Though the newly released 2011-2012 APPA National Pet Owners Survey shows an all-time high for ownership of pets in the US -- 72.9 million in 2010 -- the American Pet Products Association isn't taking anything for granted. And I think that's wise.
APPA's survey, unveiled during Global Pet Expo last week in Orlando, Florida, USA, revealed an overall 2.1% increase in US pet ownership since its last survey released in 2009-2010. (The association has conducted the survey every two years since 1988.)
Yet only dogs and cats showed increases in ownership and those were fairly small: 1.5% and 1.8%, respectively. Nearly all other pets measured, including birds, small animals, reptiles, horses and freshwater fish, had declines in ownership. Ownership of saltwater fish didn't change.
And overall, the percentage of US households owning pets has remained stagnant for a decade now. In 1994, 56% of households had pets; the figure jumped to 59% in 1996, then climbed a little more over the next few years (to 61% in 1998 and 62% in 2000). Since then, the percentage has been stuck at 62% or 63%.
APPA has also expressed concerns that demographic shifts in the US don't portend well for pet ownership, because the fastest growing segments of the population (such as Hispanics, Blacks, Asians and children) represent lower incidences of pet ownership, according to Bob Vetere, president of APPA.
So last year the association launched the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative. During Global Pet Expo, Vetere and others were referring to this otherwise noble and progressive program by the rather clunky acronym of HABRI, but the actions so far are impressive. Vetere announced:
* A steering committee has been formed, comprised of pet industry heavyweights like Hill's Pet Nutrition, Sergeant's Pet Care and Petco
*There is also now a HABRI foundation headed by Pfizer and the Pet Care Trust, along with APPA
* The initiative will soon include an electronic library of information and peer-reviewed references, maintained and directed by Dr. Alan Beck of Purdue University
* The overall goal is to produce even more research proving the mental and physical health benefits to humans of owning companion animals
* The group is striving for US$30 million a year in funding, including donations, grants and support from government agencies such as the National Institutes for Health. They even want to seek consumer donations.
Seems like a positive start. If you'd like to become involved, visit the HABRI site for information on how to join or donate.