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    The Power of Pets

    The pet industry’s total effect on the American economy amounted to $221 billion in 2015, generating nearly $23 billion in taxes for the federal, state and local governments.

    Last month, the second annual Pet Industry Leadership Conference (PILC) brought hundreds of retailers, food and product manufacturers, distributors and veterinary service providers together in Laguna Beach, Calif. Breakout sessions, presentations and casual conversations were held over four days, creating a powerful exchange of ideas and practices that will help the industry continue to thrive.

    The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) was proud to once again co-sponsor the PILC. We were also honored to introduce Dr. Terry Clower, professor of public policy at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government and director of its Center on Regional Analysis to present the results of a Pet Leadership Council (PLC) and PIJAC-funded study examining the economic impact of the pet industry. 

    Dr. Clower and his team found that the responsible pet industry’s total effect on the American economy amounted to $221 billion in 2015, generating almost $23 billion in taxes at the federal, state and local levels. Additionally, the industry provided or supported 1.3 million jobs nationwide, with an industry-wide average wage of more than $46,500.

    Perhaps most powerfully, consumers spent $77 billion on pets and pet food, toys, grooming, veterinary care and other pet purchases. That’s $8.8 million per hour, $147,000 per minute and more than $2,400 per second.

    Pet power is bigger than you might think. For a point of comparison, going to the movies is an American pastime, yet Americans spent seven times as much on their pets as they did at the box office in 2015.

    Likewise, many families rely on daycare for their children, but Americans spent $29 billion more on their pets than they did on daycare in 2015.

    In the presentation announcing these findings, PLC president Bob Vetere, Dr. Clower and I discussed the implications of the study and how the responsible pet industry can use it to explain our value—literally—across the country.

    The study was conducted by looking at animal sales, pet food, vet services, animal pharmaceuticals, pet health insurance, grooming and other services, such as boarding and pet sitting, and pet products like toys and fish tanks. Dr. Clower’s team used data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau, market-data resources, the American Pet Products Association’s APPA National Pet Owners Survey and other sources of information to develop the most complete picture of the pet industry and its impacts to date.

    Unlike past analyses of the pet industry, this study examined more than just dollars spent or wages that went directly into the pockets of workers. Dr. Clower examined the entire domestic supply chain, estimating direct, indirect and induced economic impacts to represent the entire journey of a product in the U.S. (Imported products were not counted as being part of the pet industry’s economic impact until they reached our shores, though they were included in sales figures.)

    As described in the paper’s executive summary, which is available on PIJAC’s website, Dr. Clower estimated the total value of pet industry business transactions, how much the transactions added to the gross domestic product, the total number of jobs, employee earnings and total taxes paid to various levels of government.

    Dog food is an excellent example of a product that has tremendous direct value to the pet industry; it should come as no surprise that it makes up a significant portion of the economic output of the industry. Dr. Clower’s economic model also looked at how manufacturers buy raw materials, purchase packaging, arrange transportation and produce their food—the indirect impacts of dog food sales. Then the induced impact—how employees and vendors use the dollars they receive in the course of production and sale—was analyzed to arrive at the final element of the industry’s total economic impact.

    At its core, the power of the pet industry lies in how we connect people and pets. But, clearly, caring for and about pets is good for people. We create or support 1.3 million jobs and serve millions more pet lovers who are able to provide food, toys and more for their companion animals—and who enjoy the demonstrated health benefits of the human-animal bond—because of what we do.

    PIJAC is producing infographics and other materials that will be used in communications with lawmakers and the general public to help them better understand what the pet industry means to their communities. We’ll also be able to incorporate these facts and figures into our broader narrative about ways in which we give back and help to promote responsible pet ownership.

    For more information on this study and its findings, please reach out to us at PIJAC. We need your help to tell our story to your elected officials, and this data will help you do it in a clear and concise way.

    Mike Bober is the president and CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council. 

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