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Missouri 4th Highest in Dog Ownership: But Unwanted Pet Population Remains a Problem

Photo Credit: Theresa Bettmann

Data recently released shows Missouri ranks number 4 in the country for dog ownership. But what does that actually mean? With a large number of unwanted pets ending up in shelters each year, local animal advocates suggest being number 4 is not all it’s cracked up to be. KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann has the story.

Similar to the U.S. Census measuring human population and trends, the American Veterinary Medical Association, or AVMA, conducts a pet census every few years. The extensive survey looks at various trends to better help animal experts understand the nature of pet ownership.

The survey is randomly distributed and used to collect data from all over the country. Missouri ranked fourth highest in dog ownership behind Arkansas, New Mexico and Kentucky. Dr. Doug Aspros is a veterinarian and president of the AVMA. He says this report, compiled from over 50,000 participants, reveals a tremendous amount of information about pets and their owners.

“We’ve been doing this since 1983, so every 5 years for 30 years. A survey that is statistically significant in terms of trending because the survey instrument has been pretty consistent. And therefore this is really the best data anyone has in terms of pet ownership in the United States,” Aspros says.

Aspros says they look for trends on what is and isn’t changing from year to year. For example, he says one thing they have noticed over the last decade is that people are seeking out less veterinary care for their pets than before. Aspros says reasons could include the economy, or the accessibility in finding answers to health questions online. He says these trends are broken down state by state.

“The data is released by state and it is one of the things people are really interested in. People are interested in how their local area measures up to the rest of the country,” says Aspros.

But what does that suggest locally about dog ownership? Mary Collette is with the Springfield Animal Issues Task Force, and says that while Missouri ranks high in dog ownership, it also ranks high for animal abuse and unwanted animals.

“The fact that we’re number four as a state in dog ownership doesn’t surprise me. We’re a very compassionate community in general, we’re a family-oriented community, and pets are a big part of that. It also makes sense because there are too many [animals] which direct some of the issues the task force is dealing with. Overpopulation of unwanted pets and irresponsible pet ownership are at the heart of our [the task force] whole direction,” Collette says.

Collette says the task force is looking at how to improve local facilities and resources for animals. She says one is a new shelter for animal control, as well as exploring educational programs to teach responsible pet ownership, and necessary legislative recommendations.

“As a government agency or institution, how do we partner with citizens and help them move toward being more responsible pet owners?”

Collette says information from things like the AVMA survey, and what the local animal task force is doing, are all about looking ahead and continuing a conversation about growing, rather than dwelling on past mistakes. For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Bettmann.