Fuzzy math? What’s behind pet stats?
• How many dogs and cats are there in the United States? Numbers vary depending on who you ask and the statistical methods used, according a report last month in The Washington Post. The American Pet Products Association says 68 percent of U.S. households were populated by pets in 2016 — 90 million dogs and 94 million cats — while the American Veterinary Medical Association reports that only 57 percent of households had a pet at the end of 2016, with 77 million dogs and 58 million cats. That’s a substantial difference. Who’s right? And does it matter?
Survey results can be thrown off if they’re not weighted for factors such as geography and gender, and opt-in versus randomized methods can affect results as well. Solid population numbers are important when it comes to tracking euthanasia rates, estimating feral cat populations and determining whether there are enough pets to meet demand. The bottom line? Based on 3 out of 4 surveys, pet numbers appear to be stable, not increasing.
• The recently approved farm bill affects more than farming and food prices. According to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, it also establishes the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program and the National Animal Vaccine and Countermeasures Bank and authorizes funding for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network. The bill also expands federal protections for domestic violence victims to include pets, emotional support animals, service animals and horses; authorizes a federal grant program to help domestic violence victims find shelter and include veterinary care costs as part of restitution in some cases; and sets penalties for abusing pets.
• Hamsters are naturally clean animals and spend much of their time grooming themselves. Hamsters that don’t groom themselves may be ill and should be checked by a veterinarian.
— Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker