How Can You Say “No” to that Face?

They’re furry. They’re loyal. They’re lovable. They’re a burden on your family’s bank account.

Okay, okay. Before the local militia arrives, let me first say that I think dogs are really cute and are plenty of fun to have around–but I’m not kidding about the flipped ownership.

In an article from the Wall Street Journal, Janet Adamy noted the rising cost of raising children in United States, which the Department of Agriculture reported as $233,610 (for middle-income parents) in the year 2015. That number is up 3% from the previous year, which is well past the rate of inflation. The article also highlighted that millennial women, the “bulk of child-bearing women,” are opting to wait longer to have children, which is likely due in part to the raising costs. If the cost of raising children is going up, and people are opting to wait longer, then what about the cost of owning a dog?

During the same year, 2015, two researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine was estimated the that the cost of dog ownership was an average of $3,085 for the first year–that’s a down payment on a new car! So, where’s the big hole in your wallet? Medical bills.

Veterinarians go through just as much of a rigorous schooling process as other medical professionals (they just happen to deal with less annoying patients), so, naturally, they are “entitled” to charge pretty similarly gut-wrenching prices. In the first year of owning a dog, one can expect to shell out for: the initial exam, vaccines, de-worming, and, your dog’s favorite, “getting fixed.” This laundry list of treatments was estimated to set the average dog owner back about $1,440. The rest of the first year expenses comes from toys, cages, training and other necessities that are considered “start-up costs” for dog ownership, as well as food and doggie bags for clean-up. Of course, this cost varies depending on the type of food and supplies you buy.

So $3,085 to start huh? Well, if that doesn’t put a damper on your day, then what about the average cost of a dog over its lifetime (about 12 years) is estimated at $23,410? Alright, alright, take a deep breath–it’s okay…well except that, in 2011, Bloomberg LP estimated the lifetime cost to be around $59,668.88 (in New York City). Fine, to prevent your heart-attack, let’s also consider RaisingSpot.com’s estimate of between $4,620 and $32,990, better?

Why the fluctuations? Simple: everyone has different spending habits, which leads to a different bottom-line for a dog’s lifetime cost. Some prefer to pamper their dogs with designer collars and totes, weekly grooming, and freshly prepared food by their personal dog chef, while others are content with raising their pup the frugal way and making up for it in love. Many years ago, my family had a cat (yes, I like cats–sue me), that we kept exclusively outdoors. Bella was a stray that just happened to love spending all day at our house, so over time we “took him in,” but all through that time, Bella mostly ate what he could kill or what meat was leftover from dinner–rarely did we buy cat food, nor did we ever take him to the veterinarian. In spite of this, Bella was with us for 15 years, not to mention the time he was alive before coming to us. But, that’s not the case for a vast majority of pet owners.

So, among all of these facts and (large) figures, has the number of dog owners decreased? Not a chance. In fact, The New York Times found that pet ownership in the U.S. increased by 3% between 2010 and 2015, with dogs accounting for the third largest portion of that (behind fish and cats). Currently, there are 77.5 million dogs in over 54 million U.S. households (there are more households with dogs than any other animal–apparently one dog is enough for most). Do these households follow the Pietris family pet-raising model? Absolutely not: from 2015 to 2016, people spent 4.1% more on their pets. That’s more than inflation, and more than the increase of the cost of raising a child! What happened to frugality!?

The only reason to act so irrationally? Love, duh. All in all, the cost of owning a dog comes nowhere near the benefit of having them around. For most people, they are a part of the family, so it only makes sense to treat them as such–regardless of the cost. Just like anything else in life, dogs are an investment that should be taken seriously, but the time spent with them should not be. After all, if the dog costs $23,410 over 12 years, then it really only costs $278.69 every dog year!

(*cue Sarah McLachlan and everyone’s favorite song…”IN THE ARRRMMSS OF THE ANNGGEEELLLSSS”*)

aspca

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