutting back on pet spending. The AKC found that one-third are already buying food in bulk and nearly one half of us have cut back on toys and treats. I think this time around pet people are careful to cut back on things that don't matter to a dog's health. The pet food recall really made that tough for a lot of people. Cheap food is a lot less appealing now. Before the recall, I fed my dog great food when I was doing well and grocery store food when I was not. Now, I'm not taking any chances.

Read other Animals and Money posts by Carol Vinzant

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