Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

May 11, 1999

Pet industry worth billions to Canada

We all know that Canadians love their dogs and cats -- but did you know keeping Fido and Fluffy happy and healthy is worth billions to the nation's economy?

A first-ever study from the University of Guelph reveals that pet owners spend nearly $3 billion annually on food, veterinary care and supplies for their companion animals -- almost $1 billion in Ontario alone. The pet industry also supports nearly 40,000 jobs nationally.

The study was commissioned by the Ontario Veterinary College last spring and conducted by U of G economics professor John Livernois, who is currently on sabbatical at an Australian university. It revealed that pets are an important family budget item, across all income classes and all provinces. Nearly half of Canadian households have companion animals, and the average family spends a few hundred dollars a year on their pets, an amount that rises with income levels.

"The magnitude of pet expenditures is an indicator of the value of companion animals in society," Livernois said.

The study also identified the intangible benefits of pets, including emotional support, companionship, improved socialization skills in children and therapeutic benefits.

"Animals are companions, confidants and social lubricants. I think we are very much a buying-oriented society, but the relationship with our pets is still very pure," said Prof. Cindy Adams, from the Department of Population Medicine. Adams, who specializes in the human-animal bond, said people are becoming more sensitive to their pets' needs. "They are demanding the same type of care and service from their veterinarians as they do from their doctors," she said. "Veterinarians need to fully recognize the degree of attachment owners have for their pets and the demand for quality service in health and death-related services."

The study points out that most veterinary practices depend on people's attachment to their pets. Of the estimated 1,106 veterinary practices in Ontario, 726 are exclusively companion animal practices. Even mixed animal practices -- those that service both pets and farm animals -- derive about half of their income from their companion animal services, it said.

The University's Ontario Veterinary College is preparing its graduates to meet the expectations of pet owners. It offers courses on the animal-human bond and dealing with grief over the death of a pet. In addition, the Veterinary Teaching Hospital offers companion animal services such as canine kidney transplants, canine blood donations and radiation cancer therapy.

Contact: Prof. Cindy Adams, Department of Population Medicine (519) 824-4120 Ext. 4747

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs, (519) 824-4120 Ext. 3338

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