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How did we get… …from there to here?

How did we get here? Well is seems we didn’t just arrive at this point in our pet’s world, instead it has been a steady incremental growth in acceptance, technology and society that allows pets to achieve family status in 2011. The Pet boom is in full swing seeing steady and astronomical increases since the late 90’s. A closer look reveals that the pet boom has both positives and negatives- and it certainly has already progressed to some amazing extremes.

It has been said all the positive advances and acceptance of pets and animals in our lives can be traced to one decision made about 30 yrs ago; the pooper scooper laws. Those unpopular at the time laws allowed non pet owners to enjoy city streets once made virtually unwalkable by then inconsiderate pet owners, not the animals in their care. With the passage of that simple law pet owners did more good for themselves than any other social/civic development. In fact, at the time who knew where it would all lead? Answer none of us. But once pets and people could live together in sidewalk harmony the big bang of pet care evolution was under way.

It is no surprise that for decades psychologists, doctors, and social workers have authored studies that have proven that having a pet in your life reduces stress, lowers heart rates, and it can even help keep patients with Alzheimer’s and serious age related diseases stay more connected and more energetic than patients who do not have pets or exposure to domesticated animals.

And due to this knowledge groups bring pets to retirement homes and nursery schools to help bring happiness to children and the elderly alike. With the largest population segment being over 55, the health benefits of pet ownership are an important aspect of current pet trends. Even 20 minutes a day of petting and caring for a cat or dog has been shown to lower high blood pressure and reduce hyper tension. Plus the extra exercise required to walk a dog may give the retired set more of a reason to stay mobile and get physical every day.

There are tremendous benefits for young people sharing their lives with a pet as well. Having a dog at home can teach young people responsibility and commitment to walking and feeding schedules. In the fast-paced modern world this kind of natural grounding may be the only contact some children get with living things other than their human neighbors. For some among us interaction with any sort of animals can be rare indeed.

So in 2011 we have developed for pets; holistic care, pet hotels, Prozac for dogs, designer dogs, plastic surgery for pets, will & trusts for pets, pet health insurance, cloning, electronic fencing, pet psychics and pet taxis. And just last month The NYC Pet Show had it’s second very successful run where the latest in pet care was on display in New York City. From unique services to luxury products, what was at the show seemed fit for a king, but ended up being for our pets.

And why not, economically the pet industry is raking in literally piles of cash, not just on the sale of expensive so-called pure bred dogs, but also on the side of new businesses springing up everywhere. The typical pet food stores and accessory shops are doing well of course, but what is more surprising is all of the more fringe businesses centered around pet ownership. In fact some innovations in the pet field have doubled up on job growth with unanticipated consequence that created an entire new industry!

Underground electronic pet fencing, such as the Invisible Fence Brand really mirrors the growth of the pet industry and with good reason. It helps consumers save money and time while allowing for a sense of security for the four legged family member. A great idea along with a great product but with one problem solved another was created when it was discovered that not walking the dog meant an owner’s yard was now a virtual mind field. But wait, ingenuity to the rescue with creation of pooper scooper businesses. These are million dollar businesses right here in Fairfield. Professional pooper scooper’s such as Doody Calls seem a case study in “how we got here”. Owners no longer walk dogs so yards need regular cleaning and a new service is created.

But there’s so much more these days. There are web sites devoted to the dating needs of pet owners, there are pet weddings, animal communicators, food fit for a king with everything from fresh frozen foods to can food that seems human grade in its presentation. Don’t forget clothing for every occasion, booties to protect paws, rain wear and event garb to help nervous pets feel more secure in a thunderstorm.

And aside from the many options now available to owners the increase in the pet business has other societal benefits. Veterinary schools are filled to capacity, Vet Techs are in great demand, trainers, retailers, pet business of all kinds are opening and fueling a sector of the economy that was miniscule in comparison a decade ago. And what is being taught at those veterinary schools would amaze. Specialists are training in surgery, opthalmology, diet, dentistry, oncology, radiology… it is remarkable! And we haven’t hardly mentioned cloning or semen freezing techniques that help to keep reasonable facsimile of our favorite pet with us from our youth to old age.

Unfortunately counseling for pet choice and teaching about pet needs is practically unheard of. Even this lack of knowledge creates a business opportunity- veterinary hospitals and specialists as mentioned are also growing at unprecedented rates and pet owners are spending more and more on pet health care. The irony is that simple advanced research and better understanding of breeding and pet purchasing could help create healthier pet companions and less of a need for expensive vet bills.

There are pet psychologists, surgeons, trainers, daily dog-walkers, and even pet detectives who are paid to find lost or missing animals. There is huge growth in the entrepreneurial business of pet grooming. Fifi and Fido don’t just get haircuts any more- they can get hair styles- complete with colored dyes, mousse and sculptured fur. And for those poor canines looking for doggie stress relief, well pet massage is another new trend and some doggie day spas even practice acupuncture on hyper-tense city dogs.

Bookstores, and magazine shops are selling hundreds of pet related books and magazines, and pooch- and kitty websites are everywhere on the internet. There are designer pet carrier bags from Prada, Dolce and Gabana, Vuitton, and clothes for your pets all the way down to all important formal wear!

Just a click away! But the Internet’s effectiveness in helping to recapture a lost pet has been a tremendous boom to reuniting owners and pets.

As a recent perspective, in the years since The Pet Gazette has published, it has been said that the phenomenal growth of the pet business is the result of the booming economy that started in the early 1990’s. That financial growth helped to contribute to a world of animals as fashion accessories. For personalities such as Paris Hilton who uses a Chihuahua as a photo accessory we’d expect nothing less… but where is that dog now? Perhaps part of the throw away society that feeds our shelters and rescue groups.

There are of course plus sides to the pet boom for those who take real care of their pets–more restaurants and stores are becoming pet friendly, which means you don’t need to leave your animal loved one at home in a small apartment all day. (See next story on new social issues problems.) And there is a rising consciousness in the responsibility of pet ownership. Unfortunately that rising consciousness is not rising fast enough to keep up with the huge expansion of pet ownership.

But the dark side of the pet boom also exists. Over breeding is one of the most egregious. Pets, especially so called designer dogs, are bought following seemingly arbitrary trends. Almost out of the blue, one dog or cat breed will suddenly become one of the must-have items for the trendy and to meet this sudden demand, breeders over breed to capitalize on the trend. So when a tv commercial featured a Weimaraner sales of that breed of dog tripled almost overnight. There was a mad rush to breed more puppies to capitalize on the sudden demand. This kind of dog breeding is unsafe and unhealthy, but perhaps even worse is that consumers are not considering all the important factors in choosing a dog that fits the climate, lifestyle and conditions of their lifestyle.

Like last year’s show fashions, dogs that are no longer trendy are often discarded. Most of these dogs had no health issues and were not strays but were given up by their owners who had simply decided that the canine was not a good match for them.

This is where animal rescue groups come in. Many local groups are non-profit, non-governmental, private organization formed with the aim of creating a network of people who love animals, and who work actively to rescue them from suffering. They are to be commended, encouraged and supported. These groups help people adopt abandoned pets. They shelters dogs and cats that are then put up for adoption and probably most importantly they work with authorities and outside agencies to shine a light on the important issues so society can change some of its negative relationship with domestic animals.

The keys to enjoying the pet boom are, as with most things, education, responsible consumers, and better industry standards and regulations. Having a pet share your life is a fantastic way to relax and give and receive love–but it come with real responsibility and requires thought and attention. Let’s hope the rising awareness of pet related problems begins to keep pace with the rising numbers of pet family members in the modern home.

Oh and perhaps the most valuable development over the last 13 plus years? It is in your hands, The Pet Gazette!


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