WASHINGTON, D.C. – If any American business sector has proven to be pandemic-proof in 2020, it’s the pet-care industry, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
A recent report from the Census’ Economic Indicators Division jointly authored by Jennifer Cheeseman Day and Joe Weinstein says that about half of American households (60 million) had pets prior to the coronavirus pandemic and that percentage has increased since the beginning of the current outbreak.
When stay-at-home orders in many states created an ideal environment for pet ownership, the Pethealth Inc. research service found that animal adoption rates jumped more than 110 percent and families volunteering to foster pets nearly tripled.
That’s good news, naturally, for the U.S. pet-care industry which, according to the Census report, includes such services as grooming, boarding, training, pet-sitting, veterinary care, transporting, food and other pet supplies.
The American pet-care industry had been growing by leaps and bounds over the past two decades. Sales of just services (excluding veterinary care and pet supplies) had doubled since 2007. Recent polling by the Nielsen Survey indicated that sales of pet food rose by 36 percent during the same period.
The number of pet service businesses in the U.S. grew by 60 percent and the number of paid workers employed by those firms jumped 111 percent in recent years.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the pet-care industry had a well-deserved reputation for being resistant to economic ups and downs. Entrepreneur.com reports that pet spending actually increased during the recessions of 2001 and 2008 by 7 percent and 5 percent respectively. In fact, growth trends in the pet-care industry are so robust its total sales are forecasted to reach $281 billion annually by 2023.
For many Americans forced into social isolation, quarantine or work-from-home circumstances by COVID-19 precautions, pet ownership is just what the doctored ordered. Animals around the house not only provide companionship, but scientific research has also shown that interaction with a dog or cat can lower owners’ blood pressure levels and increase production of body chemicals that promote relaxation, including serotonin and dopamine.
Growth in the pet-care industry continued even in locations where those services were closed after being judged to be non-essential during the pandemic. In those areas, the needs of owners (old and new) and their animals were met by existing online pet suppliers (a market niche that had grown by 11.3 percent in 2019) and by the recent development of a veterinary equivalent of telehealth service.