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 senior multimedia reporter for the Marketplace sustainability desk, with a focus on consumer issues and the individual relationship to sustainability and the environment.
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Two days later, I am still surprised that you aired this. The story started with a book title "Time to eat the dog." Children are more expensive and have a much larger footprint, but you would never air a show saying "time to eat the kids." There are much worse things for the environment.
And pets are good for your health. They lower blood pressure and make pet owners happy. If you don't want one, don't have one.

People spend thousands of dollars on environmentally poisonous electronic gadgets, and you think you're going to convince me that my loving dog is more harmful? My dog is at least one of nature's creatures--she provides me security, she provides acts as an exercise trainer, she is the best psychologist on earth (reading my moods and providing comfort). My cats catch rodents and insects, and give me living decor. I'll give up my pets when the excessive consumption generation give up their addiction to the latest electronic gadget that is doing far more harm to the environment and to society by isolating us into little electronic cells.

I will be filing a copy of this article. In ten years, people won't believe that people had room to worry about matters such as the impact of pets on the environment, and if I can't show source material, no one will believe me.

I'm amazed at the amount of money, time and resources spent to keep pets. For what? So you can wait on the sidewalk in front of my house to pick up your dog's poo? I just don't get it. There lots of better ways to spend your resources.

Good to see you out there walking and thanks for picking up the poo (sorry cat people I'll take a swipe at you next time).

Cat food: [insert $ here]
Litter: [insert $ here]
Vet bill: [insert $ here]
Scratching posts & toys: [insert $ here]
Having a toilet-trained kitty purring contentedly on your lap: PRICELESS

You'll have to pry my pets out of my cold, dead ... well, you know the rest. God save me from the environmental whackjobs who think saving a tree is far more important than the physical and mental well-being of a person. This story made my blood pressure shoot through the roof; excuse me while I go play with the dog.

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