Dogonomics: Can our four-pawed friends be good for local economies?

JenniferTankardDog ownership has steadily risen since the mid sixties. There are currently 8.5 million dogs in the UK with one in four households counting a pooch as part of the family.

This rise in dog ownership is accompanied by a rise in spend. The ‘hound pound’ is much sought after business.  Despite the recession, the pet industry has seen a steady 7.5 per cent growth year on year and the pet accessory market is now worth over £500m alone. According to Mintel, four in ten pet owners agreed that they would rather cut back on their own food before cutting back on their pets.

It is no surprise that retailers are rushing to cash in on the market with the widely publicized launch last year of pet accessories sections in John Lewis stores. And its not just shops that are after the hound pound.  The Metro Bank is proud to declare itself dog friendly, cheerfully announcing that ‘we are all about convenience and being a dog-friendly bank is part of this.  Bring your dog in when you next visit – we’d love to meet them’. They offer fresh water, treats and have a link up with Battersea Dogs and Cats’ Home refunding new and existing Metro Bank customers when they rehome a dog or a cat.

But can local economies benefit?  According to Euromonitor, supermarkets and hypermarkets remain the major distribution channels for sales of pet-related goods, accounting for half of all sales.  Pets at Home, one of the main players in the market, opened its 350th UK store in 2013 and has ambitious plans for new store openings and expanding services such as in-store veterinary care and grooming. But it seems that small independent retailers are also doing well. Research by the Local Data Company showed a rise in the number of independent retailers opening up in 2011 with pet shops one of the most common types of new independent store.  There is also a cottage industry of dog services, with grooming parlours, doggie day care and walking and dog training all providing local jobs and income.

And pet friendly places are popular with the general public.  The Kennel Club reports that 95 per cent of people think more businesses and locations should be ‘Open for Dogs’, and that dogs improve the atmosphere of a place. Its ‘Open for Dogs’ campaign, to encourage more dog-friendly businesses and work places, claims that dogs in the workplace make employees happier and boost productivity.  The health benefits of pet ownership are also well documented.

But there are costs incurred to the public purse.  Havant Council, serving a dog friendly corner of Hampshire (boasting a dogs’ swimming pool), estimates that costs of dealing with strays is around £14,000 a year, although nearly 50% of this is offset by charging those who later reclaim their dogs or rescue the strays.  Other costs such as cleaning and emptying dog bins are contained within general waste budgets.

So could local economies do more to benefit from the hound pound?  They certainly can. Encouraging local businesses to become dog-friendly can only result in the sound of the hound pound ringing in the tills.







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Jennifer Doyle
Jennifer Doyle
10 years ago

I think that there are also powerful arguments around (responsible) dog ownership as a catalyst for community cohesion, and for reducing social isolation. Taking this into account, having more ‘dog friendly’ establishments might benefit local economies in both social and financial ways.

An interesting example of this is Chorlton in Manchester – lots of little independents businesses like small restaurants, shops and cafes, many of which let dogs in. Now, I am not saying that this is the reason for its success, but my main reason for visiting anywhere in Chorlton is so I can take my furry friend with me – and I know this is the case for many other dog owners.

Jennifer Doyle
Jennifer Doyle
10 years ago

And, possibly on more of a tangent (!) – having a local environment which is more supportive of dog owners might enable more people to have dogs, thus allowing more people to enjoy the widely reported health and wellbeing impacts of dog ownership. So, the act of creating a dog friendly environment might therefore, down the line, improve health outcomes in a local area. Savings for the state, anyone?

Jennifer Tankard
Jennifer Tankard
10 years ago
Reply to  Jennifer Doyle

Unfortunately not everyone shares our views and as much as I love dogs I do appreciate the down sides of irresponsible owners and the impact that can have on the quality of local environments. But you are right. Generally the benefits of dog (and pet) ownership are well documented in terms of improvements to owners physical and mental health. There are many excellent programmes such, which uses pooches to rehabilitate veterans.

A recent article in The Spectator ( highlighted a move by councils to increasingly restrict where dog owners can and can not exercise their dogs. This is unhelpful and unwarranted. Councils would be better off spending money on educational campaigns for dog owners, rather than policing all dog owners to deal with the irresponsible few. You can read a case study from CDF on how one council is tackling the issue of anti-social dog ownership more effectively here:

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