Monday, October 3, 2022
He’s a miniature poodle, he weighs practically nothing, and his name is Rascal. Eight days ago I lost my rescue dog bff Ozzie, after a sudden illness combined with age-related issues. All week I felt disoriented without my companion of six years, my anchor and the keeper of my schedule. Ozzie saw me through some lonely days, including the pandemic, and knew my every move. Rascal doesn’t know anything. He’s resting quietly on my bed and right now, that’s enough.
But I feel right up-to-date. This week, the Japanese company Fujitsu opened a “dog office” in Kawasaki, near Tokyo. It’s open on a trial basis to encourage workers to come back to the office after a big increase in telecommuting during the pandemic. Some of them just became pet owners in the last two years and want to keep that part of their lifestyle when they return to the office. The “dog office” encourages workers and their pets to socialize with each other.
Dogs have claimed a new space in our world. Dog care, dog training, dog products are big business, contributing to a booming pet-care industry. The pet-product market has been a growing market in Japan since 2014, but especially since 2020. It is projected to keep on growing over the next few years. India’s pet and pet care market is projected to grow 19.2% from 2021 to 2032, with dogs being more than half the market share. The Philippines, where 67% of households have a dog, has the highest dog ownership in the Asia-Pacific region. Online searches related to pet ownership increased 89% during the COVID years in that region alone.
According to the American Pet Products Association, 69 million U.S. households own a dog (2021-2022 survey), with cats coming in second at 45.3 million households. Of course, some households have both. Millennials now constitute the biggest proportion of pet owners (32%). 24% of pet owners are Gen X, and 27% are Boomers. One result is the “Build to rent” neighborhoods of new single-family houses are on the increase, appealing to millennials who want a house and a yard for their kids and/or pets but can’t buy a house at today’s mortgage interest rates.
Pet Ownership by Generation (% of Current Pet Owners)
In spite of the number of news articles about people returning pets that they adopted on a whim during the pandemic, the real reasons for returning dogs to shelter relate more to the high cost of housing and inflation in general. Having to move in with roommates or family, having to move to a smaller apartment, or rent instead of buy, sometimes means you can’t keep your pet. The Bay Area SFGate article below notes that large dogs are being returned in particular, either because they aren’t allowed or are just more expensive to keep.
Speaking from experience, I recently sold my home and decided to rent. My dog had to be approved. Ozzie was accepted because he was small. Rascal is even smaller.
National statistics from the Shelter Animals Count, COVID-19 Impact Report, show nearly a 25% drop in pet returns from 2019 to 2021. At the same time, more pets were getting adopted: in 2019, 53% of shelter pets were adopted. In 2021 it was almost 58%.
Statistics aren’t available for 2022 yet. But that is when we’ll see the most impact from recent home mortgage interest rates and inflation. With such major economic changes this year, it would be inaccurate to attribute pet returns simply to the pandemic “being over.”
Begging your patience, here is one more Rascal photo:
Today’s Notable Headlines
“Japan’s Fujitsu opens pet office for more cuddly experience,” New Strait Times, Sept. 24, 2022. https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2022/09/834069/japans-fujitsu-opens-pet-office-more-cuddly-experience
“Market value of pet related businesses in Japan from fiscal year 2014 to 2021 with forecasts until 2024,” Statista, Sept. 20, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/739184/japan-pet-market-retail-value/
“Pet Industry Market Size, Trends & Ownership Statistics,” APPA, https://www.americanpetproducts.org/press_industrytrends.asp
“It’s the perfect starter home. But it’s only for rent.,” The Washington Post, Oct. 2, 2022. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2022/10/02/housing-build-to-rent-austin/
“Austin’s overcrowded animal shelter halts pet intake, cites human affordability issues,” Austen-American Statesman, Sept. 14, 2022. https://www.statesman.com/story/news/local/2022/09/14/austins-animal-shelter-halts-pet-intake-cites-affordability-issues/69487742007/
“This Bay Area shelter has an ‘unprecedented’ number of large dogs, but not for the reasons you might think,” SFGate, May 5, 2022. https://www.sfgate.com/local/article/Why-Bay-Area-shelters-are-full-of-large-dogs-17151362.php
“COVID-19 Impact Report: January – June 2019/2020/2021, Year Over Year Comparison,” Shelter Animals Count, The National Database. https://shelteranimalscount-cms-production.s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/Shelter_Animals_Count_COVID_Impact_Report_Jan_Jun2020v2_6d189edffa.pdf
“India pet care industry experiencing strong growth,” Petfood.Industry.com, Sept. 21, 2022. https://www.petfoodindustry.com/articles/11606-india-pet-care-industry-experiencing-strong-growth
“11 Philippines Pet Ownership Statistics to Know in 2022,” PetKeen, Aug. 4, 2022. https://petkeen.com/pet-ownership-statistics-philippines/
Why am I doing this?
The coronavirus pandemic is a classic watershed historical event. People will be referring to “before the pandemic” or “after the pandemic” for decades to come. Since March 11, 2020, this blog has examined the modern pandemic experience, drawing on my background as a medical technologist, a historian, and an ordinary person living through an extraordinary world crisis. My sources, both primary and secondary, are documented with links for easy reference.