The benefits of pet ownership on human health may help the NHS reduce costs by nearly £2.45 billion – and vets should be praised for playing their part by keeping the nation’s animals healthy, according to a report.
Companion Animal Economics – The Economic Impact of Companion Animals in the UK, published by the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), examined evidence on the direct and indirect benefits and costs of companion animals to society, including their influence on human mental and physical health.
The report said pets accounted for millions of pounds worth of economic activity in the UK and, subsequently, may help reduce NHS costs. It is the first time such an assessment has been made for nearly 40 years.
Companion Animal Economics was developed by Daniel Mills, professor of veterinary behavioural medicine at the University of Lincoln, and Sandra McCune, human-animal interaction expert at Mars Petcare’s Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition.
Prof Mills said: “Vets are well aware how important companion animals are to their owners, but it is important they appreciate the positive impact they can have on the physical, mental and social health of both individuals and society more widely. This report should help raise awareness of this and their economic importance in times of economic uncertainty.”
He also agreed vets should be praised for playing their part in the potential reduction of NHS costs and help spread the message pet ownership can have human health benefits – as long as acquiring a pet is what an individual wants and he or she has time to give to it.
When evaluating the contribution of companion animals to the UK economy, the report considered both positive and negative aspects.
The cost of NHS treatment for bites and strikes from dogs is estimated at around £10 million per year, while the report estimates pet ownership in the UK may reduce use of the UK health service by up to £2.45 billion per year. The conclusion was reached by examining health care savings through a reduced number of doctor visits.
The report concluded research into companion animals and their economic impact on society needs further investigation and should be supported by the Government.
- Read the full story, including reaction from the BVA, in the 16 January issue of Veterinary Times.