Did you know that well more than half of the households in the United States own a pet—that’s 85 million families! More than 1.5 million of those families are in Arizona, with more than 1 million dogs and close to 700,000 cats gracing our homes. In fact, more Arizona households have pets than they have children! Those were just some of the statistics presented by David Haworth, president of PetSmart Charities, who spoke to members of the Economic Development Committee at the Maricopa Association of Governments in January. Whether it’s a dog, cat, horse, bird, fish, or lizard—pets need to eat. They need to be kept clean, be cared for, and have a place to sleep. The pet business is a driving force in the economy, with an estimated 72 billion dollars spent on pets last year. But it’s not just the basic care requirements that are driving strong growth in the pet industry. Strong economic conditions, the demographics of our human population, and a growing body of medical research pointing to the health benefits of pet ownership are all factors in this trend. On an emotional level, owning a pet can decrease depression, stress and anxiety. Health-wise, it can lower your blood pressure, improve your immune system, and even decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke. Phoenix Mayor Thelda Williams agreed, telling the committee she believes that “pets make a difference in people’s lives.” What can local governments do to promote this positive trend? Here’s what Haworth recommends: Encourage pet friendly housing—pet owner tenants tend to be more stable, less likely to damage property, and more willing to do self-repairs. Enforce federal mandates on pet-friendly housing. Consider the benefits of sidewalks, pet-friendly areas and dog parks. These are places where strong community bonding occurs and lead to increased revenues. Develop appropriate animal control budgets to ensure safety and demonstrate care about animal welfare. Think of animal services as human services, as they often protect and support people and families. Pets are especially important to those experiencing homelessness, escaping domestic violence or in hospice care. PetSmart is one of Arizona’s top 50 employers, with 58 PetSmart stores and 114 Animal Welfare partners. PetSmart Charities has helped more than 7 million pets find homes—that’s one out of every 10 adoptions in North America.