This paper was prepared by the Baker Medical Research Institute and The Centre for Public Policy, University of Melbourne, as a contribution to the furthering of discussion and research on the implications of the human companion animal bond.
The Australian National People & Pets Survey1994 demonstrated that dog and cat owners make fewer doctor visits and appear to have better health than non-pet owners. It follows that the presence of pets in a majority of Australian households entails savings in health expenditure.
This paper provides the first preliminary estimates of these savings. 8% of GDP, over $30 billion, is spent on health care, of which 68% is government expenditure and 32% private.
Calculations indicate that the presence of pets could save between $790 million and $1.5 billion, annually, depending on whether it is assumed that only the main carers of pets enjoy health benefits, or whether other family members are assumed to benefit also.
This paper outlines future research requirements which would enable more precise estimates of savings to be calculated. What is clear is that there is a link between pet ownership and better health and that this link may have profound implications for health policy and practice.