No economic growth in 60 years! What a thing to be known for. Might man’s best friend offer a solution?
Wichita Falls, Texas is stuck in a rut. We know it and we are trying. We are doing a fantastic job inspiring change. Downtown is so cool! We have yoga in the park, art on the sidewalks and murals throughout. The Arts Alliance is breathing new life and raising awareness for Eastside. New businesses and fresh ideas are popping up everywhere. We even recently received word that visitors are spending more money when they visit; 10 million dollars more. WOOHOOO! That is certainly something to celebrate.
Considering pets play such an important role in the lives of humans, it’s no surprise they have a role in economic development. Let’s talk about it!
First, let me say that I don’t like the phrase No-Kill. I use it because it’s well known and liked. There are unintended consequences of No-Kill that do more harm than good when achieved the wrong way. I use the term “Pet-Friendly” because a city that is Pet-Friendly has policies in place that result in high live-release rates (less killing) among many other things. You will see No-Kill and Pet-Friendly used interchangeably throughout this blog.
The study is nicknamed, “157 million reasons to go No-Kill.” Because that is the economic impact realized in Austin since adopting their No-Kill resolution.
For communities struggling to justify the expense of large municipal shelters or budgets to their leaders or tax payers, this study provides exciting data. Using Austin’s data, we can determine their problem is about 5 times as large as ours and we would potentially realize 5 times less economic impact but that still translates to 31 million dollars. There is 31 million dollars left on the table if we continue to ignore the value of Pet-Friendly cities.
Pets Fetch More Than Sticks
Pets are big business. According to the US Chamber of Commerce, pet related sales are expected to exceed 75 billion dollars this year. Up from 72.5 billion in 2018 but more than double 2005.
Pet-Friendly cities contribute to economic growth in a number of ways beyond retail. Pet-Friendly cities attract new businesses and residents. Google attributes their decision to office in Austin directly to being pet-friendly. Google executives said about Austin, “It is attractive to a young, vibrant, pet-loving workforce.” Aren’t we looking for young, vibrant, animal-loving people to move here?
Pet-friendly policies and attitudes radiate through Austin leading to more Pet-Friendly housing which again attracts more people. “During the study period, Travis County grew by 17.1% resulting in an additional 4.9 billion dollars spent in the local economy, of which 72.3 million is attributed to no-kill.”
Being Pet-Friendly is a Belly-Rub for the Heart
It feels good to live in a community that cares. This not only protects the physical and mental well being of workers in Animal Welfare but it attracts outsiders in the form of individuals and businesses. In Austin, “Adoptions between the baseline year and the last year for which data was available showed dog adoptions were up 67% and cat adoptions were up 49%. Conversely, dog euthanasia was down 94% and cat euthanasia was down 91%. The live release rate went from 54% to 95% for cats and from 70% to 98% for dogs.” These numbers were attributed to an overall feeling of cohesion in the community. People began keeping their pets. The value of pets increased. People began speaking out more against cruelty and neglect. They began standing up for pets.
When cities invest in Pet-Friendly policies like the No-Kill resolution in Austin, it comes with a steep price tag but this study and success seen in other communities proves the investment more than pays for itself financially, morally, and professionally.
Are there other ways?
New Hampshire was the first state in the US to achieve No-Kill status. They did so with state funded spay and neuter programs for economically disadvantaged pet owners. We can attest to the success of this line of thinking using our own efforts and data. P.E.T.S. has lowered the intake of unwanted pets and euthanasia rates substantially since our opening with targeted spay/neuter programs.
New Hampshire’s movement was led by an attorney and activist named Peter Marsh. “Peter’s analysis of the impact of targeted spay/neuter services states that spaying or neutering five animals per 1,000 people in low-income areas will reduce shelter intake by as much as 33 percent over a five-year period. Jacksonville, Florida, reduced shelter intake by 23 percent in four years, and New Hampshire reduced shelter intake by 33.6 percent in six years, with an accompanying reduction of animals killed annually from 11,494 to 2,575 between 1993 and 2000. That number, as of 2009, is 2,495 animals killed yearly in shelters statewide despite a sizable growth of 7.2 percent in human population in that same time frame. That’s a statewide live release rate of 83 percent, with zero animals being killed to make room for incoming homeless pets. As a function of the human population, that specs out to an impressive 1.9 deaths per 1,000 people.”
Spaying and neutering saves lives. It has been calculated that for every $1 a city invests in spay and neuter efforts, they save $3 on the shelter side of the equation. It cost more to shelter and adopt or euthanize than to spay and neuter! We already know this. Prevention is worth a pound of cure. Waco is a wonderful example of success a little closer to home.
In 2012, the city of Waco took in over 10,000 unwanted pets at their city shelter which serves 15 cities and the county. They have developed a formula that has resulted in their intake being cut in half so from 10,000 to only 5700 unwanted pets in 2017 but more impressively a live release rate of 93-95%. That means only 5-7% of their shelter pets are being euthanized.
Pet-Friendly is Much More
Being a Pet-Friendly community starts with more animals leaving our shelters alive. It starts with less strays roaming our streets but it’s so much more. Pets make our lives better. We live longer, experience less stress and depression, and get more exercise when we own pets. A Pet-Friendly city serves humans just as much as it does pets.
The Mars Company makes it super easy for cities to get on board with their “Better Cities for Pets” program. Dallas and Plano Texas have received their certification and in fact, Plano is rated #28 in most Pet-Friendly cities out of the 100 largest cities in the US. How cool would it be for Wichita Falls to have this kind of recognition?
The Better Cities for Pets Program is a free tool that includes a community assessment, a pop up installation highlighting Pet-Friendly amenities and features among many other resources.
Animal Welfare advocates, researchers, community leaders, and activists have forged the path. From entire states to cities of all sizes and geographic locations, progress is being made. People are embracing that there are better ways and those ways have far-reaching effects.
It’s not just cats and dogs dying in the Falls. Our community is dying! Embrace change and grow as a community by taking steps like becoming Pet-Friendly or become a ghost town.