Have Americans’ Attitudes Towards Animals Changed?

Posted by Joyce Tischler, ALDF's Founder and General Counsel on June 12, 2009

This is a question that we frequently hear from professional news reporters. Our answer is yes, they have, and it is most obvious in how Americans view their own companion animals.

According to recent surveys:

  • 124 million companion animals live in American homes – nearly one for every two Americans.
  • 70% of those surveyed with dogs or cats say that their companion animals are definitely family members.
  • 45% of dog guardians take their pets on vacation.
  • More than half of companion animal guardians would prefer a dog or a cat to a human if they were stranded on a deserted island.
  • 50% of companion animal guardians would be “very likely” to risk their lives to save their animals.
  • Another 33% percent indicated they would be “somewhat likely” to put their own lives in danger to save their animals. 
  • 9% of dog guardians throw birthday parties for their canines, and 25% of all dog caretakers buy birthday gifts for their dogs.

Another recent survey revealed that consumers are spending approximately $36 billion on an annual basis, on companion animal products and services, more than doubling the amount spent ten years earlier ($17 billion). That $36 billion spent on companion animals has made the “pet products and services” industry one of the largest sectors of the U.S. economy, exceeding the dollars spent on hardware, jewelry, or candy in the same year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. 

This increase in spending reflects the attachment that many Americans have to the dogs and cats who share their homes. But there is something more that I want to share with you. These facts and figures point to our combined and growing potential to influence both the industries that utilize animals and the state and federal legislatures that pass animal protection laws. It is no coincidence that Smithfield Foods, the nation’s largest pork producer, recently announced that it will phase out gestation crates at all of its company owned sow farms over the next decade. And the passage of Prop 2 (banning battery cages for hens, gestation crates for pigs and veal crates for calves) in California is more writing on the wall for industry.

Use the power of your wallet, of your vote and of letters to the editor in your local newspaper. Check our Action Alerts for additional actions that you can take to help ALDF create a far more just and compassionate society.