Economic & environmental cost of pets

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    According to the ASPCA, the cost of owning a large dog is $1843 in the first year. Food will cost you more than $200. Brenda Vale, author of Time to Eat the Dog: The real guide to sustainable living told a newspaper in New Zealand, "If you have a German shepherd or similar-sized dog, for example, its impact every year is exactly the same as driving a large car around."

    - Courtesy of Alison Hill

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    Small dogs will cost less (and have a smaller impact on the environment). You'll spend as much as $1314 on your little dog the first year, $55 of that on food.

    - Courtsey Alison Hill

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    Cats are bad for wild birds; they kill as many as 100s of millions of birds each year. The average cost for a cat is $1035, $115 of that is food.

    - Courtesey flickr user roadsidepictures

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    A small mammal like a hamster needs about $50 of food. It'll cost you a lot less than a dog--taking care of this guy the first year will cost around $340.

    - Adriene Hill/Marketplace

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    The best animal for the environment is also the cheapest to keep: a goldfish. According to the ASPCA, a fish will cost you $235 in the first year. And, says Brenda Vale: "a goldfish, even allowing for the environmental impact of the tank and the water, has the lowest impact of common pets because it is small, cold blooded, and vegetarian."

    - Adriene Hill/Marketplace


BILL RADKE: Have you found yourself cutting back on your grocery purchases -- buying off-brands, or less organic produce -- yet, you're still splurging on your pet's food? It's a common practice and an understandable one.

Marketplace's Adriene Hill joins us now to consider the financial and environmental costs of your beloved animal. Good morning, Adriene.

ADRIENE HILL: Good morning.

RADKE: So let's start with how much it costs to keep a dog.

HILL: It's not cheap to keep a dog, as dog owners out there probably already know. But let's assume that public radio listeners are into rescue dogs. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, depending on the size of your dog, you might spend about $1,300 in that first year for the dog -- food, grooming, all those things, vet costs. And again, that's if you're planning to adopt a dog. If you buy new, you're going to pay more.

RADKE: Wow. Now let's continue the never-ending argument over cats versus dogs.

HILL: Dogs!

RADKE: I'm going to guess a cat would be cheaper, yes?

HILL: Cats are cheaper. Cats run about $1,000 the first year you have it. But again, not cheap overall.

RADKE: OK, now what about your pets' environmental footprint or paw print?

HILL: I was in touch with a woman named Brenda Vale called "Time to Eat the Dog?: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living," to find out what the least environmentally and most environmentally-friendly pets are. It turns out at the top of the bad for the environment list is also the most expensive pet and that's the big dog. My sister has a Mastiff mix she's fostering right now, so she probably doesn't want to hear this.

RADKE: No, no. She's on the list, huh? So what is the best pet for the environment?

HILL: Any guesses?

RADKE: I'm guessing something ceramic that eats very little?

HILL: That eats nothing at all.

RADKE: I don't know, a little gerbil?

HILL: It's actually a goldfish. The little humble goldfish. As Brenda Vale put it, it's vegetarian, it is cold-blooded, and it's small.

RADKE: So you're sister will maybe consider a fish?

HILL: She's probably not going to give up her dogs. My sister loves the cuddliness and playfulness of the dogs. But if you're out there thinking about a pet, a goldfish is good for the environment and cheaper. A fish is only about $200 a year.

RADKE: Good to know. Marketplace's Adriene Hill, thank you.

HILL: Thanks.

About the author

Adriene Hill is a correspondent covering the business of entertainment.


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