Jonathan V. Last is one of the most respected journalists working in the field of demographic trends. His upcoming book is titled What To Expect When No One’s Expecting, and is a pretty terrifying vision of how certain population groups are decided to skip the entire idea of having any offspring. But there is some good news there, although Last seems to be trying to alarm us. Here’s the scary statistics as he sees them:
In 1994, Americans spent $17 billion on pets; by 2008 that number had risen to $4.3 billion. By 2010, even in the face of a massive recession, it had climbed over $4.8 billion. The evidence suggests that pets are increasingly treated like actual family members: In 1998, the average dog-owning American household spent $383 on medical care for their dogs; by 2006, that figure had risen to $672.
Last refers to this as Pet Mania, like it’s some kind of bad thing. Hey, we love little kids. We’re still thrilled to see that pet owners are increasingly treating their animal companions like they’re just as important as someone who’s a tax deduction. We will concede, however, that Last might have a point with this other excerpt:
Auto insurance companies now offer policies for pets traveling in cars. Wealthy dog owners have successfully lobbied for changes in estate law allowing pets to legally receive inheritances and trust funds. A bill put forward in Congress recently called for a $3,500 tax break for pet-care expenses—which is more than families get for a child. The HAPPY Act (Humanity and Pets Partnered through the Years) happily failed to reach a vote on the floor of the House.
Okay, you could probably convince us that our dog doesn’t need a trust fund. It’s just that we’re afraid he’ll go through all the money too quickly if we leave him one lump sum. And is it really so terrifying to give pet owners a tax break for medical expenses? It doesn’t mean we have to automatically take away tax breaks for parents. We’re pretty sure there are lots of people who have both pets and children. In fact, that’s kind of an American tradition. We think it’s kind of nice that our country’s 300 million humans own 360 million pets. Keep up the good work, everybody, even if John V. Last finds you “unsettling.” We won’t worry about you. At least not until you show up on the lcoal news with Animal Control cleaning out your house.