Once a week, Ashton Pino takes her two dogs, Mirfy and Winston, to the Raising Cane’s Dog Park and then visits a local pet store where each pooch gets to pick out a chew toy or treat before heading home.
“Toys, treats, anything to entertain them,” Pino tells Business Report in a feature from the current issue. “I don’t have kids, so I can spend my extra money on them.”
If it means keeping her dogs happy and healthy, Pino is willing to splurge. The weekly trips to the pet store typically cost about $50, she says, but the big bucks are spent on feeding her dogs. Pino pays about $200 a month for a nutritious brand called Wellness for her two small dogs, who are both rescue mutts.
“These guys are on gluten-free, paleo-style diets,” she says, adding the healthier diets help reduce trips to the veterinarian, which can also drain the wallet. For check-ups and preventative shots, Pino spends about $400 every year on each dog. But for Pino—a 26-year-old banker in Baton Rouge whose husband, Jody, is a police officer—the companionship her pets provide is well worth the expense.
“I don’t know what I’d do without them,” she says.
Mirfy and Winston are not just pets to Pino, they’re family. And like an increasing number of pet owners, she treats them as such. Pets today live more like humans—and in many cases even better—as owners are more willing to pamper pets with wholesome food, advanced vet care and specialty services.
The American Pet Products Association estimates pet spending reached a record high $63 billion in 2016 across the U.S. That number has more than doubled since 2001. Last year, pet owners across the country spent the most on food, $23 billion, followed by vet care at $15 billion. Supplies and over-the-counter medicine spending totaled $14 billion, while pet grooming and boarding service sales reached $5 billion.
At the same time people are spending more on their pets, pet ownership is also on the rise. A 2015-2016 APPA survey found that 65% of U.S. households include at least one pet. That’s almost 80 million homes, which is up 9% since 1988.
The phenomenon has spurred the growth of pet services, such as Camp Bow Wow in Baton Rouge. The dog boarding and daycare franchise opened in 2013, and a second location in Prairieville is already in the works and will open next year. Marketing manager Jennifer McInelly says Camp Bow Wow averaged 136 new “campers” each month between September 2015 and September 2016.
“More people are having pets, especially in the Baton Rouge area,” McInelly says. “Instead of having kids, younger people are getting pets. It’s an increasing trend. It’s one thing that makes you feel independent and complete.”