Puppy love: 2 in 5 owners would travel any distance necessary for help with a pet emergency

NEW YORK — New pet parents should be prepared to spend more than $500 in upfront costs when bringing home a new four-legged family member – and that’s just the start of the cost of pet parenthood. A new survey of 2,000 pet owners finds that respondents spend an average of $553 on things like adoption fees and food in preparation for their new pet.

On top of that, they spend another $550 on their pets within the first six months — resulting in 63 percent of respondents spending more than they planned on their new companion. About 40 percent believe they spend more on their furry friends than other pet owners.

Items such as toys and beds (45%), grooming appointments (42%), different types of food (39%), and “puppy proofing” their home with items such as gates or covered trash cans (20%) filled up shopping bills during those first few months of pet ownership. While costs like vaccines (46%) and spaying or neutering (42%) may be expected, the average respondent also had three unplanned medical expenses or vet visits within the first year of owning their pet.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Healthy Paws Pet Insurance and Foundation, the survey showed the average respondent spent more than $1,100 in the first six months of pet parenthood — more than they’d be willing to spend on a vacation ($620.50). In addition to preparation and routine medical care, respondents have more than $600 set aside in case of an emergency, but 46 percent worry it won’t be enough to cover it.

Based on experience, one in five have been faced with an emergency and fell short of the amount needed.

In order to get their pet the care they need, many pet parents would travel any distance (42%), drain their bank account or savings (41%), and go into debt (38%). Others would go even further and get a second job (41%) or sell their car (35%).

pet ownership costs

“You don’t plan for your dog to swallow a plastic chew toy or your cat to develop diabetes. These are the types of conditions that can cost thousands in emergency or specialty veterinary care,” says Rob Jackson, CEO and chief pet protector at Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, in a statement. “Enrolling your pet in insurance when they are young will help protect your wallet when these unforeseen events occur.”

More than a third (37%) of respondents got their pet from a breeder, but others came from a friend or family member (27%) or a shelter or rescue (24%). Others unexpectedly welcomed their pet into their home — one in 20 found their four-legged friend on the side of the road or in their yard. Almost three-quarters (73%) brought their pet home before their second birthday and they’ve had them for an average of four years.

However, a little more than one-third (37%) fall under the “pandemic pet” umbrella — bringing their pet home within the last two years. The average respondent took about four months to decide they would get a pet.

In addition to finances (45%), pet parents considered their lifestyle, mental (43%) and physical (44%) health, and their housing situation (48%) before bringing home a new pet. Even so, one-quarter (25%) felt unprepared to bring their pet home. If given the opportunity to redo preparing to bring their pet home, respondents would, “set aside more time for training” or “save more money.”

At the end of the day, most respondents wouldn’t change anything. One respondent says, “I wouldn’t redo anything. It was a learning experience, and it wasn’t bad. Whatever I needed to do, I did. I wouldn’t change it for the world. She is worth every penny I spent on her.”

“This survey makes it clear that people consider their pets family – to the point that they would get a second job or forgo a vacation to keep them healthy,” Jackson says. “Planning ahead by keeping up with routine care and purchasing pet insurance will ensure that people can enjoy their pets for their lifetime without going into debt or sacrificing other priorities.”

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 pet owners was commissioned by Healthy Paws Pet Insurance and Foundation between Dec. 19, 2022 and Jan. 2, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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