The Benefits of Pet-Friendly Policies
Research shows that people benefit from sharing their lives with pets, from aiding in the social, emotional and cognitive development in children to contributing to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels in adults. Animals have been able to detect oncoming epileptic seizures and the presence of certain cancers. Research has shown that pets can provide emotional support, improve moods, and contribute to the overall morale of their owners. Furthermore, studies have found that people with pets report higher levels of physical activity and tend to have lower blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
In addition to all of these benefits, pets may also play a critical role in the lives of some of the most vulnerable populations. For both individuals experiencing homelessness and survivors of domestic violence, pets represent an indispensable source of unconditional love and support. (In both cases, these individuals are often forced to make unimaginable choices in order to keep or protect their pets.)
It’s not just pet owners that benefit from pets: the economic benefits to cities with pet-friendly policies are substantial. A 2017 study made several major findings regarding both the direct and indirect impacts to economic growth in pet-friendly cities. Communities with pet-friendly policies are better off, too. Pet owners, by purchasing products and services for their pets, increase overall economic growth via additions to gross domestic product. According to the Human Animal Bond Research Institute study, pet-related spending nationally in 2016 was $18.3 in 2016. That was projected to increase to $20.4 billion by 2022. The study also found a strong positive correlation between worker productivity and pet ownership. Pets, by contributing to improved health and assisting individuals on the job, boost individual productivity which adds to wage growth and subsequent spending.
More and more, pet-friendly cities are viewed as more economically competitive. In some cases, policies that support pet owners have become a deciding factor in attracting major employers. For example, a Google executive attributed the company’s decision to lease a 790,000-square-foot facility in Austin, Texas, for roughly 5,000 employees, to Austin being a pet-friendly location, saying “[i]t is attractive to a young, vibrant, pet-loving workforce.”
Another example that pet-friendly cities are more economically vibrant and have higher qualities of life: the U.S. Congress of Mayors took an unprecedented step of adopting an entire initiative to encourage cities throughout the U.S. to adopt pet-friendly policies. The initiative, called Better Cities for Pets, emphasizes pet-friendly housing as one of four critical elements. The CEO of the Congress of Mayors, Tom Cochran, said the following about adopting the initiative: “We know both intuitively and through research that pets enhance not just our physical and emotional health, but even the property values in our communities.”
In sum, pet-friendly housing promotes happier and healthier families, better futures for the family pet, and a reduced financial burden to shelters and the public. By expanding the number of pet-friendly housing options across the country, more people, pets and communities could experience these amazing benefits.