Unlike dogs and cats, horses don’t typically share a home with their humans. They don’t eat their meals next to the dining room table, sit by the sofa while their owners watch evening TV or curl up on the foot of the bed at night. Nevertheless, more than one-third of horse owners consider their horses part of the family, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook.
Horse owners are less likely to consider their horses part of the family than they were previously. In 2006, 38.4 percent of horse owners thought of their equines as family members, and that number decreased slightly to 35.4 percent in 2011. A more troubling statistic shows that the number of owners who had a vet visit for their horse in 2011 decreased from 65.7 percent in 2006 to 53.8 percent in 2011. While fewer vet visits might seem to indicate a healthy equine population, the number suggests that nearly half of all horses in the U.S. aren’t getting the recommended annual vet-administered vaccinations and wellness exams.
Overall, 63.2 percent of U.S. pet owners considered their animals to be family members, which is a significant increase over the 49.7 percent that reported the same in 2006. The survey of dog owners suggests that Americans are growing closer to their canine best friends. In 2006, 53.5 percent of dog owners considered their pups to be members of the family, and that number increased to 66.7 percent in 2011. For cats, the number increased from 49.2 percent to 56.1 percent.
In spite of the increased family affection for cats and dogs, the level of veterinary care for cats and dogs has taken a downward turn as well. The number of dog-owning households that did not visit the vet at all during the year increased 8 percent from 2006 to 2011. For cat owners, that same statistic skyrocketed 24 percent over the 2006 survey. However, individual dog and cat owners who reported that they consider their pets to be part of the family were considerably more likely to take their animals to the vet.
For more information on the U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, visit www.avma.org.