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Pawsome Pets

Updated: Aug 4, 2021

We are a nation of animal lovers and research has proven that owning a pet is good for us.

Reported benefits include:

  • Increased cardiovascular health

  • Increased physical activity

  • Pet owners report less depression

  • Pets increase social interaction and reduce loneliness

  • Dog owners generally have fewer trips to the doctors

  • Pets are great caregivers, giving us company and making us feel safer when home alone.

Some studies also suggest there are extra benefits to children:

  • Growing up with a dog can help infants to strengthen their immune system and reduce allergy risk.

  • Children growing up with pets generally grow up to be more empathetic

  • Teenagers who live with pets have been found to have higher self-esteem than peers without pets.

Despite their benefits, there has been a lot of news articles recently about the ecological impact of pet ownership. While pets may be good for us as individuals, it got us wondering whether pet ownership is really that bad for the long-term health of the planet?

Are there really that many pets in the UK to make an impact?

  • According to the PDSA, there are estimated to be around 10.1 million pet dogs and 10.9 million pet cats living in UK homes.

  • This equates to an average of 1.4 dogs and 1.6 cats per household.

That’s around 21 million dogs & cats that need fed, watered and cared for everyday.

An article published by the University of Derby tells us that historically, we have always had a close relationship with animals but the difference is, that back as recently as the 1980’s dogs were mostly fed whatever the household was eating, hovering up leftovers and, however accidental, helped us to keep food waste to a minimum.

From my own memories as a child, I recall dog toys being mostly superfluous to requirements. Instead of specific dog toys, I recall dogs playing happily with things like plastic bottles (long before recycling was the norm), an old slipper or an unwanted teddy bear. Tennis balls seemed an occasional treat.

Fast forward to today and UK pet owners are estimated to spend around £57 billion collectively on their pets every year! This includes costs for toys, pet clothing, beds, accessories etc. The dog food market alone is worth around £2.9 billion

That is a whopping change in a short time! Just 40 short years ago, dogs lived with us much more harmoniously, eating our leftovers and enjoying our hand-me-downs as toys. Today, we spend astonishing sums of money to pamper our pets!

Now, I’m not advocating that we go back to the ‘old days’ of feeding our dogs leftover bangers and mash, but it is important to recognise that keeping animals comes at an environmental cost and that ultimately, that we can reduce their impact.

The University of Edinburgh led the first project to assess the global environmental impact of pet food production. In 2020 they published an article outlining that they found dry pet food production, which accounts for 95% of mass-produced pet food sales around the globe, takes the equivalent land mass as twice the size of the UK to produce. They said that “ Annual greenhouse gas emissions were found to be 106 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. A country producing the same levels would be the worlds sixtieth highest emitter”

While these are global impacts, not UK, it’s an important consideration, especially when we consider that these impacts takes no account of the amount of wet food produced or even the snacks that we feed our pets, In 2018, the dog treat market was worth £462 million in the UK.

It is worth noting that in 201