“Are pet adoptions really skyrocketing?” That’s the headline of a recent blogpost on the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) website – andindeed, it’s a pertinent question that seems to be on many minds, because theanswer may have implications for current and future prospects for the petfood, pet product and service markets.
I asked it myself recently, and even of myself, because I had previouslybought into “all the COVID-19 adoption hype,” as characterized by Bryan Jaffe,managing director of Cascadia Capital, in his “Pet Industry Overview: Fall2020” report.
“One of the feel-good media stories of the pandemic is the number of pets whohave found full-time or temporary homes since shelter-in-place wasimplemented,” Jaffe wrote. “This has been linked to rising pet ownership and,in turn, a current and future growth accelerant for the industry. While it isnatural, in challenging times, to gravitate to things that make us feel goodabout ourselves personally or as a society, the quantitative support for thisconclusion is not well evidenced.”
The unknown: DIY pet adoptions
Jaffe’s use of the phrase “not well evidenced” is interesting, and perhaps aperfect description, in that data on recent pet adoptions is difficult todecipher and compile. He cited data from PetPoint, sourced from 1,200 animalwelfare organizations across the U.S., indicating pet adoptions have decreased25% year-over-year, which has been somewhat offset by an increase of 8% infostering pets. He added that intakes of animals into shelters in Texas,Florida and California, “three of the largest intake/outcome states,” are down30% to 35%. “While it is certainly the case that private sales and adoptionsfactor into the equation, it is not sufficient to bridge the gap.”
Ah, but that “private sales and adoptions factor” could be key. What we don’tknow is how many of the pets people are claiming to take in this year – a new“Pets in a Pandemic” report from Mars Petcare’s Better Cities for Pets programshowed 30% of consumers surveyed welcomed a new pet this year – have come fromsources other than shelters and animal adoption agencies. One industry contactreferred to it as “DIY pet adoption/finding homes for pets” among existing petowners and pet lovers.
For all we know, the pandemic and its forcing us to stay at home may bekeeping more people away from shelters, whether to seek adoptable pets or turnin stray or rescued ones.
Veterinary practices are busy now
The AVMA blog post included data that may shed some light on this adoptionscenario. It cites figures from 24PetWatch and Best Friends Animal Sanctuaryshowing that the rate of adoption – adoptions as a percentage of theanimals taken into shelters – has indeed increased this year to 58.36%, upfrom 51.49% in 2019. That may be a more useful metric to watch, along withthis: animal intakes have fallen more than 35% this year (matching up with thePetPoint data shared by Jaffe). The net result is that adoptions are down26.67%.
So, it could be that the adoption hype actually stems from the adoption rate,rather than the number of animals adopted – at least from shelters. Meanwhile,possibly relevant to private/DIY adoptions happening, the AVMA blog presenteddata from VitusVet indicating a rise in both the average number of pets andpet owner visits per veterinary practice per week.
“While these numbers dipped early in the pandemic, the number of pets beingseen by veterinary practices has increased significantly since late March,”AVMA said. “In fact, the average number of new pets per practice rose from 23per week in March to 36 in August – an increase of more than 50%. Veterinarypractices are busy places right now, and one big reason is that veterinariansare seeing more new patients and new clients.”
The bottom line: still unclear
Regardless of where the new pets are coming from, it is a fact that manyveterinarians, pet food and product companies are experiencing business growthto date in 2020. Mintel projects the overall U.S. pet industry to reachUS$102.2 billion this year, representing growth of 5% over 2019. The pet foodsegment will end up 7% over last year, and pet supplies, 6%, according to aMintel press release.
That’s not to ignore warning signs as the pandemic rages on and many people’sfinancial situations continue to worsen. The Mars/Better Cities for Petsreport showed 61% of pet owners feeling concerned about paying their pet-related expenses; 20% have considered giving up their pets, and sadly, 13%actually have relinquished pets year to date.
So, the pet adoption picture and its effect on the market seem likely toremain a little murky and tricky to nail down for a while – somewhat mirroringlife itself right now.
Source:Debbie Phillips-Donaldson Petfood Industry
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