Gone to the Dogs

Total U.S. consumer spending on pets has reached $109 billion per year

The pet industry is reaping billions from modern man’s spiritual desolation — that sense of emptiness and disquiet that aches for remedy. As workaholism and an ever-higher cost of living moves people to delay or forego marriage and children, pets fill the void in their lives.

It’s a sign of the times that pet dogs are more numerous than children. The San Francisco metropolis caters to its 150,000 dogs versus 113,000 children. Meanwhile, California’s fertility rate has dropped from 2.2 to 1.5, the lowest in the nation. Pet parks and cemeteries are in big demand. Dogs are seen everywhere: at doggy daycare centers, veterinary hospitals and hotels, doggy gyms, doggy spas, doggy bakeries, and doggy shops that provide accessories, clothing, toothbrushes, and food supplements.

During the last six years, U.S. pet sales increased from $9 billion to $13.5 billion. Total expenditures for pet products, including medical needs and insurance, have reached $109 billion per year. Pet adoption occurs at 23 times the rate of human adoption, with dogs taking up the greater portion at 71%.

A CBS News clip reported the animal protection industry (PETA, ASPCA, Humane Society) draws in big donations of over $300 million per year — money which could go to unprivileged and abandoned children. Since 2008, the ASPCA has raised more than $2 billion with heart-gripping ads that show a sad-eyed, ragged pup with captions such as “Rescue me for 63 cents per day” or “Room for me in your heart?”

Furry pets provide lonely souls “babies” to cuddle for affection. At my local park, two young women passed me pushing their two Bichon Frise puppies in a baby carriage. A middle-aged man walked his four yappy Chihuahuas, each yanking him in a different direction, vying with one another for dominance.

“Who’s the boss?” I asked, noting how subservient he was to first this and then that one.

“They take turns bossing me,” he quipped as they dragged him off to sniff another dog.

Surveys show that women 20 to 30 years old are by far the most frequent buyers of small dogs. One poll showed some 40% of female drivers would swerve into a person to avoid hitting an animal. A survey of young couples showed 14% would dump their lover over their pet!

In my experience, pets now get to dominate right-of-way on public sidewalks. Not long ago I approached a teenage boy who was distracted by his smartphone and not holding his terrier on a tight leash. It got loose, and I was bitten while walking past them. My doctor described it as a “dirty bite.” The dog had its rabies shots, but I had to have a tetanus jab. I’ve learned the hard way to step aside for any dog, leashed or not.

God made us male and female to populate the Earth with our own kind, not to substitute pets for children. The spiritual emptiness that we attempt to remedy with pets and an abundance of things signals our drift from virtue. This prosperous, pampered society called America seems to have gone to the dogs.

“Many couples do not have children because they do not want to, or they have just one — but they have two dogs, two cats”… This denial of fatherhood and motherhood diminishes us, takes away humanity.”” — Pope Francis (Jan. 5, 2022)


Richard M. DellOrfano spent ten years on a cross-country pilgrimage following Christ’s instruction to minister without possessions. He is completing his autobiography: Path Perilous, My Search for God and the Miraculous.

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