Large numbers of pets and companion animals are maintained in households, particularly in developed countries. These pets consume considerable amounts of food at a time of increasing food shortage. The situation has worsened because of the changing composition of diets for cats and dogs. Recent developments in pets' feeding habits, arising from the growth of the pet-food industry, puts them in competition for food with the human population. Pets are also an important factor in the transmission of disease to man and to other domestic animals. Sidewalks of crowded inner cities are littered with dog excrement which causes disease, particularly among young children. The acquisition of wildlife as pets from areas where rabies or rarer diseases are endemic constitutes a special public health problem. The novelty of exotic pets appeals to some people, but there seems to be a lack of public information on how to handle or keep such animals as ocelots, raccoons, tarantulas, and armadillos. Three-quarters of these animals die within six months or are deposited in a humane society shelter or roadside zoo. Research also indicates that what is assumed to be animal love is, in many instances, animal exploitation or an expression of the owner's vanity.
In the USA, households shelter more animals than people, with pets outnumbering humans more than three to one. Estimates of the pet population are 50 million dogs, 50 million cats, 20 million birds, ten million other warm blooded creatures, ranging from rodents to monkeys, and 600 million fish. There are eleven thousand dog shows a year USA alone and seven billion dollars per annum is spent on veterinary fees.
More than nine-tenths of all the animals (by weight) in Britain is of domestic animals; only one-tenth is wild. In the UK, 54% of households are estimated to own pets. Pets are to be found in 55% of French households (one dog in every 3 families, 1 cat in every 4), involving expenditure of $5.2 billion in 1988 to care for the 35 million animals.
It is estimated that 95 percent of the wild turtles that enter the pet trade are dead within a year. Pet stores make their money selling the vivarium not the turtle. If the animal dies, having made the investment in equipment, it is likely to be replaced with another.