A dogs life is a good one when employers encourage canine companionship
By Ann Craig-Cinnamon
If you are a pet owner, and particularly a dog owner, you may be noticing more and more businesses are rolling out the welcome mat for your furry companion. There are increasing numbers of pet-related businesses that are opening shop. In addition, more businesses are becoming pet friendly, which can be anything from welcoming dogs inside their establishments to offering treats. When I visit the drive through at the bank with my dog, Reggie, he thinks we’re there for the free dog bone. In his eyes, the pneumatic bank tube is the coolest magic treat provider on the planet. Oh, and that free pup ice cream cone from Handels is pretty sweet too.
The increase in attention on our pets is understandable when you consider 68% of all US households now have a pet. That translates to 85 million families according to the 2017-18 National Pet Owners Survey. Those kind of numbers mean one thing: opportunity.
It’s estimated that by 2020 spending on pets will reach $100 billion per year. It is currently growing at a 50% faster rate than the retail industry overall. The pet business is considered to be recession proof too with spending on pets from 2007-09 showing an increase despite the recession. For the statistics lovers, here’s an interesting one: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, on average people spent more than $500 per year on their pets which is more than they spent on alcohol, landline phone lines or men’s and boys’ clothing.
Using national figures, Humane Society for Hamilton County Executive Director Rebecca Stevens estimates there are close to 150,000 pets in Hamilton County. She has another astounding figure that is not an estimate. “In 2017, we took in 3,106 animals with a placement rate, even with all of the seriously injured, ill, seniors and special needs animals we rescued, of 98% compared to the national average of less than 40%,” she says.
She credits the high placement rate on volunteers and the interest in pets in Hamilton County. “It is through the support of our community that we have been able to sustain the explosive growth of Hamilton County's human and subsequent pet population needs in a building we out-grew 10 years ago. Our volunteers are fiercely loyal, and with sometimes over 200 animals in foster homes at a time, we have depended on this support to become Indiana's only open-admission, truly no-kill shelter,” says Stevens.
She thinks Hamilton County is very pet friendly but has room for improvement. “I believe there is an untapped opportunity for Hamilton County businesses to consider allowing pets to visit their establishments. We do a lot of fundraising and adoption events in the community, so finding, especially restaurants that are open to the idea of including animals (even in restricted areas) is sometimes challenging,” she says. Four Day Ray in Fishers will be hosting the Humane Society’s 2nd Annual Paws for a Cause Tito's 5K on Saturday, July 28th but she’d like to see more businesses open up to pets. “With all the new development in downtown Fishers, and the beautiful Carmel Arts & Design District, it would be wonderful for pet owners to have more shops and restaurants, all within walking distance, to visit with pets in tow. I think area businesses would be shocked by the numbers of four-legged visitors and new customers that would drive through their doors,” says Stevens.
The state laws and local ordinances that relate to having pets in restaurants is not black and white. The Hamilton County Health Dept. says dogs (except for service animals) are not allowed in operational areas of a public restaurant. But determining what is "operational" is done on a case by case basis.