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Niche Industry:

Pet Services

©2012 Mike Criss /

By Susan Sommer

Fido and Fluffy worth every penny


o you know how much you spend each year on your pets? Expenses for Fluffy and Fido might seem like a small portion of your budget, but add together all the money Alaskans spend on veterinary care, boarding, grooming, food, training, toys and gear, and it’s no drop in the economic bucket. No entity keeps track of the pet services industry in Alaska. An estimate published by the American Pet Products Association shows total expenditures for 2011 in the United States topped $50 billion. And, in fact, many pet owners act downright sheepish when asked to reveal the cost of keeping critters. With a grin and a shrug they say things like, “I don’t want to know,” and “way too much.” A common tongue-in-cheek refrain is that their pet needs to get a job. With all the specialized food, fancy haircuts and doggy daycare, pets are more part of the family now than ever before. A 2007 study by the American Veterinary Medical Association says Americans own more than 72 million dogs and more than 81 million cats. The American Pet Products Association’s numbers for 2011-2012 are


slightly higher. AVMA’s online pet ownership calculator estimates that a population the size of Alaska (about 710,000) has about 180,000 dogs, 202,000 cats, almost 28,000 birds and nearly 18,000 horses. The formulas don’t take into account such factors as climate or income.

Helping Animals



There are an estimated 73,800 dogs and 83,200 cats in Anchorage, says DeeAnn Fetko, who oversees grants and contracts for the municipality’s Department of Health and Human Services. The city’s Animal Care and Control Center is part of that department, and in 2011 employed 25 full-time people and collected about $589,000 in animal licensing fees. Fetko says the fees help pay for enforcing animal laws, returning lost pets to their owners, adopting pets out to new families, and resources that provide volunteer and educational opportunities in the community. Chava Lee, executive director of the Gastineau Humane Society in Juneau, says her organization provides reduced-cost spay and neuter services for pets to income-qualified individu-

als, and that more people have been taking advantage of those since GHS opened its clinic a few years ago. Lee says they’ve also seen an increase in the number of individuals that have had to release animals to the shelter because they could not afford the vet bills or food. Depending on what type of pet you own and how many, keeping and caring for them responsibly requires commitment and a flexible budget. Besides providing rescue, adoption, education, and low-cost spay and neuter services, some shelters offer retail shopping as an additional way to support their missions. The Alaska SPCA (Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) thrift store sells everything from used clothing, to books, to pet toys. The Alaska Humane Society, a no-kill and nonprofit cat shelter, maintains an online store with shirts, aprons, totes and more.

Thriving Retail

Pet service suppliers in Alaska include the national retail chains Petco and Pet Smart, as well as VCA Animal Hospitals. Grocery stores also carry pet supplies. Otherwise, it’s up to Alaskan- • Alaska Business Monthly • April 2012

April - 2012 - Alaska Business Monthly  
April - 2012 - Alaska Business Monthly  

Alaska Business Monthly’s 2012 Corporate 100 annual special section begins on page 86. Top citizens of industry are highlighted in this annu...