Exploring U.S. Companion Animal Issues
YouGov is an organization that collects and analyzes data on a variety of topics. In May 2022, they asked 1,000 U.S. adults to weigh in on different issues involving companion animals. The topics were varied, ranging from beliefs about animal laws to opinions on vegan dog diets and more.
Living with animal companions is a common practice. Indeed, 58% of the sample reported having one or more. Of those, 70% had at least one dog, 54% a cat, and 91% considered them family members.
In the U.S., nearly 85 million households include a companion animal. With so many animals to feed, perhaps it’s no surprise that the companion animal food industry fuels factory farming. Of those surveyed, only 14% were in favor of veg*ns feeding their pets a meat-free diet, while 36% were opposed and 50% had no opinion or were unsure.
This finding suggests that convincing the public to accept meatless companion animal food is still a challenging task. One way to change people’s minds is to remind them that giving animals the right nutrients is the most important factor in any diet — and plant-based diets, when delivered under the guidance of a veterinarian, can provide balanced nutrition.
What’s more, 34% of respondents said that animals don’t have enough legal rights, and 45% said that animal cruelty laws aren’t strict enough. For advocates, this suggests that the public may be open to supporting pro-animal political candidates or policies.
The survey also included questions about perceived sentience. 83% of respondents believed that companion animals are capable of feeling love, while 53% said they share personality traits with their guardians. Advocates may consider using this data to persuade people to follow certain ethical behaviors. For example, as it stands, 17% of respondents preferred to acquire companion animals from breeders or pet stores. Knowing that companion animals are capable of experiencing complex emotions can be used to encourage people to adopt, thus reducing the number of animals housed in shelters.
There were some demographic differences in the data, such as gender or age. For example, 53% of women thought that U.S. animal cruelty laws were not strict enough, compared with 38% of men. Similarly, 53% of people aged 45 to 64 thought cruelty laws should be stricter, compared with only 32% of people aged 18 to 29.
Other insights can be found on YouGov’s data visualization page. Companion animals are important, and though there are vastly more farmed animals suffering on factory farms than companion animals in existence, their needs should still be taken into account. Ultimately, understanding how the public feels about companion animals and the issues that affect them can help advocates develop more informed animal protection campaigns.