By Cyril Tuohy
Americans love their pets so much that millions are willing to put their money where their pets are.
Nearly 20 percent of respondents to a recent survey by Securian Financial Group said they engaged in financial planning for their pets’ care. This planning included drawing up pet protection agreements, naming pets in their wills, granting powers of attorney over their pets and drafting letters of instruction with details on what to do with their animals after their human owners pass on.
In the survey, 38 percent of respondents said they added their pet’s future caregiver as a beneficiary to a life insurance policy, and 13 percent bought annuities naming the caregiver as the beneficiary.
“Pets may provide opportunities for financial advisors whose clients consider their pets members of the family and spend large sums on their care,” said Michelle Hall, market research manager at Securian. “Our survey shows a significant percentage of pet owners make financial plans to ensure their pets will always be well cared for."
Of the 903 pet owners surveyed, 12 percent said they would spend $10,000 or more to save a pet’s life, while 29 percent would spend between $2,000 and $5,000 to save a pet’s life.
Nearly 60 percent of survey respondents said they spent up to $1,000 a year on food, grooming and toys for their pets; 75 percent spent as much as $1,000 a year on veterinary bills, and 18 percent said their largest single pet-related expense was $2,000 or more.
The extent to which some owners will go to ensure the well-being of their pets indicates the extent to which owners have a special relationship with a living piece of property, which is how pets are treated in the eyes of the law.
Courts are coming to terms with the unique nature of these relationships and the fact that pets, while still property in the eyes of the law, often have more value to owners than traditional pieces of property such as a couch, a television or a car, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
In a case that made headlines last year, a New York couple fought over the custody rights for their miniature dachshund. The dispute over the dog was eventually settled out of court, but not before the judge in the case said pet custody issues were closer to child custody disputes than they were to disagreements over pieces of property.
There were 164 million households owning pets in United States in 2012, an increase of 144 percent from about 67 million households in the 1970s, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
U.S. pet industry spending in 2014 has increased to an estimated $58.5 billion, from $34.4 billion in 2004, according to data supplied by the American Pet Products Association.
Cyril Tuohy is a writer based in Pennsylvania. He has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Cyril may be reached at [email protected].
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