A recent article in the Washington Post found that pet-related organizations – from the American Pet Products Association (APPA) to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) – disagree on the percentage of U.S. households which include dogs and cats. APPA puts the total at 68 percent, while AVMA sets it at 57 percent. When dogs alone are counted the results are 48 percent and 38 percent, respectively.
Why they differ may have to do with the survey methodology and which numbers best serve the organization and its members. The article states, “Pet companies want to know how much they can potentially sell,” and veterinarians want to know if the potential customer pool is large enough to support a practice. When it comes to the number and types of housing units across the country and their usage, the US Census Bureau’s American Housing Survey is the gold standard with a response rate of 81 percent. The survey included a pet ownership question for the first time in 2013, and it did so again in 2017 (the 2020 population will also include this question). Perhaps in response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster, it was added to study citizens’ ability to evacuate during a disaster. When asked if they would need help evacuating pets, more than 13 million households said yes. That survey found that 49 percent of responding households owned pets, a pretty impressive number despite the fact that it’s 19 points different from the APPA record.
The Census Bureau also recognizes National Pet Day (April 11th) and collects data “that highlights the various aspects of American love for their pets,” including the number of veterinarians, pet shops, and pet services and the number of people who live in Pet work sector.