Will Millennials keep it booming?

Executive Summary

With spending on pets in the United States rising annually and projected to reach almost $100 billion by the end of the decade, the pet industry is considered virtually recession-resistant by experts who study it. They cite factors such as the multigenerational appeal of pets, studies showing a correlation between good human health and pet ownership, a growing celebrity pet culture that spawns spending on luxury goods for animals and global expansion. Challenges to the industry include credibility questions stemming from pet food recalls, animal-rights legislation that could limit sales of animals, online competition and company mergers and acquisitions.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

  • Spending on pets in the United States continued to increase even through the 2007-09 recession and hit an estimated $62.75 billion in 2016.

  • One economist estimates that spending on U.S. pet products is growing 50 percent faster than the overall retail sector.

  • One driver of the industry’s growth is the spread of “pet parenting,” the tendency of some couples to treat their pets as surrogate children.

Looks like you do not have access to this content.

Please login or find out how to gain access.

Resources for Further Study



Kavin, Kim, “The Dog Merchants: Inside the Big Business of Breeders, Pet Stores, and Rescuers,” Pegasus Books, 2016. A former journalist examines the business practices of pet enterprises ranging from the American Kennel Club to local shelters.

Schaffer, Michael, “One Nation Under Dog: Adventures in the New World of Prozac-Popping Puppies, Dog-Park Politics, and Organic Pet Food,” Henry Holt, 2009. A writer explores the explosive growth of the pet industry and what it says about American society.

Thayer, Gwyneth Anne, “Going to the Dogs: Greyhound Racing, Animal Activism, and American Popular Culture,” University Press of Kansas, 2013. An author tracks the rise and fall of greyhound racing and what it says about the development of American sport and leisure, the rise of animal advocacy and the unique place that dogs hold in American life.


“2016 Pet Product News Roundtable,” Pet Product News, Dec. 12, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/zqyr3a2. A trade publication puts questions to industry experts on trends, challenges and advice to retailers.

Brophy, Meaghan, “Booming Pet Industry,” Independent Retailer, Oct. 6, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/gtbtu22. A journalist explores the growth of the pet industry, with much of the spending going to fashions and natural products.

Dizik, Alina, “Adopting a Pet Gets Easier, With Help of Big Retailers,” The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 9, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/h9ows52. A reporter discusses how consumers go about purchasing pets, especially in cities banning retail sales of commercially bred dogs.

Peters, Bill, “Unleashed: A Wave of Pet-Friendly Services & Innovations,” Investor’s Business Daily, June 24, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/jnydsap. A journalist reports on the latest pet niche services and healthcare innovations, such as underwater treadmills, pet insurance and new lab tests for early detection of kidney disease.

Reports and Studies

“The Health Care Cost Savings of Pet Ownership,” The Human-Animal Bond Research Initiative Foundation (HABRI), December 2015, http://tinyurl.com/z4fqlel. A report estimates the human health cost savings from pet ownership.

“Humanization of Pet Food Study: When It Comes to Pet Food, Americans Look for Best in Class,” Nielsen, March 7, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/gthp74l. A Harris Poll sums up American preferences in pet food.

“More Than Ever, Pets are Members of the Family,” The Harris Poll, July 6, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/hom59rf. A poll documents the number of Americans who had a pet in 2015, breaking the count down into types of pets, things owners do for their pets and pet health insurance.

“Occupational Outlook Handbooks, 2016-17 Edition, Animal Care and Service Workers,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, http://tinyurl.com/829gm8p. The government agency summarizes the work environment, education and important qualities that pet industry workers should have and details household spending on pets.

Brown, Shannon, “How Cause Marketing Helps Pet Retailers Connect,” Packaged Facts, MarketResearch.com, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/z8hac5h. A study summarizes the benefits for retailers and nonprofits of linking to causes such as pet adoptions, shelter support, the environment and sustainability.

Henderson, Steven, “Spending on Pets: ‘Tails’ from the Consumer Expenditure Survey,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2013, http://tinyurl.com/gwo3264. The agency reports that Americans spent approximately $61.4 billion on their pets in 2011, looks at spending trends by household or consumer unit and examines which groups spent the most and least on pets.

The Next Step

Pet Insurance

Costa, Jennifer, “Is pet insurance worth the upfront cash?” WCAX, Feb. 6, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/htnqw8g. Top pet insurers vary greatly in services covered, with a variety of limitations and few footing the cost for wellness visits to the veterinarian.

Savage, Terry, “Pet Insurance Has Become A Serious Proposition,” Chicago Tribune, Feb. 6, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/j59grdu. Although pet insurance is gradually becoming more popular with pet owners, they remain likely to pay out of pocket for many procedures, including standard shots, dental care and annual heartworm tests.

Schensul, Jill, “Pet Insurance Is Now Booming,” USA Today, Jan. 30, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/hu8yw3s. While only about 1 percent,of pets in North America are covered by insurance, industry experts believe that number will grow in the coming years.

Animal Shelters

Greenwood, Arin, “Animal shelter has matchmakers to help you find the purr-fect pet,” Today, Feb. 14, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/zsdy7e6. A Texas animal shelter that specializes in housing animals at risk of euthanasia is using “matchmakers” to pair potential pet owners with animals.

Spicer, Zach, “Dog Shelter Fundraising Continues,” Seymour Tribune, Feb. 8, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/jknvxj7. An Indiana animal shelter is hoping to raise $200,000 for construction, due to a budget strained by alleviating the community’s stray-animal problem.

Zaveri, Mihir, “County Animal Shelter Expansion to Begin in Summer,” Houston Chronicle, Feb. 10, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/hypjncm. A $180,000 grant from the Petco Foundation will help fund plans for a Texas county to construct a facility where stray animals can live while they wait to be transferred to other shelters.


American Pet Products Association
255 Glenville Rd., Greenwich, CT 06831
203-532-0551 (fax)
Trade association for around 1,200 manufacturers of pet products.

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
424 E. 92nd St., New York, NY 10128-6804
Nonprofit organization that was the first humane society established in North America and is today one of the largest in the world; founded on the belief that animals are entitled to kind, respectful treatment and legal protection.

Human-Animal Bond Research Initiative Foundation
615 M St., N.W., 2nd Floor, Washington, DC 20036
A non-profit research and educational organization that gathers, funds, and shares scientific research on the health impacts of pets.

Pet Industry Distributors Association
3465 Box Hill Corporate Center Drive, Suite H, Abingdon, MD 21009
443-640-1086 (fax)
Organization for wholesaler-distributors that promotes partnerships with suppliers and customers.

Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council
1615 Duke St., Suite 100, Alexandria, VA 22314
A group that represents pet retailers and breeders; stated goals include promoting responsible pet ownership and ensuring the availability of pets.

World Pet Association
135 West Lemon Ave., Monrovia, CA 91016
626-447-8350 (fax)
An industry organization that sponsors trade shows, conferences and educational programs.

DOI: 10.1177/237455680306.n1