Lucky and Unlucky Pets

Pets can be expensive. The Tibetan Mastiff dog has an average purchase price of $3,000, while the Portuguese water dog costs $2,500 and the Black Russian Terrier goes for $2,000. This, combined with the yearly cost of ownership -- up to $1,843 on average for dogs and $1,035 for cats, according to the ASPCA -- indicates most pet owners are truly dedicated to their animal's survival and happiness.

79.7 million households own a pet, which is 65% of American homes. 42% of us own more than one pet. There are 77.8 million dogs and 85.8 million cats according to the Humane Society. 34% of dogs are purchased from a breeder, 4% from pet stores, 37% are adopted from shelters, 6% are taken in as strays and 20% come from friends or relatives. Only 3% of cats come from breeders, 2% from pet stores, 45% are adopted from shelters, 25% are taken in as strays and 25% come from friends or relatives.

What happens to homeless animals? There are 13,600 community animal shelters across the U.S.A. 7.3 million animals enter these shelters each year - 3.9 million dogs and 3.4 million cats. 3 million of these animals are euthanized each year and 4.3 million are adopted or returned to their owners. With so many animals needing our love, why are we paying the big bucks for these breeds when we can adopt an animal that is going to be euthanized?

We have all read about the medical reasons to have a pet. Web MD tells us that pets are natural mood enhancers where in only a few minutes with a dog, cat or watching fish swim, it makes us feel less anxious and less stressed. They say pets help keep blood pressure in check, and the blood pressure of children with hypertension decreases while petting their dog. Pets are good for your heart, help lower cholesterol and help fight depression. Petting and playing with an animal increases levels of serotonin and dopamine (nerve transmitters know to have calming effects) and these transmitters help reduce not only depression, but stress, also. People who own dogs tend to be more physically active, and in reality walking your dog daily may be one of the main reasons animals help with your heart and stress. Dog owners are 69 times more likely to spend their leisure time doing some physical activity, and walking a dog leads to a 28% increase in walking speed. Dog owners walk for 300 minutes a week compared to 168 minutes for non-pet owners. Web MD went on to say that researchers have found that when children grow up in a home with a dog or cat, they are 33% less likely to develop allergies, and the same is true for kids who live on a farm with large animals. So maybe pets are the miracle drug we have all been waiting for!

We know about the medical reasons for a pet, but what about the psychological advantages? The American Psychological Association published a study done at Miami University of Ohio and St. Louis University where they concluded that people with pets were closer to other important people in their lives and received more support from these people, not less. So the conclusion is that pets complement other forms of social support rather than compete with them indicating no evidence that relationships with pets came at the expense of relationships with other people. Also, owning a pet can teach children valuable life lessons. Kids with dogs have a higher level of empathy and self-esteem, and learning to take care of an animal teaches the value of routine and good habits. Being outside in a public setting with your animal increases social interaction, because pets are great icebreakers and can help ease people out of social isolation and shyness.

September is full of days honoring pets. National Pet Memorial Day and National Hug Your Hound Day are 9/11. Puppy Mill Awareness Day and Responsible Dog Ownership Day both fall on 9/17. But there is no celebration for the 3 million animals America euthanizes each year. It falls back on all of us to have the heart to help defenseless animals that can't speak for themselves. For anyone who has ever looked into the eyes of their pet and felt that unconditional love looking back, we cannot continue letting animal shelters go underfunded and undermanned. All of us need to reach deep into our pockets to help these shelters find homes for these innocent animals; and if we don't have the dollars to help, we should be volunteering to feed, walk, bathe and play with these ignored animals at the shelters. Donate or volunteer at the American Humane Association, the ASPCA, The Humane Society, or the Best Friends Animal Society, where you can help save animals who are the victims of animal cruelty or natural disasters. And at DollarDays on our Facebook page, we are giving away $5,000 in products to animal shelters, so make sure you nominate your favorite shelter that can use our help.

Taxpayers pay $2 billion annually to round up, house and dispose of homeless animals. Many of us go out and spend thousands of dollars to buy an expensive animal while millions of others are being put to sleep because no one has stepped up to give them a home. Those of us with pets know they provide therapeutic benefits for many of life's invisible scars. Our pets help us socially and emotionally. The unconditional love pets give us transcends work issues, family conflicts and death. Animals don't care about the color of your skin, whether you can read or not, or if you are missing a limb. So not only during September's "Responsible Dog Ownership Day" do we honor our best friends, but we should also be taking this time to help those animals less fortunate than the ones in our own home. Helping to support animals in need is the core of our decency. Donate to animal shelters and organizations to help care for these innocent animals. Volunteer at your local shelter to help the animals cope with being alone. No one wants to be alone, and your simple act of kindness can go a long way for animals that have no one to care for them.