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Illinois: Not so big on pets

Published: Monday, Jan. 28, 2013 3:50 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Jan. 28, 2013 4:03 p.m. CDT

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PRINCETON — Illinois ranks sixth lowest of the 50 states in the number of pet-owning households, according to a recent report by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Specifically, Illinois ranks 47th for cat ownership and 40th for dog ownership.

Al and Sharilyn Davidson of Princeton said those statistics are hard to believe, especially since being a pet owner has brought such joy to their lives.

“What’s a home without a pet?” Sharilyn asked. “They give you unconditional love. When you come home, they greet you at the door with their tales wagging. They know when you’ve had a bad day, and the look they give you makes the day all better.”

Her husband agreed.

Though he grew up as a boy with his mom having cats, Al said he got his first pet in 1968 when he got a white Siberian Husky puppy for his daughters, then ages 4 and 2. He wanted his girls to be able to watch the puppy grow up and become a part of the family, which it did.

Through the years, pets have been an important part of the family, Al said.

Several years ago while living in Colorado, he and his wife, Sharilyn, had come back to visit family in Princeton when his sister talked to him about a black lab dog which was at the Friends of Strays animal shelter. About 15 seconds after seeing the dog, they had a dog, Al said. After retiring to Princeton in 2002, the Davidsons got another dog from Friends of Strays.

Today, their dogs, Molly and Duke, bring a daily sense of joy and love to him and his wife.

“They are just like children with their own personalities, wants and needs,” Al said. “They love us to death. When you come home, they are here to greet us at the door. When you love and protect and take care of your dog, they will love you back and bring you such joy and happiness.”

In announcing the recent study, AVMA President Dr. Douglas Aspros said the study reveals a tremendous amount of information about pets and their owners across the country — those things that have remained constant and those things that have changed.

“One of the most important parameters that we look at is how well pet owners are doing at keeping their pets healthy,” Aspros said.  “Unfortunately, the report reveals that fewer dogs and cats are seeing the veterinarian regularly, and that’s something the AVMA and every companion animal veterinarian is concerned about. Pet owners across the country need to remember to bring their pets into the veterinarian – at least once a year – to maintain optimal health.”

Overall, about 81 percent of dog-owning households made at least one visit to the veterinarian in 2011, down 1.7 percent from 2006, Aspros said. The decrease for cat owners was higher with 55.1 percent of cat owners making at least one visit to the veterinarian in 2011, down 13.5 percent from 2006.

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