BENNINGTON -- Virginia is for lovers, Vegas is for gamblers, and now Vermont is for pet owners. According to a new study released by the American Veterinary Medical Association, Vermont has the highest percentage of pet owners of any state.
More than two-thirds of Vermonters (70.8 percent) own at least one pet, which is more than three percent higher than the next state on the list, New Mexico. And Vermonters also have the highest rate of cat ownership at 49.5 percent, topping Maine, where 46.4 percent of homes include a feline.
The statistics were gathered from 2012 surveys based on pet ownership on Dec. 31, 2011 and are available in the AVMA's U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, which they update and release every five years.
Vermont did not crack the top 10 states for dog ownership, but at 37.7 percent still topped the national average of 36.5. Arkansas was the top state for dog ownership at 47.9 percent. The percent of Vermonters with a dog decreased from 43.8 percent in 2006, but it is still much higher than 15 years ago when 25.6 percent of homes included a dog.
The Northeast is a mixed bag when it comes to people's love of pets. Maine was also in the top 10 states where pet owners reside, but New York and Massachusetts were at the bottom of the list, with about 50 percent of homes owning a pet.
Judy Murphy, president of the board of trustees at Second Chance Animal Center in Shaftsbury, said she's not surprised Vermont tops the list for pet owners.
"We see it at Second Chance every day, with the donations and care people have of our organization and from the people that support animals and animal welfare," Murphy said.
Even on the rural road on which she lives, Murphy said there are about a dozen dog owners who she has gotten to know from frequently passing each other on walks.
Murphy couldn't put her finger on the reason Vermonters are so pet-friendly. "It is a great place to be with a dog. There's lots of space, but I guess that's true of other states too," she said. "I don't really know why, but I'm glad it is."
"I remember when I had my dog in the car going through the bank (drive through) one time ... this person said, ‘Can I ask you a question?' And I said sure and she asked how come every person drives around with a dog in the car ... I said, ‘I don't know, dogs just like to ride in cars,'" she said with a chuckle, maybe without recognizing that vehicles with dogs peering their heads from the back seat are a less common sight in some regions.
Coming in at the top of the list of pet ownership is nothing new in the Green Mountain State, as it also ranked first in 2006 when 74.5 percent of homes had a pet. The 3.7 percent decline in Vermont from five years prior is similar to a national drop in pet owners, which the AVMA chalks up to the poor economy.
The economy is also likely to blame for why pet owners have made less visits to a veterinarian in recent years. The report indicates between 2006 and 2011 the percentage of households with pets that made no trips to the vet increased 8 percent for dog owners and a staggering 24 percent for cat owners. Overall, about 81 percent of dog owning households and 55 percent of cat owners made at least one visit to the veterinarian in 2011, down 1.7 percent from 2006.
For more information about AVMA and the recent publication visit www.avma.org.
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