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Pet Ownership Down In U.S. Since Recession

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Since the beginning of the recession, many Americans have given up on having kids. It seems they also have given up on having pets.

Americans now own fewer pets than in 2006, according to a new study by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). As a result, the U.S. pet population has shrunk. (Hat tip: Time.)

Pets still are popular: 56 percent of all U.S. households owned a pet at the end of last year. But that share is down 2 percent from the end of 2006, according to the study. And pet ownership has fallen across all categories of animal: cats, dogs, birds, horses, specialty pets and exotic pets.

The U.S. population of dogs, cats, pet birds, and horses has plunged. There now are 3 percent fewer dogs, 9 percent fewer cats, 26 percent fewer pet birds and 33 percent fewer horses than before the recession.

Pets can be expensive. Cats and dogs cost more than $1,000 to take care of during the first year, and more than $500 per year after that, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). (Find more information about the cost of pets here.)

In a similar trend, the U.S. birth rate is projected to plunge to a 25-year low this year, after peaking before the recession, according to Demographic Intelligence. It costs between $12,290 to $14,320 per year to raise a child in a middle-income family, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Meanwhile, the median U.S. household's annual income was $50,020 as of January, according to Sentier Research, 8 percent less than at the end of 2007.

The economy could be on the upswing. Americans recently have been indulging in more haircuts, dinners out and plastic surgeries. But the pace of consumer spending growth has slowed sharply over the past year, according to the Commerce Department.

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