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Pets

As I have suggested before it is reasonable to suppose that economists should view animals kept as pets as an economically important part of the family unit. There are health, companionship and perhaps even biophilia benefits from owning pets. I have had pets myself in the past (dogs, cats, fish) but don’t do so now mainly because of my busy lifestyle and concerns about environmental implications. Others obviously get a lot of pleasure from owning pets – I prefer observing free-ranging, wild animals.

On conventional pets The Age today writes:

‘Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, even though dog and cat populations have declined recently. About 38 million dogs, cats, fish, birds and other pets live domesticated lives. Birds and fish make up 29 million of these, and there are 3.7 million dogs and 2.4 million cats.

The pet food industry, worth more than $2 billion a year, is dominated by multinational companies. The key pet food makers include giants such as Mars Petcare and Nestle Purina.’

I posted a while back on the US pet industry but I had no data for Australia. The Age this morning cites some – not in the link they provide on their website but it is there in the hard copy. The data comes from an industry group the Australian Companion Animal Council which has an excellent website:

  • Australians spend $4.6 billion per year on pets and the pet industry employ 44,000 people.
  • Expenditure on pet food is $1.9 billion per year.
  • 63% of households own a pet with 53% owning a cat or a dog – although there have been longer-term declines in these proportions particularly with respect to cat ownership.

A report by BIS Shrapnel, Contribution of the Pet Care Industry to the Australian Economy, 2006 provides more information including international comparisons with the US and UK – both big pet owning countries – and information on newer types of pets being kept such as native species and particularly reptiles.

Pets are a significant part of the Australian economy and a significant extension of the conventional idea of a household. There is evidence pets are a substitute for having children and are often not kept when young children are young but treated as complementary household input when children are older.

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