Pet ownership as a percentage of the human population of the United States has shot up since 1970. In 1970, the number of owned pets was about 30% of the number of people. By 2000, that percentage had gone up to about 46%. In the 2000’s the increase accelerated, and as of 2012 the number of owned pets was roughly 57% of the number of people.
The numbers are:
60 million owned pets
203 million people
130 million owned pets
281 million people
179 million owned pets
313 million people
Perhaps some of the success of shelters at increasing adoptions in recent years has to do with an ever-increasing actual and relative demand for pets. Or it could be that shelters have been a cause of the increase in pets, and adoption promotions have helped to drive demand.
Whatever the cause for the increasing percentage of people who own pets, it’s good news for shelter animals, as long as it keeps going. There has been a lot written about the reasons why pets are more popular these days, with most of the commentary centering on the idea that with modern life causing more social isolation, pets can provide companionship for the harried worker or parent who does not have time for a social life.
There is one possible cloud on the horizon, in my opinion, and that is veterinary costs. The fact that vets can do more for animals today than in the past is a blessing for those who can afford to pay the bills, but for those who cannot and have to say no, it can bring guilt and remorse.