Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fluffy and Fido

One of my favorite financial writers, Liz Pulliam Weston, writes a column for MSN Money. Her articles are well thought out and very timely. As some of my readers know, I have animals. I own several dogs and they are not only my pets, but my family as well. A recent column deals with the cost of pet ownership . My local NPR station had a broadcast on the cost of pet ownership as well.

A friend of mine breeds dogs. She has been breeding dogs for 20 years, breeds maybe 1-2 litters a year, usually has a waiting list, does her best to screen her puppy buyers and has had very few dogs returned back to her. As a responsible breeder, she has a contract of sale and says she will take back a dog she bred for any reason . Up until this past month, in the past ten years, she had 2 dogs sent back to her, one was due to an unexpected job relocation overseas, the other because the owner died.

This month she has gotten back 2 more dogs, the reason, the buyers could not afford the animals anymore. One person is filing bankruptcy, losing their home and going to live in a non pet apartment, the other family suffered a job loss and a job downsized and simply can not afford to keep the pet. The money spent on food and vet care needs to go towards the family.

I looked at Liz's article, I read her figures and for my area, the costs are higher than what she has in her table. I feed a premium food, which costs me more than $150 a year, I spend about $35 a bag and that lasts not quite a month, I spend about $60 a year on toys, I use a wholesale pet supply company for the toys, and I also buy old children plush toys at tag sales and thrift stores (cutting off any choking hazard or dangerous parts-no squishy beads either, just plush), one my dogs favorite toys is the cardboard roll from the empty paper towel roll. I take advantage of sales at the farmers co-op to buy food, I get a "bulk" discount at my vet by bringing everyone in at the same time for their yearly check up (I only pay one DVM fee of $35 instead of $35 for each pet), I go to the local rabies clinic and pay cash instead of getting the rabies jab at the vet (savings about $3 per dog). I practice good animal husbandry to keep my pets healthy. I have a kennel license (saving about $60 a year). I still spend a fair chunk of change on my pets.

I consider myself lucky, I was able to keep my house after the Bankruptcy which enabled me to keep my pets. Honestly, if I did not have my pets to keep me company during the filing, I'd be on some serious anti-depression meds. If the bank wanted me to sell my house, I would have been hard pressed to find a rental that takes pets, much less the number I have and that would have been devistating to me to have to decide who to give up or sell.

As pointed out in the article, it's important to be realistic about the expenses involved with pet ownership so you can budget appropriately for your pet. Your pet expenses need to be budgeted in like any other budget item. I know what month the license is due, the annual vet check up is to be scheduled for, I can space out the food purchases and I plan my budget with that timeline in place.

Pets are a wonder addition to any family and in tight financial times, we need to plan for their needs as well.


Shevy said...

Yes, our pets do cost a fair bit of money.

I looked at the article and many of the figures seemed incredibly low to me.

I have a miniature poodle. I don't know if he falls into the small or medium column, but I can't imagine how anyone with a small dog could pay only $4.58 per month for dog food! Even $10/month for a medium dog is low unless maybe they're talking about buying a years worth of Dog Chow all at once.

I buy Fromm's Salmon a la Veg. It's a premium dry food made from real stuff not animal byproducts or fish meal. A bag costs $18.95 and lasts a little over a month.

Dog's annual vet visit is always over $200, including blood titre and vaccinations if necessary. This year he needs another 3 year rabies shot or I won't be able to cross the border with him.

He has his bunny that has been his lovey since he was a pup but I spent under $10 this year to buy him a stuffed goose that honks when he grabs it. A package of tennis balls lasts forever.

But extendible leashes need to be replaced once or twice a year (about $25 each) and a license is $35 per year (for a spayed or neutered pet). And we probably go through $10 worth of treats a month.

I get him professionally groomed 3 or 4 times per year and do it myself in between ($55). That all comes to about $775, plus his Passover vacation. That costs $35/day for 8-10 days, but he has a wonderful time hanging out with a pack of big dogs, hiking for a couple of hours every day and being treated like part of the family. They even email me pictures of what he's doing!

But that means Dog costs over $1,100 per year, or over $90 per month! Considering poodles often live to 15 years that means he could conceivably cost $16,500 over his lifetime.

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