Opinion

MONEY TALK | Pets aren’t abandoning human

House pets aren’t returning to the wild abandoning human ownership.

House pet population is experiencing the same phenomenon that society is experiencing with adolescents. Both categories are changing in supply and in their respective demands.

It is true that demographics are destiny and can forecast major trend changes within democratized economic systems. Our government’s data on consumer spending is very detailed about family creation and its evolutionary demands.

Typically, Americans get married in the mid-20s — 26 to 28 — or so. The first child arrives about two years later and many predictable events unfold afterwards. It is obvious. First is the child’s layette and stroller. Then it’s the walker toy and tricycle. Later, here comes a bicycle, then the petitions for their own car.

What accompanies the early years? Three year olds begin the begging cycle for a pet — a kitty or puppy often available without charge at your local supermarket. Supply is greater than wanted in someone else’s household.

The acquisition price is free. EBay is not necessary.

Fifteen years later, the parents are paying for college expenses and hoping their child is ready to venture forth into independent living. The child’s success at this stage of life leaves mom and dad with a conundrum.

Sally’s childhood puppy has gown older faster than Sally. Dog and cat life expectancies range around 12 to 15 years. Sally is leaving home without the family pet that is literally on its last legs. The whole family grieves the pet’s demise.

Empty nesting parents are not likely to replace “Rover” any time soon. They have delayed some personal goals to fund college expenses and perhaps help with a child’s first home or a daughter’s wedding. Renewing a commitment to puppy care without children and the related veterinary expenses is a low priority.

The cycle is predictable. Should you care? Only if you care about the economy. As households with adolescents are in decline, so is the pet population. Demand for veterinary services is in a matching decline.

Vets are facing the “cat problem” as cat visits have declined 13.5 percent since 2006. Dog visits have been declining, too, but the horse market has been crushed.

Casinos have become significant competition for horse racing facilities and the related need for thoroughbred horses. Even pet horses are expensive. The total number of horses and, likewise, vets in large animal practice, has been severely hurt since the recession.

The New York Times recently profiled an Arizona vet, Haley Shafer, who set her career goal at age 5. At age 30 and in practice, she is struggling to manage the massive college debt incurred.

Veterinary colleges have not been the only active recruiters of students facing a dismal employment future. Given virtually free student loans with eternity payback provisions, college may seem to be a better choice than flipping burgers.

The diminishing need for veterinarians was wholly predictable given the tight relationship to children at home. Other career choices may not be as evident as getting a DVM degree, but massive college debt should be very carefully evaluated before subjecting our country’s future families to a lifetime of unaffordable student loans.

Donald Creech, a Certified Financial Planner and Accredited Investment Fiduciary, is founder and owner of Investor Resource, Inc.

 

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