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Monday, 15 May, 2000, 07:38 GMT 08:38 UK
Do we spend too much on our pets?

When pets get ill, owners are often shocked at the size of the vet's bill. Sometimes people end up spending thousands of pounds on their furry friend's health.

But a report now says that we could be getting ripped off. The Consumers' Association found that some UK vets may charge almost three times as much money as others for routine operations.

Coupled with the vast amount of luxury pet "must-haves" now available in the shops, owning an animal can be a pricey business.

Do you love splashing out on your faithful friend? Had you ever thought of shopping around for your pet's health treatments? Do you think we spend too much on our pets?

Your reaction



I think it is about time we had some sort of National Vet Service, paid for by a pet licence, and run along the lines of the NHS.

George Forth, UK
I think people should view vet services exactly as they would anything else - you shop around. Having said that, the price is extortionate, although whether that is the fault of the vet or of the companies which supply the drugs and equipment remains to be seen...
However, a pet is just like a member of the family - you would not intentionally endanger your family's health due to financial constraints and that is perhaps why prices are so high - you pay it or your pet suffers. I think it is about time we had some sort of National Vet Service, paid for by a pet licence, and run along the lines of the NHS.
George Forth, UK

The simple fact is that most animals are more deserving than most people of the medical attention that is "lavished" on them. People have the ability to do those things which will enable them to take care of their own health needs. Animals do not have any such ability. They are forced to rely on us for help, humans, on the other hand, who look to others for help ought to examine what they (and their society) needs to do to take care of themselves.
Paul Rossi, United States

Ever heard of the two seals that cost $80000 each to heal, after an oil spillage in Canada? They both got eaten by a big whale half an hour after being returned to the sea.
Steve Freeman, UK

Our dog really enhances our family life. As well as the fun of having a bouncy, playful Labrador around, I have to take several walks every day, whatever the weather, which has got to be good for my health. These benefits are worth money! Fortunately, we have a great vet who has twice given us free advice over the 'phone rather than making us visit him and get charged.
Simon Burne, The Netherlands

Not long ago I spent a total of about 25 to save the health of a goldfish that would cost 1.50 to replace. If people don't like that, that's their problem. It's my money and I'll do what I please with it.
John B, UK



Do you all not think that there is something wrong when a person treats a pet better than s/he treats another person?

Janita, Zimbabwe
When an animal's life is treated like it is more worthy than a person's life, then I have a problem with that. How can people spend thousands on "furry friends" when they can so easily spend that same money on some " biological buddies", ie HUMANS: I am constantly appalled by the manner in which pets are treated, especially in the Western world. Do you all not think that there is something wrong when a person treats a pet better than s/he treats another person? I am not advocated for cruelty to animals, I am just advocating to a readjustment of our priorities!
Janita, Zimbabwe

So explain to me why I should not spend my money as I wish and on something I love, trust, have a medical reliance upon, is there for me whenever I need help and is a constant companion. I have had dogs for 49 years, and had children and grandchildren for the past 28 years. I love my family but they are not able to be with me 24/7 whereas the dogs I have owned have been there all the time. I donate to the poor and needy and I also donate the sick and infirm but horror of horrors I also donate to animal sanctuaries. It's my cash and I shall spend it as I want. I can TRUST my dog, shame I can't trust most of the population as well!
Connie Davis, Brit in NL

I come from a poor family where my pets were three mongrels according to your standards. No food, not water, no shelter, nothing. They had to feed for themselves. But still, I did really love those dogs when I was growing up. Now I have my family, and they have taken over. It is all a matter of growing up.
A Chege, Kenya



Lay off and go and pick on the truly irresponsible people in society.

S Castle, Texas, USA
Some of the comments here seem to suggest that if we spent less money on our pets and donated that money to feed the world's hungry, we would eliminate world hunger. They cannot be serious. If we stopped by buying pet food and donated that money, people would STILL go hungry. I know people who spend far more money on designer perfumes and shoes than I do on my family - my pets. Lay off and go and pick on the truly irresponsible people in society.
S Castle, Texas, USA

Pets are family members and as such we try and make sure they get the best of everything. Sure, some of us do get ripped off and so we should shop around. And sure, some pet owners spend an awful lot of money on toys for their pets. Personally I disagree with that. Pets want the companionship of their humans first and foremost. I work at an animal shelter and constantly see the abused and neglected animals being brought in by thoughtless, selfish members of society and as a result feel strongly that not enough is being done to prevent this. Spaying and neutering is one way and spending money on that operation should be encouraged.
Jasmine Guha, UK/USA

I'm a cat owner and yes, vet's bills are hefty so get your pet insured and save that headache. If you're not prepared to exercise responsibility then don't get a pet - they deserve someone better. I don't believe in pet parlours, designer outfits or leopard skin settees for your mog/pooch because that truly is ridiculous. However, I would like to point out that nations who treat animals abominably also tend to have rather dreadful human rights records....
Ferzana, UK



There is nothing wrong with paying significant amounts of cash the save life and reduce suffering of the pet that you love.

Phil Hall, UK
I would like to appeal to all loving pet owners! If you are confronted with the dreadful dilemma that you genuinely do not have the means to pay for life saving treatment for your pet.
Please, please remember that the RSPCA and PDSA are more than willing to intervene. There is nothing wrong with paying significant amounts of cash the save life and reduce suffering of the pet that you love. It is perfectly natural.
Phil Hall, Northampton, UK

I believe that we spend on our pets because they provide us with happiness. If they provide us with milk we'll take it, with meat we'll take it, and our pets provide us with a smile, and that's why we don't have a cow pet at home, so it is not love of animals what we do because we kill one to feed another. Let us tell the truth, that we don't spend on other human being in other part of the world as much as we spend on our pets because they don't provide us with anything.
Nasif Rafiq, Palestine



You should not believe that all vets practice to the same standards - even for routine procedures.

Nick Cave, New Zealand
The veterinary industry is as much market driven as any other. Only the individual pet owner can dictate what is truly "too" much to spend on a pet. Value judgements from others have no place. Certainly, any variation in charges between vets is to a large degree a reflection of the variation of standards of care. You should not believe that all vets practice to the same standards - even for routine procedures.
Nick Cave, New Zealand

My wife and I have had pets all our married life, horses, cats, dogs, birds, fish, and haven't overspent on the upkeep of them and they have added greatly to our pleasure in life. They have not been a substitute for other people as we have raised 7 children and have now 23 grandchildren, and they enjoy all our pets, so the amount spent on our pets is paid for over and over by the joy we receive from them. This I feel is how most pet owners feel.
Bill Abbott, Canada

People have the right to spend money on pets if they want. However, some pets have an impact on the environment so, just like cars, they should be a taxable luxury. Dog and cat tax please.
Pepe, UK

I think we spend too much money treating and pampering our pets in Britain because we love them!
Rachel Sampey, England



Perhaps if we had to meet our own healthcare bills we would be a little more realistic in our expectations of the vets.

Mary Lyle, UK
We do seem to have our priorities a little out of kilter. We are happy to spend money on our animals but seem to think we should have our own healthcare totally free.
Perhaps if we had to meet our own healthcare bills we would be a little more realistic in our expectations of the vets. After all they have to work hard at University to qualify and equipping and maintaining a surgery cannot be cheap not to mention conforming to all the legislative requirements.
We should be grateful that they will come out at all times of day and do the best they can for our pets.
Mary Lyle, UK

If people are paying three times the price that other veterinary practices are charging, then they deserve to be ripped off. Unfortunately stupidity often clashes with capitalism where "shopping around" ensures short lived gains for the rippers off of our society.
Neil Hastings, USA

When you buy or acquire a pet, you automatically accept that this is your responsibility. Overcharged or not, you must have it done, it's down to you, the owner.
Stacey Clarke, UK

I do not suppose that there is anything particularly wrong in spending money on pets: as to how much is too much, that is an issue relative to the satisfaction we get in keeping them. However, I think our love of animals should be a reflection of our love for one another as humans. If you can love one, there should be no reason why you cannot love the other.
Harry Olufunwa, United States



People who own pets are some of the biggest contributors of money to other charities.

Vickie Reeves, United States
I love my dogs very much and I will continue to spend as much money on them as my salary permits me to do so.
I have found that people who own pets, are some of the biggest contributors of money to other charities. People who own pets are happy and live longer. It has been documented that owning a pet lowers blood pressure. We use pets for rescue efforts and as visitors to senior citizen's homes and to cheer up the ill in hospitals.
If this world is to care about others, then we must start at basic level. To do this requires that children be raised with pets to learn responsibility, caring, and compassion.
Vickie Reeves, United States

I'd have more compassion for those who are against spending money on pets if they actually practised what they preached. Most are hypocrites of the first water, however; they spend more money on tobacco, alcohol, entertainment, and other non-essentials in one month than I do on my dog in an entire year.
If people don't like animals, that's fine: but don't let them preach to me about wasting money unless they're willing to give every penny of their disposable income to charity.
Charlene, Canada



People are not spending the money. The pets are. And it sounds as though they are spending it pretty wisely - on themselves.

Frank Park, England
Judging from the responses to this forum, it's quite clear that a number of people are angry at the notion of an animal's life being rated above a human being's. The fact that we are the dominant species on the planet does not mean that we are also the most important. It just means that we are zoological imperialists! After all, would anyone dare say that a European is more important than an African...?
Ed Bayley, USA

No we don't spend too much money on our pets. I have two dogs, one of which has recently been diagnosed as having a long-term illness which can be stabilised through drug treatment. So far, this has cost me over 500, with bills of at least 30 per month for the rest of his life. However, he has provided us with love and companionship for 11 years and I wouldn't part with him for the world. He is an excellent burglar alarm and there is nothing more reassuring than to answer the door to a stranger with a large dog barking behind you! Also, research has proven that pet owners are less stressed and hospitals even use "pet therapy" to help people recover from illnesses. I am always suspicious of anyone who doesn't like animals.
Helen, England

People are not spending the money. The pets are. And it sounds as though they are spending it pretty wisely - on themselves.
Jon Livesey, USA

If you can afford to have a pet why not register yourself with at least 3 vets and when potentially expensive treatment is required, go to all 3 vets and ask for 3 quotes. That will certainly exhibit the cheapest one. This is what we do with cars so why not with our dearest pets?
Han de MIn, UK



They are taking advantage of the love we have for our animals.

Helen Jenkins, Wales
I have just spent 400 on my cats, one of which died from feline leukaemia. I know that animal drugs are 8 times more expensive than human drugs but still, I have never seen a poor vet. I partly blame the drug companies. They are taking advantage of the love we have for our animals.
Helen Jenkins, Wales

If you think about how much you would pay if you were footing the bill for your own healthcare, it's probably quite good value for money. On the other hand, there are many insurance companies who offer pet insurance to cover veterinary bills at somewhat less cost than private healthcare for ourselves.
Nick, UK



If you think you won't be able to afford this, don't get the pet in the first place!

Gary Hellen, Briton in Cyprus
Spending too much on your pet is far better than spending too little! Animals have no choice when we buy them and make them ours - pet owners have a responsibility to ensure that the animals they own are given appropriate treatment, no matter how much it costs. If you think you won't be able to afford this, don't get the pet in the first place!
Gary Hellen, Briton in Cyprus

Once you've owned a pet, they truly do become part of your family. In the same way that you would do everything and anything in your power to prevent suffering in a human, you do the same for your pet. Cost often isn't a consideration- you just do what you have to do. It does make pet insurance all the more attractive though as it covers many of the illnesses and ailments that can affect family pets.
Debbie Stevenson, Scotland, UK

The British are so sentimental about animals they are ripe for rip off. Some seem to value animals more highly than kids. Have you ever wondered why we have a "Royal" society to protect animals and only a "National" society to protect our children! I guess any price is worth paying for unconditional love. On the other hand would it not be better to channel our money and energy into more productive human relationships.
John Nevitt, UK

We are open to splurging on ourselves and our children so what's wrong with the idea of splurging on our pets? Are they not worthy?
Tara =Hatch, England

First off, if you can't resist buying silly luxuries then its your call, not the shops. If some vets charge uncompetetive rates then vote with your feet and go elsewhere. Simple as that.
Gordon Joseph, UK

Definitely - look how much of our money Tony Blair has spent grooming Dobson.
Paul, UK



The bill was high but due to the pain of losing our cat it seemed irrelevant.

David Hall, England
My cat died this week after spending two days in the vets undergoing tests. The bill was high but due to the pain of losing our cat it seemed irrelevant. Even now after reflection, I would have paid anything to still have him alive. So no, I feel that if you really do have a heart and a genuine love for your pet you must pay good money to help them out.
A vet's job is not easy and like human hospitals, medication is not cheap. A replacement for children?!? Give us a break! We are a nation of animal lovers who couldn't care about the cost of pet upkeep as long as it does not take you under the breadline. At the end of the day, they give us more pleasure than any of us so called intelligent beings do.
David Hall, England



No matter what sort of day I've had, what sort of mood I'm in the welcome I get from them, money could not buy.

Helen, UK
I cannot think of anything more rewarding than the love of an animal. When I've been out and come home to my dog and cat, it's like being famous for 10 minutes of every day! No matter what sort of day I've had, what sort of mood I'm in the welcome I get from them, money could not buy.
The loyalty of a pet is largely unconditional, something that is lacking in many of our lives. Let those of us who choose to have our love and affection. I would be interested to know if the people who made the comments regarding poverty and starvation give the equivalent of pet food and vet bills to a charity every month?
Helen, UK

To those complaining about the disgusting amount of money spent on animals, please consider a few things. Firstly, why is spending money on a much loved pet, for their own enjoyment, any different from (or worse than) spending it on consumer goods like TVs, Videos etc.
Janet, Scotland

The simple answer is "yes". However, vets, pet care plans, pet food, pet shops and other pet related businesses are keeping people in jobs who pay taxes etc. If all these jobs were to go, unemployment goes up, the government receives less tax and we would all have to pay more tax. It is not a crime to love an animal for a pet, let's end things like war and crime and the money saved from that can feed the developing nations!
Niz, UK



The vet would insist on blood tests, biopsies, operations, anaesthetics etc each with their own exorbitant costs.

Philip Levy, UK
For years my mum spent a fortune on vets bills. What would happen was that the dog would get a lump. The vet would then insist on blood tests, biopsies, operations, anaesthetics etc each with their own exorbitant costs. All these lumps were benign yet the vet insisted on operating.
The fact is these operations were unnecessary and caused no end of suffering to the animals as well as costing several hundred pounds an op. Since we researched the lumps we found that after 3 months they tend to disappear anyway and other vets have said that surgical removal prompts further growth.
Philip Levy, UK

The money I spend on my cats is my money, not yours. Keep your hands out of my pockets!
Richard T. Ketchum, USA

Comparing how much we spend on our pets to how much is required to feed the starving of the world, as some have done, seems particularly crass. Having me feed my dog, cockateils and parakeets (budgies) seems a lot more harmless than arming myself to the teeth and shooting the poor people of this world! As for me spending too much, it's my discretionary income and I'll do what I damn well please with it! And if I get ripped off in the process, stupid me!
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK



I feel that the majority of veterinarians offer a good balance between cost and standard of care.

Mr M. Pinches MRCVS, UK
There may be large differences between the charges levied by some veterinary practices and by others, but often these cost savings can occur with a loss of standard of care towards the animal. For example I once used to work at a practice where I had to deceive the principle in order to give the animals analgeisa post-operatively.
I am afraid that modern healthcare costs are very high due to both the structure of the industry and by the large amount of R+D that takes place. Personally I feel that the majority of veterinarians offer a good balance between cost and standard of care. And I feel that people should bear in mind that approx 1/3 of their lifetime tax burdens will pay for their healthcare throughout their lives. Now who gets a good deal?
Mr M. Pinches MRCVS, UK

I have just acquired two beautiful kittens - brother and sister. I fully intend to have them vaccinated and sterilised and am going to shop around for the best prices as it goes without saying that veterinary treatment is not cheap.
As for luxury items, I do not have the money for them and feel that my kittens are quite happy with what they have got. They have also got each other to play with and they make their own fun most of the time!
What I can't fathom is those people who are on benefits etc and say that they can't afford to feed themselves, yet they have pets. I would have thought that if they were that poor, owning a pet would be a luxury?
Suzey, UK

I am disgusted by some of the comments that have been made here. Yes some people have pets and they are substitutes for a child but have you thought of the reasons behind this? There are millions of people in the world that are not able to have children, if having a pet is a comfort to them then who are we to judge them.
Many people would rate an animal's life over a human being because the animal has been a part of their lives for a long time. It sickens me that people that have pets are judged so easily. I have not got a pet myself but I am sympathetic to pet owners.
Michelle, UK

I woke up to this fact a few years ago. I had a Harlequin Great Dane (German Mastif). As a pup, 2 years, she ate 4 times a day, with ground meat and eggs for the first meal. I lived next door to a butcher who gave her scraps and bones. When she came into heat, I paid $150.00 to breed her. In essence I paid $150.00 to shack my dog up. I've never done that for myself!
Collin, Canada



Personally I don't spoil animals I just spoil my children.

Mark, Germany
We cannot criticise animal lovers from lavishing their animals with love and affection. However there is an industry which has built up to constantly bombard us with marketing of pet food , pet insurance etc. Personally I'm not gullible to that type of pressure but some people are and that may be because to them a pet is like a person to be loved and spoilt. Many older people view pets as companions and hate to see them sick and go out of their way to make them apart of their family. People like this should not be criticised since we live in a non loving society where divorce and loneliness and early death are a fact of life. But personally I don't spoil animals I just spoil my children.
Mark, Germany

I read that to distribute the world's food mountains and eradicate starvation would cost 8bn/year. Compare that to the 11bn/year that the 1st world spends on pet food. How can we justify this kind of behaviour? It sickens me that we rate an animal's life above a humans. People need to remember that an animal life is just that, and instead of wasting thousands of pounds on medical treatment they should have the beast put down, and get another one. After all, they are only animals.
Pob, Scotland



The money we spend on pets is not worth it when lots of people in the world die of hunger. We spend lavishly on pets money that could be donated to the needy and poor.

Anantdeep Dhillon, India
It can be difficult to shop around for pet care as apart from routine jabs, it tends to be when your pet has had a run-in with the local dog or bus that they need the expensive treatment. In that case, the nearer the vet the better tends to be what's important, not the cost. Also, if you have an older pet, (my cat Freddy is 12), you can't even sign them up for pet insurance.
Vicky, UK

Of course the British spend too much on pets. Anyway, they are just child substitutes. Get a life!
Steve, England

I agree that some vets charge much more for the same treatment. Sometimes you are paying extra because of the cost of having surgery in an expensive area. On the other hand I don't mind paying for those little extras - biscuits - chewies etc. as thanks for the loyalty and companionship of my pet (a 5 year old German shepherd dog).
Linda Lewis, Brazil

The money we spend on pets is not worth it when lots of people in the world die of hunger. We spend lavishly on pets money that could be donated to the needy and poor.
Anantdeep Dhillon, India

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