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Pet food was the second-highest expenditure reported in the surveys, increasing each year from $159 in 2007 to $183 in 2011.
The only decrease in spending occurred for live pet purchases, supplies and medicine, down an inflation-adjusted 6.6 percent, or $10, from $151 in 2007 to $141 per household in 2011.
Americans indulge their pets with good reason, said marriage and family therapist Susan Stocker of Akron, who works at the Akron Family Institute.
In the interest of full disclosure, Stocker acknowledged she owns two cats. But it was a German shepherd she owned for more than 13 years that taught her about the unconditional love of a pet, she said.
“I think my cats would probably live with anyone who fed them and changed their litter box. But a dog, oh, my gosh,” said Stocker.
“The level of unconditional love of a pet exceeds most of our human capacity for unconditional love. We humans are very conditional in our love. We are almost incapable of giving the unconditional love a pet can give back to us,” she said.
Stocker said she’s counseled couples who stayed together because they couldn’t decide who would get custody of the dog if they split up.
“It’s not crazy, it’s perfectly understandable. It’s an indicator of how desperately we all need love, affection and attention and we know where we can get it. We can get it trustingly, without question, from a pet,” Stocker said.
The BLS report is available at http://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-2/spending-on-pets.htm.
Star Tribune staff writter Bill Ward contributed to this report.