A reader responds to our latest reality check:
I would argue that the average amount people spend on their pets is significantly higher than those figures suggest. The $500/year average is a bit misleading; it was calculated across all households and is not limited to those with pets. In addition, the survey doesn’t capture the largest cost I incur: higher rent overall and additional monthly pet rent. I live in DC, where housing choices are limited for those with dogs, so my rent is higher than what it would be if I didn’t have an animal. Second, most apartments require a non-refundable deposit upon move-in ($300 in my case, often more) and charge a monthly pet rent ($25-75/month).
Second, I’m not sure the comparison to the poverty threshold is fair. Spending $2,000/year on my dog is perhaps more ethical than spending it on entertainment or other alternatives, and the high cost of pet ownership here is simply a function of location. I adopted my dog when I was living in Sierra Leone and her standard of living there was equivalent to what it is now, and it cost very little to provide for her.
Another provides a different reality check:
There are a vast number of vain and luxurious things that Americans spend way more than $61.4 million a year on: 14.6 million cosmetic surgeries a year (that is surgeries, not dollars!), Starbuck’s net revenues for 2012 were $13.3 billion (at least 11 billion from U.S. sales), Netflix had $3.61 billion in sales in 2012. There are no shortage of these kinds of spending statistics that show the obscene wealth gap between Westerners and the rest of the world. Pet ownership hardly scratches the surface!