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The Retired Investor: Inflation Hits COVID Dog Owners

By Bill SchmickiBerkshires columnist
More than 23 million Americans purchased or adopted pets during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, these new pet owners are discovering that the costs of caring for these pets are climbing higher and higher as inflation takes its toll.
The annual inflation rate over 12 months ending in June 2022 was 9.1 percent. We all know what this has done to food prices, rents, energy, etc. One subset of the population that has been especially hard hit by rising inflation is pet owners, according to a recent study by Veterinarians.org. Their Special Reports Team surveyed 1,000 U.S. pet owners to find out how they were coping with inflation. The results are not encouraging.
Half of those surveyed are trading down to cheaper pet food, whiles 41 percent switched to cheaper treats. More than half (55 percent) canceled their food subscriptions to purveyors like Chewy and Amazon.
At the same time, with the number of COVID-19 cases declining, more and more workers are being asked to return to the office. As a result, many pet owners are waking up to the need to place their pets in doggy day care. Beyond the emotional wrenching, this may cause for both owner and pet, there is the problem of finding a place to care for him or her. Doggy day cares and boarding kennels have waiting lists that in many cases are months long. What is worse, many of these new owners have failed to socialize their dogs, making boarding them nearly impossible.
And while pet owners may feel relieved if they were able to nail down one or more services for their pet, the cost of doing so is fast becoming untenable for many pet owners. Rising costs have reduced day care and boarding visits by between 20-24 percent.
Veterinarians' services are just as much in demand as a day care with waiting times for appointments measured in weeks, if not months. Many vets are not taking on new pet owner clients. There has been a 28 percent decline in vet visits, according to the survey. What is worse, 46 percent of owners have had to forego or delay veterinary procedures, or treatments, and a further 33 percent have had to cancel their pet's prescription medications.
Sadly, almost one quarter (24 percent) of pet owners are considering rehoming their pets or rehoming them to shelters, or rescue as a result of inflation. My wife and I have personal experience in this area. As many readers are aware, we lost Titus, our 13.5-year-old chocolate Lab, in April 2022.  A few months ago, we were contacted by a young guy in the area, who could no longer afford to keep his 2-year-old standard poodle, which he purchased in 2020. He asked for our assistance in placing his pet in a good home.
True confessions force me to admit that a poodle did not fit our image of the type of dog we wanted to hike, swim, or run with, but we promised to do what we could to place him. In the end, none of that mattered. We fell in love with this curly, mop-haired, COVD cast-off. The first thing we did was purchase pet insurance, followed by selecting a great trainer and teaching him to swim and retrieve.
And while this dog hopefully will live a happy-ever-after existence, many more will not. More than 22 percent of pet owners have already applied to special services in their state for help in paying for pet-related costs. The majority of those surveyed believe that a food pantry for pets would help them navigate through this inflationary period. 
Unfortunately, we could say the same thing for many Americans well who are having to decide on whether to put food on the table or fuel up to make the commute to work.

Bill Schmick is the founding partner of Onota Partners, Inc., in the Berkshires. His forecasts and opinions are purely his own and do not necessarily represent the views of Onota Partners Inc. (OPI). None of his commentary is or should be considered investment advice. Direct your inquiries to Bill at 1-413-347-2401 or email him at bill@schmicksretiredinvestor.com.

Anyone seeking individualized investment advice should contact a qualified investment adviser. None of the information presented in this article is intended to be and should not be construed as an endorsement of OPI, Inc. or a solicitation to become a client of OPI. The reader should not assume that any strategies or specific investments discussed are employed, bought, sold, or held by OPI. Investments in securities are not insured, protected, or guaranteed and may result in loss of income and/or principal. This communication may include opinions and forward-looking statements, and we can give no assurance that such beliefs and expectations will prove to be correct. Investments in securities are not insured, protected, or guaranteed and may result in loss of income and/or principal. This communication may include opinions and forward-looking statements, and we can give no assurance that such beliefs and expectations will prove to be correct.



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