Colorado Springs has gone to the dogs, as has the rest of the country. More than 60 million U.S. households have a total of 89.7 million dogs, and the “dog economy” is an important component of regional GDP.
Americans spent nearly $70 billion on their pets in 2017, according to a survey by the American Pet Products Association, up more than threefold from $21 billion in 1996. More than half of that spending is by dog owners, and much of the increase can be attributed to what the APPA calls “the humanization of pets.”
When I was growing up in Colorado Springs in the 1940s, we had two Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. They were my Dad’s duck hunting dogs. They lived in outside kennels, had a fenced dog run and were never allowed in the house. They were working dogs, not playmates — I was scared of them.
In 1995, I bought a Chesapeake puppy from a breeder in the Black Forest. I named him Bucky, after one of his predecessors. Like his namesake, he was cantankerous, hardheaded and dominant –– but I loved him. He was my dear companion until he died in 2010. I was inconsolable until we found a young Chessie at the Humane Society, adopted him and brought him home. He sleeps in our bed, and dozes at my feet as I write this. He’s a member of the family, as are our two other rescue dogs.
It makes no sense for us to have three big dogs, weighing in at a total of 320 pounds — just as it makes no sense for us to have six children and 21 grandchildren. But that’s our life, and we embrace it, even though the dogs cost plenty.
Like most dog owners surveyed by APPA, our basic pet-related spending isn’t influenced by the economy. The dogs have to be fed, walked, taken to the veterinarian, groomed and washed. But then there are other expenses, including more frequent housecleaning, yard care, fencing, training and friend-culling.
Our home is big and welcoming, but most folks don’t like being set upon by three big, ill-trained dogs. Fewer than a dozen of our pals can handle the mutts, so our social circle has steadily contracted as we add dogs.
As of July 1, Esri Demographics estimated that there were 279,669 total households in the Colorado Springs Metropolitan Statistical Area and a total population of 737,907. According to APPA, 68 percent of all U.S. households own pets and 48 percent of the population own dogs. That suggests that about 350,000 dogs live in the MSA, each generating average annual costs of about $1,200. That’s an annual direct economic impact of $420 million, including food, licensing, medications, vet visits, collars, leashes, bowls, grooming, treats, dog sitting, dog walking and random dog presents.
Local businesses such as Wag ‘N Wash and Pub Dog and nonprofits such as the Humane Society are identifiable components of the dog economy, but other dog-related expenditures are not as quantifiable.
“Millennials even tie the purchase of a home to their pets,” according to the American Kennel Club, which reports 57 percent of Millennial households own a pet “and the generation is 77 percent more likely than other generations to get a pet before they marry or have children.”
The AKC states one-third of Millennials buy a new home to have more space or a better yard for their dog. Millennials also spend more on their dogs.
And consider dog-related stress reduction and increased happiness. Dogs and humans have been partners for millennia, to the benefit of both species. Are dog owners more capable and productive at work than their dog-less counterparts? Dog owners think so, but they’re cheerfully prejudiced.
So to summarize: Overall local canine economic benefits top $420 million in spending, equals thousands of jobs and more than 100,000 happy dog owners. Detriments: dog bites, dogs barking, dog owners who don’t pick up dog turds and sad dog-deprived people.
And for the latter, a simple cure: Go adopt a dog. Find a big, elderly one, with mournful eyes and a gray muzzle. In my experience, such dogs are gentle, loving and hard to place.
To save an old dog from an uncertain fate is a good deed, one that benefits the giver — not to mention the economic impact!