Companion Animal Survey

Posted by Scott Heiser, Director of ALDF's Criminal Justice Program on November 18, 2009

What do your animal companions mean to you? Please take a few minutes to complete this important survey about the value of companion animals.

Sebastien Gay, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Chicago, one of the world’s top schools in the field of economics, is conducting research on the true and full value of companion animals. Currently, companion animals are considered "property" in the eyes of the law

- no different than a chair or coffee table

- despite the fact that they mean so much to us and provide so much benefit to our lives.

Dr. Gay’s work has the potential of having a major influence in the legal world once it is published, impacting a host of animal law issues. Please take a few moments to complete this survey about the companion animals in your life. Thank you!

Take the survey now.

* Please note: This is a scientific study that collects data on what people spend on their pet. The questions included in the survey gather socio economic data.

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28 thoughts on “Companion Animal Survey

  1. Mm says:

    I couldn’t complete the survey — I think there is a technical glitch, or a problem with the way it’s set up. On some mandatory questions, I select my answer, but when I hit the submit button, I can’t continue to the next question. I get an error message stating that an answer is required for the current question.

  2. The survey asked me to respond based on the animal I spend most time with now, but I kind of bent the rules, because some of the questions I really wanted to answer about a pet who has passed on (he was injured by a veterinarian) and I think it is important that you know about that, because that’s who I spent most money on. I hope the surveyers will contact me if I need to retake it rather than throw my results out.

    If you want to know about the value of my most valuable pet, he’s actually dead, and he was the love of my life and the one the vet overdosed. I spent $16,000 (estimate, but I have backup documentation) on his brain damage caused by the vet’s OD.

  3. Dr. Sebastien Gay says:

    The problems with the mandatory questions has been addressed. You can now retake the survey. Thank you for pointing it out to me.

  4. hb says:

    I’m going through the survey now and very clearly clicked and stated that I have cats and no dogs. Yet the majority of the questions being asked are about dogs.

    Shouldn’t the survey understand if I didn’t click on having dogs that is ought to skip those questions?

    I’m answering no to everything dog related in order to finish the survey, but it’s incorrect as I don’t have dogs.

    Also, there should be a place to write in or mention that I treat all my cats equally and spend equal time with them. Therefore, there isn’t a primary cat. I am trying to answer based on age or issue.

    I also am not comfortable giving you my income information and other personal data – so unless you add an option decline to say, or uncheck that this is mandatory, I cannot complete your survey.

  5. Mary says:

    Survey is a little long…almost 100 questions.
    Always skeptical about motivation when financial questions are asked.

  6. cj mongin says:

    I have 8 cats, 4 of them diabetic and treat them all equally.

    This survey does not appear to be well designed. I am also bothered by the slant to dogs.

    I did not like the financial info with no opt out possibility. I completed the survey against my better judgement because the financial questions were intrusive.

    cj

  7. Tina says:

    I started the survey, but it’s awfully long, with some financial questions which I believe are very personal and irrelevant to the survey.

    Yes, my first and special toy poodle companion, who had replaced my only child’s place in my heart while my son was and is serving in the Armed Forces, was misdiagnosed by supposedly specialists, was mistreated and died an agonizing death as a result of the misdiagnosis and mistreatment. I am in litigation as we speak, but a trial date has not been set up yet.

    In a matter of 3 weeks I paid the specialists over $5,000.00, a sum that I haven’t paid for myself.

    Veterinarians must be held accountable for harming companion animals intentionally/unintentionally. PLEASE change the present archaic law which considers companion animals mere “property.” I have never paid for furniture or appliance repairs–just simply replaced them without any emotional distress. Yet, my companion animal’s loss has caused serious mental anguish.

  8. Alexandra Dixon says:

    I took the survey – sent it to a dog list i’m on (before I took it). Sorry but it seems fairly poorly designed and scattershot. Did you have a professional help you design it so as to optimize its utility?

  9. I took the survey but my situation is different than most. As a professional artist I spend a lot of time observing my cats and while I do interact with them, I prefer them in a natural state. They have total freedom [cat door] and choose to stay with me. I do not regard them as my children but as loving friends. I recognize that they are adults just as I am. In addition, I have feral cats interacting with me. When I was ill with breast cancer, my cats brought me “fresh food” as they hunt which is what they do for their own when they are ill. During my radiation treatment, I had a kitten that I co-parented with its mother that slept on me 24-7. Its mother would nurse it while sitting on my lap. It lasted as long as my therapy and then suddenly died of a brain hemorrhage. I have my cats fixed otherwise I would be over run with cats but would never declaw them. They live an indoor/outdoor life and other than flea treatments, I don’t really medicate them. When they get seriously ill they generally simply disappear. If something goes wrong and they can’t handle it, I will seek treatment for them but generally I have not had to do so.

  10. Deborah Stephenson says:

    I also think this survey is badly set up. First it asks how many animals you have, then gives only 10 spaces for you to put the breed and year acquired; THEN asks you to single one out as your “primary” pet and answer questions only about that one – but then throws in all sorts of questions later about pets in general.

    We have 10 dogs, 5 cats and 11 goats – ALL rescues and all pets. (We are vegetarians, so don’t have goats to eat them!) We love them all and spend every single moment of the day and night with them. My husband and I have not gone out together in more than 3 years because we feel one of us needs to be here to care for them at all times. (4 of our dogs are young pitbull mix brothers who like to quarrel with one another on ocassion! They are sweet and lovable to humans – and generally to one another as well, but sometimes…)

    None of these questions comes close to getting a picture of our lifestyle or devotion to these guys and gals. We feel it is our duty as well as our privilege to share our home and our lives with them.

  11. Paulette Kaplan says:

    I agree with others who were questioning all of the financial questions. I have never taken a questionnaire with so many detailed questions. Usually it is just your average income.
    I also agree that the survey does not appear to be prepared by a professional. There was one question that could not be answered. There were no blanks or circles to mark. I can’t be specific, but there was something wrong with the whole thing. I am sorry to be so critical,but I did take it anyway.

  12. Marie says:

    Like other comments here, I feel the questions were badly stated and do not show a true picture of our lives or our interactions with our pets lives. Got the feeling that this survey was only about costs in terms of money. And felt that whoever set this survey up was not, nor ever had been a multiple pet owner. Very few pet owners would try to list a “primary pet” or would even try to ask someone to list pets in order of importance or daily interaction. If you are home with your pets on a daily basis, your there with ALL of them. Some may ask for more attention than others but at any given time that changes. One day one of the cats may feel needier than any of the dogs. One day my lap if full of dogs, the next it’s all the cats. How would you quantify that within this survey. You can’t. If one is seriously ill you may interact with that one more than the others. You will need to rethink your goals and questions. Ask us, we can help you. Your survey goals now do not seem compatible with people who love their animals. Your questions about status/income feel out of place.
    On on the other hand perhaps not. Anyone more concerned with monetary value is in keeping with a question that asks you to list your “Primay Pet”.

  13. Jean P says:

    I agree with most all of the comments on the layout/design & in general questions, particularly the financial ones & stopped when they became too numerous.

    I cannot state in one line what my two dogs mean to me. They are in essence, my lifeline to living a happier life than I would without them.

    I also cannot answer a question as to the financial value I put on their lives.

    Because they are like my children, I can no more place a financial statistic on what I would spend for them, in the event they became ill.

    These are also, I feel rhetorical questions & circumstantial. Although to give you a clearer picture, I once spent $5,0000 plus on terminal cancer for my beloved pet.

  14. Cheryl Dare says:

    True: most of the questions were about dogs. How about more about cats? There was no place to indicate she isn’t trained yet helps me deal with PTSD and childhood abuse issues. Also Source of income outside work wasn’t addressed. I am on Social Security-a fixed income. Or our vocation/occupation.

  15. s g says:

    I was happy to answer the questions about my pets but I felt that there should have been a ‘rather not say’ for personal questions (income etc) about myself. As there was no such option, I just answered the ‘under 10,000′ because it really is no one’s business.

  16. mk says:

    I completed this ONLY because it was suggested by the ALDF.
    The questions were poorly presented and weighted to dog people.
    The financial ?s were intrusive
    Needs a redo…am sure you will not get responses with accuracy.
    Sorry

  17. shannon says:

    I was uncomfortable answering financial Qs which almost caused me to abort the survey early, but if it helps to make animals less likely to be seen as property than I want to help.
    I also don’t like the term “owner”

  18. Sandy says:

    I agree with what was said in previous comments. I don’t have a primary pet I have 1 dog and 4 cats and they all are primary to me and the financial part isn’t necessary like how much you make. I didn’t finish it because of that. Also it took longer that 15-20 minutes. Dr. Gay, you need to redo this survey.

  19. Aja says:

    I’m not an economist, but I am a lawyer and it would be my guess that the financial questions allow the other survey questions to be put into context. It’s one thing to say you spent $5,000 treating an ill pet if your household income is $25,000 a year, and another thing entirely to spend that same $5,000 if your income is $500,000 a year. This information would be relevant if I were litigating a case, especially if I were arguing my client’s entitlement to non-economic damages, i.e., damages for pain and suffering, loss of consortium, etc. Presenting evidence that my client shelled out a fifth of her gross income to treat her pet would help me prove the non-economic – emotional – value of that pet. Right now, as noted by the ALDf, animals are considered property and people can’t recover damages for the non-economic injury they suffer when a pet is injured or killed. The pet is like a car to the law – if someone hits your car, you get the market value of the car. The ALDf needs unbiased academic research to present in its own cases regarding the emotional/sentimental value of pets in order to try to get the courts to recognize them as something other than property.

    That being said, I’d concur with most of the comments regarding the dog-specific questions and the idea that one has one “primary” pet. That might be true if I had a cat and a fish, but as between the two kitties in my house, they’re equally important and I spend as much time with both of them as I can.

  20. Diane Matcheck says:

    I think the people criticizing this survey for asking income questions did not understand that the survey is about economics.

    I do agree with others’ observations that the questions/options should be adapted somewhat based on the feedback of survey takers, to fully get to the heart of what you want to know. It seems like it was created by people who don’t have pets. It would also be less distracting/controversial to use the word “have” rather than “own” when asking how many pets, etc.

  21. trish says:

    I am so happy that my pet beagle, by staying with me, has herself “consented” to living with me. I do not consider her property nor am I her “owner”. I find both terms offensive.
    If anything, I am her caretaker, and she mine.

  22. Kathy says:

    I agree with most of the previous comments. I have only cats–21 to be exact. They were all rescued, found, or feral kittens that I raised by hand. They were all offered for adoption after I got them healthy but there were no takers. None of them need “training” so on all of those questions the answer has to be n/a for cats. I can’t claim one as primary so I answered in general terms for all of them. My vet bills run $6-8,000 per year depending on age. I have never figures out how much is spent on cat food (wet and dry), litter, toys, etc. My cats get all of the vaccinations, dentals, and any other treatment my vet wants them to have. You can’t put a price on that nor anticipate the cost. For example, this week I spent $750 on my oldest cat, 14 years, who appeared in my yard one night with a high fever and abscess. That was for a complete blood work up, a dental, and removal of a lump on his head. I suspect the lump is cancer so I will no doubt spend more money for vet care if it is cancer. So I think that the survey misses the point. I can afford to treat my cats for any problem they may have and I routinely do. They are my children and will always get whatever they need even if I have to go without something I want.

  23. Tina says:

    @trish

    And it’s not your “pet,” it’s your “COMPANION,” and you are the “guardian.”

    We must refer to our loved ones as “companions,” and call ourselves “guardians” if we want the judicial system to start recognizing that our companion animals “HAVE FEELINGS TOO!”

  24. Anna Nirva says:

    I understand the intent of the survey, which was clearly stated, and do not take offense at the financial questions. This data will help us as a society begin to understand the true value of our relationships with companion animals.

  25. Joanna says:

    I agree with most of the comments/criticisms posted and concur with the general feeling that the survey lacked proper depth and was not well constructed. The questions asked seemed to spring from the prism of someone who does not even own a “companion” animal, ergo, the arcane “pet” reference. Consequently, I am skeptical the results will adequately assess anything other than a monetary value, which has no validity. I feel blessed to be the guardian of the beautiful gentle spirit serendipitously sent to me to heal my broken heart, after the death due to old age of my two 14-year companions.

  26. Sharron Baum says:

    Especially agree with Tina. Semantics are powerful. As our “pets” are reffered to as our “companions”, they take a position higher in the laws’. eyes

  27. Lynn Fraley says:

    I agree with Anna (#24) about the intent of the survey. Whatever we can do to have a greater worth established in the legal system for these special beings who devote themselves to us is great. However, the political correctness around the term pet and companion, mentioned here in Comments, could be looked at. Inform, yes. Judge, no.

  28. Dr Sebastien Gay says:

    I understand there has been some concerns regarding the survey restriction that respondents must choose their “primary companion animal.”
    The reason for doing so was not rooted in any sense of disrespect for the relationships a person may have with all their pets: rather I wanted to gather as much information as possible without demanding the excessive amount of time required to gather data on all the pets one might have relationships with. If you are offended by choosing a primary pet for the purposes of this survey, feel free to average across all of your pets when responding to questions regarding the “primary companion animal.”
    Thank you again for all of your feedback.