Pet spending hits record during the pandemic

Despite the virus-induced economic hardships over the past year, pet owners collectively doled out a record-breaking amount of money on their animal companions.

The American Pet Products Association (APPA) announced Wednesday that the industry generated $103.6 billion in annual sales, the industry's highest figure to date.

According to the APPA State of the Industry Report, $42 billion was spent on pet food and treats, representing a 9.7% increase from 2019. Another $22.1 billion was spent on supplies, live animals and over-the-counter medication, a 15.1% increase from 2019. Vet care and product sales also increased 7.2% to $31.4 billion.

Additionally, total retail sales climbed 6.7% from 2019 thanks in part to about 30% of pet owners spending more on their pets in the past year.

The increase may be unsurprising, given the tumultuous times of 2020.

"This past year presented a host of challenges that resulted in consumers across the country turning to their pets for comfort and companionship," said APPA CEO Steve King.

Foster and adoption rates did skyrocket at the height of the pandemic. At the end of April, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reported a near 70% increase in animals going into foster care through the organization’s New York City and Los Angeles foster programs, compared to the same period in 2019.

The APPA reported a 21.4% decline in spending on services such as grooming, dog walking and boarding from the prior year.

But as restrictions continue to ease across the country and more Americans are inoculated, the trade group projects there will be an increase in the use of these services.

Additionally, APPA also has an upbeat forecast for the upcoming year.

"We are bullish for the coming year, projecting growth of 5.8% - well above the historical average of 3 to 4%," King said.