Growing numbers of pet owners are seeking bargains and shunning opulent items as the $87 billion pet product market — still surviving the recession better than most — is showing some signs of slowing down.
So reports Business Week, citing surveys that show more families are cutting back on pet spending, particularly when it comes to luxury items.
Nearly four out of 10 U.S. pet owners in a September survey by Packaged Facts said they’re spending less on pet products, up from 27 percent in February 2010; and three-quarters of them are looking for deals, particularly on non-food items like apparel and toys.
“The totally discretionary stuff is increasingly being cast aside,” said Lee Linthicum, head of food research at Euromonitor. “People still want to spend a fair bit of money on their pets, but they are reevaluating their priorities.”
Retailers such as PetSmart and Petco are turning to promotions to keep customers from defecting to discount stores like Target and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., but that comes with a cost. Discounts caused PetSmart’s profit margins on merchandise to narrow last quarter for the first time in two years, according to David Strasser, an analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC in New York.
“Our industry is not recession-proof — we’re recession flexible,” said Leo Sanders, the owner of a grooming and boarding business in Corning, New York. “People will still spend, but instead of frivolous spending on squeakers and rawhide bones, now they are reading labels and making sure it’s a quality product. And they’re asking for discounts more.”
Joanne Mahon, managing director of Diamond Dogs in the U.K., said sales of the company’s diamond leash and collar combinations, and other upscale items, dropped as much as 25 percent last year. And Joan Volpe, managing coordinator at the Center for Professional Studies at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, said tighter household budgets have had a “sobering effect” on pricey pet apparel, such as that unveiled in its annual pet fashion show.
“There has been a turn to practicality,” Volpe said. “The seemingly frivolous items of just a few years ago like net tutus are no longer in demand.”
Posted by jwoestendiek February 28th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: accessories, bargains, discounts, economy, food, industry, items, luxury, pet, pet products, pet smart, petco, pets, products, recession, retail, sales, spending, stores, surveys
You don’t need me to tell you that it has gotten more expensive than ever to be the owner, guardian, caretaker, parent — pick your term — of a dog.
Over your dog’s lifespan, you can expect to dish out anywhere from $9,400 to $14,000, according to the latest estimates from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
As we’ve noted before, spending on pets seems to just keeps growing, even when the rest of the economy has a droopy, hang dog look. Despite the recession, spending on pets has gone up 6 percent annually since 2008, to $48 billion last year, according to the American Pet Products Association.
And a new survey conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center says that even during the “darkest days” of the recession in 2009 and 2010, when self-denial became common, only 16 percent of respondents reported spending less on their pets.
Of course, what those kind of statistics don’t take into account are all the dogs that — during those darkest days (which, as far as I can see, we’re still in) — have been surrendered and abandoned by families who have fallen into foreclosure or otherwise been forced to move into cheaper rental housing where pets aren’t allowed.
Even if the pet industry is gliding through the recession, many pet owners — and pets — are not.
Since 2008, pet food, veterinary care, and other services have risen at an annual rate of about 4 percent on average, considerably faster than the rate of overall inflation, according to the latest issue of Consumer Reports.
The magazine interviewed manufacturers, nutritionists and veterinarians, and jumped into the crowded pet product marketplace to sniff out the best bargains — and it reports that it’s possible to save hundreds of dollars a year on pet care without shortchanging your pet.
The package of stories is well worth checking out — and they’re all illustrated with photos taken of shelter pets (still the best bargain, it notes) at the North Shore Animal League. Here’s a partial summary:
A significant part of the national pet-food bill these days — Amerians spend about $20 billion a year on it — goes for so-called premium and super-premium varieties.
But “premium” is a virtually meaningless term, with no real legal definition.
Any food you see on supermarket and pet-store shelves that’s labeled “complete & balanced,” “total nutrition,” or “100 percent nutritious” should meet the minimum standards for nutrition set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. That indicates that it’s adequate for the vast majority of healthy pets.
Pet insurance generally costs more than it pays out, the magazine said. Only in uncommon cases, when a pet requires very expensive care, does the coverage pay for itself.
CR compared the three biggest brands — ASPCA Pet Health Insurance, 24PetWatch QuickCare, and VPI, and a fourth, Trupanion, that is a relative newcomer.
In the case of Roxy, a basically healthy 10-year-old beagle in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. whose lifetime medical expenses were examined, CR reported that none of the nine different policies it compared would have paid out more than the projected premiums.
Instead, the magazine suggests starting your own emergency fund, or “kitty,” to help with unforeseen vet bills.
CR says you’ll probably be better off having your dog’s prescription filled at a chain drugstore, supermarket pharmacy, or big-box retailer than through your veterinarian.
Walgreens, for example, allows customers to enroll their pets as family members in its Prescription Savings Club. Giant/Eagle, Kroger, and Target also have discount programs that are open to pets. At 35 of its pharmacies in Georgia, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Tennessee, Target is trying out a program called PetRx to fill prescriptions for veterinary medicines.
Several online pet medicine dispensaries offer significantly lower prices as well.
Despite all that, about two-thirds of the pet owners CR surveyed said they buy their pet medicines from the vet who prescribes them.
CHOOSING A VET
The CR survey found that while most people love their vets, they don’t love the prices he or she charges.
“Because veterinary care is an infrequent, sometimes emergency expenditure, it’s difficult for consumers to gauge what constitutes a fair price for any of the hundreds of services their pet might require. The best time to comparison shop is when your pet needs a routine checkup, not when you’re stressed out by a sick or injured animal,” the article says.
CR suggests calling two or three nearby vets to ask what their physical-exam fee is. Nationally, it can range from roughly $35 to $46, according to a 2008 survey of 826 U.S. vets by the American Animal Hospital Association.
FLEA AND TICK TREATMENTS
There are more choices than ever here, some of them even affordable. With the patent expiring on fipronil, one of the active ingredients in Frontline Plus, a leading brand, the market has opened up to competitors.
CR found two that were new to the market, Sentry FiproGuard Plus at Petco and PetArmor Plus at Walmart, offered sizeable savings. A three month supply of PetArmor Plus cost $28, compared with $50 for FiproGuard Plus and $62 for Frontline Plus at Petco.
“We found other brands for as little as $9, but be careful. Some inexpensive products might not be as effective and might require you to spray or treat more often … The more insecticide you find yourself using, the greater the health and safety risks to you and your pet.”
(Photos: Top photo by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!; other photos by Michael Smith, courtesy of Consumer Reports)
Posted by jwoestendiek July 7th, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, bargains, care, caretakers, cat, consumer reports, consumer reports national research center, costs, dog, dog food, economy, expense, flea, frontline, guardians, insurance, market, medicine, north shore animal league, nutrition, pet, pet insurance, pet owners, pet products, pets, premium, prescriptions, prices, raising, recession, retailers, rising costs, saving money, survey, tick, treatments, veterinarians, veterinary, veterinary care, vets
His studio, in a giant red barn, is silent. Stacks of wood sit uncarved and untouched. But the gallery he built, the dog park he created and, perhaps his greatest inspiration, the Dog Chapel, remain open on Dog Mountain – an ongoing testament of one man’s love for dogs, and to what dogs add to our lives.
His widow wants to keep it that way, and with the renewed demand for his work after his death, a morbid fact of life when it comes to art, it’s looking like Dog Mountain, once facing foreclosure, will, happily, survive.
In what was one of the saddest stories in the art world, and the dog world, this year, Huneck, whose joyful odes to dogs — carved, sculpted and stamped on woodblock prints — shot himself amid a depression triggered by a recession.
The sagging economy had, starting in 2008, slowed sales of his art, forced him to close down his multiple studios and eventually — in what was hardest for him – lay off almost all of his 15 employees.
With the economic downturn, she said, “People were unsure of the future, and when people are unsure of the future, they don’t buy art.”
Two days later after letting his employees go, Huneck, who was being treated for depression, shot himself in his car, parked outside his psychiatrist’s office in Littleton, New Hampshire. He was 60.
In a press release after his death, Gwen wrote, “Stephen feared losing Dog Mountain and our home. On Tuesday, he had to lay off most of our employees. This hurt Stephen deeply. He cared about them and felt responsible for their welfare.”
Despite its founder’s demise, Dog Mountain, somehow, remains a joyous place. Dogs romp and splash about in the lake at the well-manicured dog park; hikers trek its trails; customers delight in Huneck’s whimsical woodcut prints, hung about the gallery; his sculptures rise from the landscape; and a steady stream of dogs and humans flow in and out of Dog Chapel, Hunecks hand-built replica of 19th Century New England church — designed, like almost all else he did, despite some major personal obstacles, to honor dog.
In 1994, Huneck fell down a flight of stairs and was in a coma for two months. When he came out of it, he had Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome, and doctors were not optimistic.
Huneck had to relearn how to walk, how to sign his name. But he went back to work, finishing a series of woodcut prints based on his dog Sally. The first woodcut he carved was “Life Is A Ball” celebrating his new found life.
His near-death experience also inspired him to build the Dog Chapel – a place where people can celebrate the spiritual bond they have with their dogs, past and present.
He started it in 1997, finished it in 2000, and then opened it to the public. Admission was, and is, free. Leashes were not, and are not, required.
Huneck called the chapel “the largest artwork of my life and my most personal.” A sign outside the chapel states: “All Creeds, All Breeds, No Dogmas Allowed.”
A miniature version of a 19th century New England village church, the chapel has four hand-carved pews, with carvings of dogs at the end of each, stained glass windows that feature winged dogs (a recurring image in his work). The interior walls are covered with post-it notes, left by visitors. Originally there was one “Remembrance Wall,” where pet owners could memorialize their pets. Now all the walls are covered with them. People who couldn’t make the trip could email their remembrances and Huneck would post them for them.
After his recovery, Huneck continued producing dog-inspired works of art, and, by 2000, Dog Mountain was a multi-million dollar business. He published a series of children’s books, and opened galleries across the country.
All that came after a difficult childhood. Huneck, who was dyslexic, grew up in the Boston area in what he described as a turbulent home. He left home at 17 “with 33 cents in his pocket,” his wife said. After attending Massacusetts College of Art in Boston, where he met Gwen, Huneck became an antiques dealer. Through repairing furniture, he taught himself how to carve. In 1984, one of his original carvings caught the eye of a New York dealer, and he was soon making art full time, according to his obituary in the New York Times.
Gwen and Stephen settled in Vermont, and bought a 200-year-old house. Huneck built a studio alongside the house and worked there until 1995 when they bought a nearby farm, converted its dairy barn into his new studio, and later built the chapel and gallery.
When the economy turned sour, he faced losing all he had built up.
“We’d used our life savings to keep the business going, but we ran out of money,” Gwen said.
Even in his depressed state, Huneck knew there is higher demand for a dead artist’s work — and some say, to the extent there was any, that was the logic behind his act, that he killed himself to save Dog Mountain.
Gwen — though she had doubts about whether it would be possible — was intent on saving Dog Mountain after his death. She kept the gallery and chapel open, and business improved.
Today, Dog Mountain has eight employees — most of them the ones who had been laid off. Business is brisk, both on the mountain and on the Huneck’s website, www.dogmt.com.
At the gallery, dogs are welcome, and Gwen encourages those coming in to take their dogs off their leashes.
Ace accepted the invitation, greeted Gwen’s three dogs — two Labrador retrievers, Daisy and Salvador Doggie, and a golden retriever named Molly — then settled down on the floor amid a collection of Huneck’s work.
Many have described that work as whimsical — carved Dachshund lamps, prints of dogs with wings, dalmatian benches and the like — but delightful as each individual piece is, Stephen Huneck’s body of work, and his life, went far deeper than whimsy, striking a chord with many. Ten months after his death, it still resonates.
“I’ve learned so much more about love from my dogs than I ever did from my parents or the church,” Huneck told The Chicago Tribune in 1997. “They’re really great teachers. They love you with their whole heart.”
“Stephen was to dogs what dogs are to us.”
(To see more of “Travels with Ace,” click here.)
Posted by jwoestendiek October 12th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: america, animals, art, artists, artwork, demand, dog, dog art, dog chapel, dog mountain, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, economy, gwen huneck, new england, pets, prints, recession, road trip, st. johnsbury, stephen huneck, suicide, travels with ace, vermont, wood block, woodcuts
Downtown St. Louis has joined the growing list of cities and neighborhoods that are catching on to the fact that dogs can improve a community’s health — both socially and economically.
The city held a ribbon-cutting for its new Lucas Park Dog Park Saturday – a $125,000 project that created a three-quarter-block long area where dogs can run unfettered.
It was a small and little-noted event, but it’s another sign of the growing awareness — reflected recently in Frederick, Maryland; Santa Cruz, California; and Hollywood, Florida – that being more dog friendly can increase an area’s appeal to humans, both as a place to live and a place to visit.
And that, city, business and neighborhood leaders are realizing, can help a community trying to pull itself out of recession-related doldrums.
For downtowners in St. Louis, “the renaissance of their neighborhood arrived on four legs,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
On top of being good for business, becoming more dog friendly — and creating areas where dogs and their owners can congregate — can also help lead to a stronger sense of community.
“We may not know all of our neighbors,” said Todd Wise, a radio producer who moved downtown with his wife and Delilah, a basset hound, 18 months ago. “But we know the owners by their dogs.”
“The idea is get people out of their apartments, said downtown-dwelling law student Sarah Hunt, owner of Roxie, an 8-month-old beagle-pug mix. “…When you get people out of their apartments, things happen.”
(Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch /Elle Gardner)
Posted by jwoestendiek April 5th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, boost, business, california, community, dog friendly, dog park, dogs, downtown, economic, economy, florida, frederick, health, hollywood, lucas park, maryland, neighborhoods, news, ohmidog!, pets, recession, santa cruz, st. louis
A new bill in the U.S. House that would allow pet owners to deduct up to $3,500 for “qualified pet-care expenses,” including vet bills, is drawing little attention and lots of laughs.
Given it’s considered a bit of an underdog, we’re all for it.
Called the HAPPY (Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years) Act, the bill is designed to make it more affordable for people to provide the care their pets need, and less likely that pet owners pinched by the recession will abandon their pets.
Congressman Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich., introduced House Resolution 3501, on July 31. It seeks to amend the Internal Revenue Code to allow a deduction for pet care expenses, and would allow an individual to deduct a maximum of $3,500 for “qualified pet care expenses” for any “qualified pet.”
The congressman, who is not a pet owner, says he sponsored the bill to help families care for their pets during tough economic times.
“Families have raised concerns about how the recession has impacted them and their pets, which should come as no surprise since more than sixty percent of United States households own a pet,” Congressman McCotter wrote in an email to Paw Nation.
“Unfortunately, according to the Humane Society, the current recession has led to a noticeable increase in the number of animals at shelters and a decrease in the number of animals being adopted. We must help prevent children and families from losing their beloved pets or seeing animals destroyed due to an economic recession.”
Under the proposal, one could not deduct the cost of buying or adopting a pet.
McCotter has been taking some heat from bloggers and colleagues for the proposal, but the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council supports the bill, and so do we.
If you see it as something more than a joke, or perhaps even feel strongly about it, you can sign a petition here.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 20th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abandon, bill, bills, cats, deduct, deduction, dogs, economy, expenses, income taxes, internal revenue, law, pet, pet care, pets, proposal, recession, shelters, thaddeus mccotter, veterinary
A dog training website says it plans to award $500 each to 500 dog rescue organizations to help them cope during the recession.
Trainpetdog.com will distribute a total of $25,000 to rescues, with donations in the form of cash or dog supplies, depending on each organization’s needs.
“Our world has a serious dog overpopulation problem,” said Nipa Roy, spokesperson for TrainPetDog.com. “There are tons of rescues out there, making a noble effort to save and re-home dogs, but every day they struggle to get enough funding to stay open another day. Donations are an absolute necessity for these rescues.”
“With the current economy, many dog rescues are struggling to survive even if they were doing okay before,” Roy added. “Fewer families can afford to care for their dogs, so more dogs are being surrendered and fewer are being adopted out.”
TrainPetDog.com will select 500 of the neediest dog rescues to receive donations. To be considered for the donation, a rescue must fill out the online form on TrainPetDog.com’s web site. The form requests contact information for the rescue, allows the rescue to choose whether they want the donation in cash or goods, and asks questions such as what dog breeds they rescue and why they should be chosen as one of the 500 to receive a donation.
With more than 875,000 subscribers to their free dog training mini courses, TrainPetDog.com provides breed specific information for owners who want to learn more about dog and puppy training. Rescues can link to the website to provide foster and adoptive owners with the information they need to train their dogs.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 26th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: $25, $500, 000, dog, dogs, donations, economy, funding, fundraising, grants, groups, money, offered, organization, recession, rescue, rescues, shelters, supplies, trainpet.com
So the good news is, should the recession force you to turn to dog food, it will be both palatable and good for you. The bad news is you probably won’t be able to afford it, either.
Researchers provided 18 volunteers five food samples to try in a blind taste test – all blended to the same pate-like consistency and topped with parsley: duck liver mousse, pork liver pate, liverwurst, spam and Newman’s Own-brand organic Canned Turkey & Chicken Formula (for Puppies/Active Dogs).
Only three testers were able to identify the canine food. Eight participants believed the liverwurst was the dog food, and four picked Spam as the culprit. Two people identified the pork liver pate as dog food, and one identified the duck liver mousse as dog food.
Given what’s gone on with dog food in recent years, the test results aren’t really that surprising. In the last few years, organic dog food made with human-grade free range meat and fresh vegetables has jumped in popularity, and some dog food companies have humans taste test them. There are lots of dog foods on the market that are probably better for you than some of the stuff on the human food shelves. Paul Newman himself took a big bite of his dog food on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 2006 to demonstrate its wholesome goodness.
The far weirder part of this story is what the wine industry is doing running dog food tests.
“We have this idea in our head that dog food won’t taste good and that we would be able to identify it, but it turns out that is not the case,” said Robin Goldstein, a co-author of the study.
Goldstein said the tasting demonstrated that “context plays a huge role in taste and value judgment,” even though researchers warned the participants that one of the five foods they were going to taste was dog food.
Which is a fancy way of saying, with proper packaging and marketing, and if you charge way too much for it, a product will sell no matter how crappy it really is.
The authors of the report conclude that: “Although human beings do not enjoy eating dog food, they are also not able to distinguish its flavor profile from other meat-based products that are intended for human consumption.” Even though most couldn’t identify it, 72 percent of those in the study rated the dog food the worst-tasting of the five.
The study didn’t look at what wine goes best with dog food, but I would recommend a nice merlot with canned, and perhaps a sauvignon blanc with kibble.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 4th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: association, canine, canned, context, cost, distinguish, dog food, duck liver mousse, eating, food, human food, humans, jay leno, liverwurst, marketing, newman's own, organic, packaging, pate, paul newman, pork liver, price, recession, spam, taste, taste test, tonight show, wine economists, wine inddustry
They’re off and mushing — almost.
The 37th Iditarod begins this morning, with the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage.
Lance Mackey is the odds-on favorite to join Susan Butcher (1986-88) and Doug Swingley (1999-2001) as the only mushers to win three races consecutively, USA Today reports.
In 2009, the world’s most famous dog-sled race, which continues to take a beating from animal welfare organizations who see it as cruel, is being hit by the recession as well, Reuters reports.
The purse for the grueling 1,100-mile trek to Nome, which commemorates a lifesaving medicine relay in 1925, has been slashed to about $650,000, from $900,000 last year. And 67 mushers and their dog teams are scheduled to start Alaska’s most important sporting event, down from last year’s record field of 96.
To keep tabs on the race, visit its offical website, where you can also sign up to be an Iditarod Insider, receiving regular updates, and, for a fee, video of the race.
One cool thing about running your own website — in addition to the fame, fortune, respect, freebies, groupies and the tingly feeling my elbows get from typing so much — is that through the use of a program called Google Analytics, I get to see not just how many people are stopping by, but where you are from, how long you stay, and what’s on your minds.
I can ascertain with but a few clicks, for instance, that 1,498 of you visited Monday, perusing 1,978 pages; that more than 2,000 of you graced us with your presence yesterday. I also know what towns and states you came from, and what led you here. Don’t worry, though, I can’t see into your bedrooms.
Many of you are led here by search engines. Yesterday, for example, 14 ended up here after Googling “dog and elephant,” two after Googling “dog walking in Baltimore,” two by Googling “Biden dog.”
But there was one that landed here after typing in these words: “1 dog died get another 1?”
Abbreviated as the query was, it made me think. Here was a person, I assumed, undergoing some pain and confusion – someone who, on the one hand, was willing to research the dilemma life had thrown at them, and who wanted to do the right thing. On the other hand, I worried, here was a person who might accept the first answer that came up on Google.
We’re becoming a society that thinks our home computers hold all the answers. Maybe, by now, they do. But knowing as I do that what shows up first in search engine results isn’t always the best — that the cream doesn’t always rise to the top — I worry that some of us put a little too much faith in Google, Yahoo and the like.
Like I imagined this woman was doing, when it came to the decision on whether to get a new dog. Maybe she asked a friend or two for advice, maybe it was conflicting. So she turned to what we all turn to nowadays: Tell me, in my hour of need, almighty Internet Search Engine, what should I do? Read more »
Posted by jwoestendiek January 7th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: advice, another, computers, death, dependence, depression, died, dog, dog died, economy, google, internet, mourning, new dog, ohmidog!, pets, questions, recession, search engines, shelters, yahoo
Between the shaky economy and track closings, greyhound rescue organizations are hard-pressed to find enough homes for the growing number of dogs exiting the racing industry.
The weakened economy has led some prospective owners to back out of their adoption plans, and led some who have adopted greyhounds to return them.
“There have been a lot of stress-related returns with people losing their houses or their jobs and more adoption groups are reporting new adoptions are down,” said Michael McCann, president of The Greyhound Project Inc., a Boston-based nonprofit that provides support and information to greyhound adoption organizations and the public.
McCann blamed the economy primarily, but the Massachusetts ban on greyhound racing — voters approved a referendum that will lead to the closing of two tracks there by Jan. 1, 2010 — is a big factor, too.
“With some tracks having several hundred dogs, they have to go somewhere,” McCann said. “Some of them can go to other tracks, but many of them are ending up needing to be adopted.”
Many of the estimated 300 adoption groups nationwide are seeing increases in returns of adopted greyhounds and declines in new adoptions, according to an Associated Press report.
The problem is compounded by more racetracks closing â€” at least seasonally â€” in the face of increased competition from casino gambling and the general economic slowdown, McCann said.
McCann said the problem is not confined to the continental United States. The recent closure of a racetrack in Guam left about 150 dogs needing homes, and animal rescue officials have been contacting U.S. groups for help.
“They may have to be destroyed if there is no place else to go,” McCann said.
Greyhound Rescue, Inc. places greyhounds in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia and Washington D.C.
(Photo: Courtesy of Greyhound Rescue, Inc.)
Posted by jwoestendiek November 19th, 2008 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adoptions, ban, boston, closing, dogs, economy, families, greyhound, greyhound rescue, greyhounds, homes, massachusetts, news, racetracks, racing, recession, referendum, rescue, returns, tracks