Menu Bar

Home           Calendar           Topics          Just Charlestown          About Us

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Root cause of RI’s lagging economy

Insufficient pets
By Will Collette

A new report by the American Veterinary Medical Association raises some serious questions about the correlation between pet ownership and prosperity. Well, they didn’t actually make the link, but I did.

Their report shows that Rhode Island is in the bottom 10 among states for overall pet ownership, dog ownership and cat ownership.

As I looked at that list, I also noted that many of Rhode Island’s peers in that bottom rank share Rhode Island’s economic woes, such as California, New Jersey, New York, Alabama, Nebraska and Louisiana.

Top tier states tend to have stronger economies such as Vermont, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Oregon and of course Texas, which is high up in dog ownership.

While Rhode Island conservatives want to eliminate taxes and business regulation, and progressives want to invest in infrastructure and raise taxes on the very wealthy, where is the lobby to address our lagging pet ownership problem?

How can we close the gap between national leader Vermont where 70.8% of all households have a companion animal, and poor Rhode Island with only 53% pet ownership?

How can we expect to get more Rhode Islanders to become pet owners (and thus prosperous) when our official State Pet is the deer tick?

How can we compete with Texas when our dog ownership rate is only 29.3% compared to their 44%. Or, again, how do we compete with Vermont where almost half (49.5%) of all homes are graced with cats, when Rhode Island’s rate is only 27.6%.

Pet ownership numbers have been declining overall, and the economy is blamed, though, in my opinion, this could be a chicken or the egg conundrum. In 2012, pet ownership overall declined for the first time since 1991.

Cats as companion animals, at 74 million, outnumber dogs who number 70 million. However, more households own dogs than cats – cat people tend to have multiple cats.

There was a five year decline of 2 million dogs and 7.6 million cats, all of whom no doubt went to good homes on farms upstate.

There’s always been a certain amount of ambivalence about companion animals in state policies. In high-dog ownership states like Texas, Mississippi, West Virginia and Oklahoma, owning a good hunting dawg is practically mandatory.

In Charlestown, we have an outstanding Dog Park facility for our canine companions, but no similar accommodation for our feline friends, who love to run just as much as dogs. Though not so much with a dog chasing them.

Instead, Charlestown felines not only get discriminated against when it comes to public facilities, but get vilified by Planning Commissar Ruth Platner who unjustly accuses them of being bird murderers – and who wants to banish senior citizens housing because seniors tend to own more cats.

We have three cats and never once have we caught any of them with feathers in their whiskers.

Having a companion animal is not only proven to be therapeutic, but it’s also good for the economy. We’ve injected several thousand into the state’s economy just in cat toys alone, and I’m sure many other pet owners have done the same. Then there’s the pet food, kitty litter, silly holiday costumes and all the rest of the pet paraphernalia.

According to some estimates, the costs can run $1,200 a year per pet. Do the math: 144 million dogs and cats at around $1,200 each pumps $172.8 million into the economy. This is based on the ASPCA’s cost estimate which, according to our own direct experience, lowballs the costs of cat toys.

It’s time we stepped up, Rhode Island. For the common good, we can’t sit by and allow Arkansas or Idaho win the pet race, and the economic benefits that come with it. Run – don’t walk – down to the Charlestown Animal Shelter, and get your companion animal today. 

Well, maybe not today, since our Animal Shelter makes you go through a background check more extensive than you would if you were buying a Bushmaster or AK-47. But it's worth the wait.

And tangentially speaking of the law and pets, click here. This may come in handy if you get busted when your dog violates Charlestown's tree ordinance by pissing on a tree.