Category Archives: dog ownership

Pet ownership saves $22.7 billion on health care costs in the USA

Millions of people view pets as family and count on their unconditional love. While it’s hard to put a value on the human-animal bond and what it means for so many of us, the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) commissioned a new economic impact report which gives us a partial answer – pet ownership saves the U.S. health care system $22.7 billion every year.

The Health Care Cost Savings Report was made possible by a grant from Banfield Pet Hospital.

Access the full Health Care Cost Savings of Pet Ownership Report here.

Key Findings

The report not only reflects better overall health for pet owners in the form of fewer doctor visits per year, but also tracks specific savings for reduced obesity, reduced infections, and better mental health for children, seniors, and our nation’s veterans. For each of these populations, there exists solid evidence supporting the benefits of pet ownership.

$15 billion

Looking at a key measure of general health, pet owners are estimated to visit the doctor less than non-pet owners on an annual basis producing a costs savings of $15 billion.

$4.5 billion

Dog owners who regularly walk their dogs have lower levels of obesity, leading to a $4.5 billion reduction in health care spending.

$90.5 million

Pet ownership correlates to a 14% reduction of C. difficile reinfection cases for hospitalized individuals with a treatment cost savings of $90.47 million.

$672 million

Children (ages 8-10) in households with a dog have a 9% lower probability of having a clinical diagnosis of anxiety. Dog ownership can therefore be linked to $672 million in annual mental health care cost savings.

$1.8 billion

Older Americans with pets are less likely to suffer from health maladies connected to loneliness and social isolation, lowering annual Medicare spending by an estimated $1.8 billion.

$688 million

Overall spending on treatment for PTSD is projected to be $688 million lower for veterans with service animals and emotional support animals.

$22.7 billion

In total, pet ownership saves the U.S. health care system $22.7 billion every year.

For more details on these key findings please see the Health Care Cost Savings of Pet Ownership infographic.

Report Methodology

The report was co-authored by Terry L. Clower, PhD and Tonya E. Thornton, PhD, MPPA, both of whom have extensive expertise in economic and public policy research. Their analysis not only reflects savings from better overall health for pet owners in the form of fewer doctor visits per year, but also tracks specific savings for key public health issues affecting millions of Americans, including reduced obesity, reduced infections, and better mental health for children, seniors, and our nation’s veterans.

Using the methodology employed in the 2015 analysis and adapted for more recent health care services consumption and cost information, pet ownership rates, and population increase, the researchers examined the scientifically-documented health benefits of pet ownership; identified the populations receiving these benefits; and quantified the avoided health care costs for those populations. To do this, the authors first conducted a review of relevant, peer-reviewed academic and professional literature regarding the health benefits of pet ownership. The most recent cost estimates for health services and treatments related to the health conditions identified in the literature review were identified based on an examination of publicly available health care cost data. Pet ownership data was also identified from publicly available sources. The estimated savings to the U.S. healthcare system associated with pet ownership were calculated using these inputs. An additional discussion of identified health benefits associated with pet ownership for which cost savings calculations could not be made was also included in the report.


  • Download the full Health Care Cost Savings of Pet Ownership Report here

Source: HABRI

Legislators ponder bill that would let many Maine renters keep pets

Lawmakers are weighing whether to enact a law that would require public housing agencies in Maine to allow tenants to have one or more common household pets.

“We feel this bill will help to ease a significant burden many pet owners are currently facing,” said Katie Lisnik, executive director the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society in Lewiston.

“By increasing the number of rental units that are truly pet-welcoming, we can keep pets in the families where they are loved and cherished, as well as increasing the pool of families able to consider adopting a homeless animal in need,” Lisnik said.

A public hearing on the proposal this week delivered a wide range of opinions for the Legislature’s Labor and Housing Committee to consider. The proposal would impact many rental units that receive public funds.

Bruce Merrill of Auburn told the panel the bill “takes away even more rights from property owners” who are “responsible for keeping up with their properties and making sure the tenants live in harmony.”

“There are many reasons certain buildings should not have certain pets,” Merrill said. “Also many reasons certain tenants should not have pets.”

Merrill warned the measure “is a disaster in the making” and would contribute to the collapse of low-income housing availability.

But Robert Fisk Jr., founder and president of Maine Friends of Animals, said the law “should do all we can” to keep people and their pets together.

“Housing, moving and landlord issues are amongst the most commonly cited reasons for pet surrenders,” he said. “This bill helps mitigate it in low-income public housing where tenants love their pets like everyone else does.”

Lisnik said housing restrictions were directly behind about one in five of the animals surrendered to her shelter in the past year and are likely an underlying issue in other cases.

“For example, an animal may be surrendered because of ‘too many pets’ when an owner had to move and couldn’t find housing that would allow their large dog, or three cats,” she said.

“Mainers are a pet-loving people and firmly believe that pets are part of the family,” she said, pointing out that about half of Maine households have at least one cat. Nationally, she said, 75% of renters own pets.

“We feel this bill will help to ease a significant burden many pet owners are currently facing,” she said. “By increasing the number of rental units that are truly pet-welcoming, we can keep pets in the families where they are loved.”

Among those who see problems with the proposed law is Amanda Gilliam, director of property management with Avesta Housing, the largest nonprofit affordable housing provider in northern New England.

Gilliam said the measure would “create additional safety hazards for residents” and “increase operating costs for landlords at a time when there is an extreme shortage of safe, quality, affordable housing across the state of Maine.”

“Increasing costs makes viability a challenge for new and existing affordable housing projects,” she said. “There is a critical need for more affordable housing, and increasing operating costs is not the way to obtain it.”

Jon Ogletree of Belfast, who said he’s managed affordable housing complexes for more than a decade, told legislators that if the bill becomes law “I will go into another line of work.”

He said growing regulation is making it so difficult to manage affordable housing complexes that the entire system will implode if it keeps up.

Cullen Ryan, executive director of Community Housing of Maine, said he appreciates the bill allows landlords to impose pet deposit fees and reasonable rules for pets, but warned lawmakers that approving it will cause a broad array of problems and “have dire, unintended consequences.”

Robin Wells, a real estate attorney in Portland, told the panel it ought to approve the bill.

Wells said it “will further strengthen Maine’s commitment to affordable housing and companion animals, ensuring that all Mainers, including those who have made pets a part of their families, will be able to find appropriate housing for their entire family.”

Source: Sun Journal

How the presence of pets builds trust among people

Companion animals are a core part of family life in the United States, with 90 million American households having at least one pet. Many of us view pets as beloved family members who provide nonjudgmental emotional support and companionship during times of stress.

That’s not all. Research shows our pets can also strengthen our relationships and trust with other people. In addition, pets contribute positively to trust in our broader social communities.

Companion animals as social facilitators

As many of us know, animals provide an avenue for approaching another person socially, serving as a conversational starting point for connection. Pet ownership alone could be a source of shared interest and knowledge, even among people who may not have similar interests otherwise.

Simply walking down the street with a dog can lead to significantly more social interactions than walking without a dog. Assistance dogs can also facilitate these interactions. One study found that individuals using a wheelchair were more likely to be approached when their assistance animal was present.

The presence of an animal can also enhance perceptions of trustworthiness and responsibility, which in turn fosters positive social interactions. Researchers found that people were more likely to help a stranger with a dog than one without a dog, suggesting that the presence of an animal conferred perceptions of trust.

For children, interacting with a pet can also provide an additional opportunity to practice positive social interactions and develop empathy and compassion. Recent research indicates that living with dogs is associated with better social and emotional skills for children. In our own research at the Tufts Pets and Well-Being Lab, we also found that teenagers with high levels of attachment to their pets were likely to have higher levels of social skills and empathy toward others than those without such attachments.

Pets and social capital

Research shows that simply walking down the street with a dog can lead to significantly more social interactions than walking without a dog. Photo: Shutterstock

Pets have also been shown to foster social capital in communities. Social capital is a concept that encompasses the broader community and neighborhood networks of social relationships, and the degree to which the community has a culture of helping others. The trust inherent in these connections can lead to better health and well-being.

Interestingly, pet owners have consistently reported higher levels of social capital in their communities than people without pets, both in the United States and internationally.

In addition to social facilitation, pets can contribute to social capital by strengthening social trust within communities. Neighbors may rely on one another to assist with animal care, which builds reciprocal trust. Pet owners’ use of shared spaces, such as dog parks or green spaces, can lead to better social relationships.

In spite of it, during the COVID-19 pandemic dog owners were more likely than those without dogs to go for regular walks outdoors, providing an opportunity for community engagement during a period of extreme social isolation. The presence of an animal has even been found to increase positive social interactions in the workplace.

While evidence continues to support the idea that pets foster positive interactions between people, animals are not a universal solution for creating trust. There is still a lot we need to learn about the interrelated relationships between pets and people.

Source: The Conversation

They’re on loan, make the most of it

Rosie, my special needs foster dog, went to her forever home on the 18th of February. She provided me with canine companionship in the weeks following Izzy’s death and, although I was happy that we found a good match for her, I was sad to see her go.

Two months is a long time to care for a dog, and during our time together Rosie showed me that not only was she misunderstood, but that she was clever enough to have learned how to live in a hearing world despite losing her own. (Rosie also told me one day in no uncertain terms that someone had bashed her – and more than once). Despite all her hardships, Rosie likes company and she still freely gives and receives affection.


In the weeks since she left, I have reflected a lot about our dogs. I am still grieving the loss of Izzy, who was followed across the Rainbow Bridge by her friend Ben just last week.

Izzy and Ben, in their younger days, after an off-lead run

I have witnessed foster dog Pumpkin teach Rosie about living in a multi-dog household and Pumpkin has now moved to another foster home. And I am on the search to find my next forever dog because a Doggy Mom without a dog is never a good thing.

Rosie (top left) and Pumpkin learn to co-exist. Since Rosie was here first, she claimed the best bed in the house

We are indeed lucky to have our dogs.

The law considers our dogs to be property, hence the use of the term ‘dog owner’ is common. On reflection though, whether they are a foster or a family dog, they are not property. At best, they are on loan for a life that is far shorter than ours.

Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love; they depart to teach us about loss” – so the saying goes. In between, however, these loaner dogs teach us:

  • Never underestimate the power of a good nap
  • Drink water daily
  • Live in the moment
  • Regardless of your age, get out and play
  • The best things in life are free (these includes cuddles, kisses, walks and just being there for one another)

If you’re reading this, I hope you give your loaner dog a big hug and kiss and take an extra long walk today – for time gets away from us and they are gone too soon.

P.S. Rosie is enjoying her new forever home in Blenheim where she can run off-lead with her greyhound brother and lie in the sun every day

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Majority of Americans trust their pet’s judgement more than anyone else when it comes to romantic partners

Two in every three Americans will end their relationship if their pet doesn’t approve, according to new research.

A survey of 2,000 single and dating Americans found that 67% of those in the dating scene feel this way, while 68% said their pet has the final say in who they date.

The results showed that most Americans value their furry friend’s opinion, as 71% of respondents trust their pet’s judgment over their own. Likewise, 68% trust their pets more than their friends and 67% trust them more than their own family.

In a study conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Zesty Paws, results found that almost seven in 10 Americans (69%) have dated someone their pet didn’t like.

Luckily, 69% of those who have had their pets reject their dates said their pets liked their next partner.

Sixty-seven percent can thank their pet for scoring the first date with a potential partner or their current partner. But if the first date and meeting of the pet doesn’t go well, 68% said there’s no chance of a second date.

Respondents gave varying reasons for their pet’s distaste in their current or ex-partner including not liking their scent, height or lack of attention.

The most obvious signs a pet doesn’t like potential partners include not going near them (47%), clawing/biting them (41%) and growling/hissing at them (40%).

In order to be liked by a pet, respondents said their partner needs to be friendly (44%), give behind-the-ear scratches (40%) and give treats (38%).

“Pets play an important role in relationships and can help guide their pet parents in the right direction as they look to meet their match,” said Steve Ball, CEO of Zesty Paws. “As a Bestie always does, fur babies use their intuition to check out their parent’s potential date and make sure they “approve”. Their deep emotional connection to their human Bestie can, as the data shows, drive their dating decision making.”

Praises and rewards are in order from nearly two-thirds of pet owners (63%) since they say their pet saved them from a bad or awkward date by showing signs they don’t like that particular person.

Thirty-one percent of pet owners show their appreciation for their pet by prioritizing getting them the highest-rated treats and only 21% say that the price may matter.

This just shows how highly people regard their pets. Continuing the trend, more than two-thirds (69%) said it’s worse having their pet mad at them than their partner being mad at them.

And if a potential partner is rude towards a pet, 64% of respondents said they could never forgive them.

Pet parents will go to any lengths to make sure their wing-pets are there for them. When looking for pet food, treats and supplements, respondents said they often look to recommendations from others who have the same breed of pet (45%), vet recommendations (42%) and even the recommendations from family and friends (42%).

“Our pets make a huge positive impact in our lives and relationships,” said Ball. “Their unique quirks and unconditional love you can’t find anywhere else, makes it easy and natural for us to trust our furry besties to play a big part in every area of our lives.”


  1. Wagging tail/purring                                   46%
  2. Sharing their favorite toy                            45%
  3. Rubbing up against                                    39%
  4. Allows petting                                             31%


  1. Be friendly                                                   44%
  2. Give behind-the-ear scratches                   40%
  3. Give treats                                                  38%
  4. Give pets                                                     38%
  5. Walk them                                                   31%

Source: SWNS Digital

Doggy quote of the month for May

“No man can fully understand the meaning of love unless he’s owned by a dog. ”
― Gene Hill, author

Izzy rides along to visit with customers

The pledge

With every New Year, I read about how people make resolutions – many of which despite the good intentions don’t last much longer than February. But I’ve been thinking a lot about the lifelong commitment we make to a dog, and of course the number of cases we see each year when people don’t fulfill that commitment.

If we could change the rules of pet ownership, I’d definitely support the case for licensing owners rather than the dogs.

If I could change one thing about my practice, it would be that I would see more dogs for canine fitness and well-being and less for rehabilitation. Rehab means that the dog has been injured in some way, and often when I do the health history as part of my intake process, I can see where the dog was probably going to have a problem and that the early warning signs were missed or ignored.

So here’s my best effort for the Dog Parent’s Pledge for 2021.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Doga class

I’ve been busy over the last couple of weeks promoting my new doga class.

Greyhound doga

After years of trying, I have found a yoga studio that is willing to give doga (yoga with your dog) a try.  And it’s a bit of a joint venture – with me responsible for the dog aspects of the class, such as writing the class registration rules, and with my partner, MoveWell, handling the professional yoga instruction.

Last Saturday was our first class and it went without a hitch.   We’re starting with greyhounds because they are easy going dogs and will enable us to fine tune the operation of the class.  The intention is that we will offer an all-breeds class after that, paying particular attention to the sociability of the dogs, interaction and parent responsibility.

Dogs enjoy the relaxing music of yoga and the positive energy.  A few bursts of play in the studio (by the dogs) happened, too.

Doga will offer an all-weather, all-seasons option for dog parents wanting to spend quality time with their dogs while getting exercise.  We aim to offer information sessions after the classes with guest speakers on human and dog health topics, too.

So finding our feet (or should I say paws?) with this initial run of 4 classes and looking forward to our larger classes.


Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

The problem with promoting ‘responsible dog ownership’

Responsible dog owner

Dog welfare campaigns that tell people to be “responsible owners” don’t help to promote behaviour change, a new University of Liverpool report suggests.

Dog owners interviewed for a study published in Anthrozoös all considered themselves to be responsible owners, despite there being great variation in key aspects of their dog-owning behaviour.

“Policy and campaigning messages related to dog ownership and welfare tend to focus on the concept of being a responsible owner. However, while ‘responsible dog ownership’ has considerable appeal as a concept, how it is perceived and interpreted has not been studied in-depth,” explains lead researcher Dr Carri Westgarth, a dog behaviour expert at the University of Liverpool.

In order to better understand beliefs and views about responsibility in dog ownership, the researchers carried out in-depth interviews with dog-owning households and shorter interviews with dog owners while walking their dogs or representing their breed at a dog show. The interviews focused on dog walking, an issue perceived to be a component of responsible dog ownership, as well as other aspects of campaign messages, such as dog fouling, aggression and neutering.

Dr Westgarth also reflected on her own experiences of walking her three dogs, and on her many conversations with other owners over the two-year study period.

Dr Westgarth said: “It’s clear from our research that responsible dog ownership means different things to different people at different times. It emerges from a blurred intersection of the needs of dogs, owners, and others, where often the dog comes first.

“Dog owners do what they perceive to be best for their individual dog, even if this goes against general advice given such as how often dogs need walking or neutering campaigns.

“Yet this perception may be different from to what others feel is best for that dog, or how people who are impacted by the dog want the dog and their owner to behave.

“Therefore, simply telling owners that they should “be responsible” is of limited use as a message to promote behaviour change because they already believe that they are. Any educational messages for dog owners need to be specific what they want owners to do and explain why that is in the best interest of the dog that they love so much.”

The report authors say that further research is now required in order to understand the implications for wider aspects of responsible dog ownership practices.

Research reference:

Carri Westgarth, Robert M Christley, Garry Marvin & Elizabeth Perkins (2019) The Responsible Dog Owner: The Construction of Responsibility, Anthrozoös, 32:5, 631-646, DOI: 10.1080/08927936.2019.1645506

Source:  University of Liverpool

Pawsitively sad

We are all familiar with the sounds of a cat or dog vying for human attention, and for pet-owners, these sounds are particularly evocative. Dog sounds are especially sad to both cat and dog owners, who actually rate a whimpering dog as sounding as sad as a crying baby.

Pawsitively Sad

These results are reported in the new study, Pawsitively sad: pet-owners are more sensitive to negative emotion in animal distress vocalizations, from Associate Professor, Christine Parsons, who is based at the Interacting Minds Centre at the Department of Clinical medicine at Aarhus University, Denmark. She is the first author of the scientific article published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

“Pet ownership is associated with greater sensitivity to pet distress sounds, and it may be part of the reason why we are willing to spend large amounts of time and resources on our domestic companions. It might also explain why we find interacting with pets so rewarding, and are emotionally impacted by both positive communication signals, like purring and negative, like meows or whines,” says Christine Parsons.

She explains that the work was carried out as part of building a major database of emotional sounds — originally developed to test the instinctive responses that parents have to their children. In this study, Parsons has worked with researchers from the University of Oxford, the University of California LA, and King’s College of London.

The researchers tested more than 500 young adults and found that dog whines sounded ‘more negative’ to dog or cat owners, compared to people with no pets, whereas cat meows sounded sadder only to cat owners. Another finding was that regardless of pet ownership, dog whines sounded sadder than cat meows.

“The result suggests that dogs, more effectively than cats, communicate distress to humans and that pet ownership is linked to greater emotional sensitivity to these sounds. For sounds that we need to respond to, like a dog that is utterly dependent on its human host for food and care, it makes sense that we find these sounds emotionally compelling,” says Christine Parsons.

Parsons’s collaborator, Katherine Young, a lecturer at King’s College London and senior author, also points out that dog owners in general spend more time providing basic care to their pets than cat owners. Dog owners need to take their pets for walks, they need more dedicated care, while cat owners have fewer obligations. Cats are semi-domesticated, and generally retain their independence, along with an air of mystique. They come and go as they please.

“This difference in animal dependence may explain why dog whines are rated as more negative than cat meows by all adults, including cat-owners. Dogs may simply have more effective distress signals than cats,” says Katherine Young.

According to Christine Parsons the study also found no evidence to support the longstanding ‘crazy cat lady’ stereotype. Female cat owners have, for many years, been portrayed as neurotic, lonely, sexless and eccentric. Dog owners, and dog ownership is seen more positively, associated with benefits like the ‘Lassie effect’. Named after the TV collie, Lassie, dog owners typically get more physical exercise than non-owners, a happy side-effect of dog walks.

“In general, we think of dog owners in more positive terms than cat owners. In our study, we were able to test how cat-owners, dog owners and people with no pets responded on a series of robust psychological measures. We found no differences,” Christine Parsons says.

“For symptoms of anxiety, depression and self-reported experiences in close relationships, we found no differences between adults with and without pets. We suggesting that cat or dog ownership is not necessarily associated with individual differences in psychological health, at least as tested here.”

Sources:  Pawsitively sad: pet owners are more sensitive to negative emotion in animal distress vocalizations and ScienceDaily