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Community Voices: The rise of pets and pet friendly in a post Covid-19 world

Karen Bartoszek

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Courtesy of City of St. Pete Flickr.

Welcome to the Catalyst’s Community Voices platform. We’ve curated community leaders and thinkers from all parts of our great city to speak on issues that affect us all. Visit our Community Voices page for more details.

Before the Covid-19 crisis hit, the demand for pet friendly restaurants, breweries, workplaces, housing and travel was on the rise nationwide. You did not have to look far to see proof of this in St. Petersburg, Florida — and thanks to Mayor Kriseman and the St. Pete PAWS initiative, the City has embraced and promoted the love of four-legged residents and visitors.

This is the age of the pet parent. According to the 2019-2020 American Pet Products Association (APPA) Pet Owners Survey, 67% of US households own a pet, which equates to 84.9 million homes. Millennials have tipped the scales on pet ownership. Boomers and Gen Xers ushered in the rise of pets as family and Millennials and Gen Z have cemented it.

Covid-19 has generated a huge increase in pet fostering and adoptions. Shelters are empty. The impact pets are making on our health at this time cannot be overstated. They get us out and exercising. They reduce our stress levels and comfort us. They prevent isolationism and depression. We are never alone even while under Safer at Home orders. They provide a sense of normalcy amid all the uncertainty and they love us with an unconditional love.

Through this crisis we are reassessing our priorities and values. A level of hyper-bonding is happening between people and their furry and even winged loved ones that has never been seen before. When the gates are opened, these closely knit bonds are going to reshape the way we look at pet friendly in businesses of all kinds and in cities, too. What was once a nice to have is now going to be a must do.

So, what does pet friendly look like for businesses and cities in a post Covid-19 world?

• 65% of millennial job seekers were asking if the workplace was pet friendly before this crisis. With Work From Home in place, furry co-workers have become the norm. Expect more employees to seek pet friendly workplaces. For businesses the benefits can be tremendous from a healthier workforce, greater collaboration, lowered stress levels, increased productivity and even team building.

• After cooking their own meals for 30+ days and not socializing, people are going to be ready to eat out, stop in for the latest brew or go shopping, and they will have their fur babies in tow. Restaurants, breweries/bar and stores welcoming pets will see a surge in fur family business. It is a great time to consider pet space and amenities which can also help drive new revenue opportunities.

• Pets of all sizes and breeds have been adopted. Breed and size restriction-free housing will be needed now more than ever. This is an opportunity to gain higher occupancy rates and great residents who will stay longer (46 months versus 18 months for non-pet owners) and help to promote stable and engaged communities. If breed and size rules remain unchanged, we can expect a rise in Emotional Support Animal applications.

• With the bonds built through Covid-19 the traveling family has changed forever. It now has fur – and this could be a boom for the much-impacted travel and hospitality industry. Traveling pet parents want to share experiences with their furry children. They will stay longer, pamper their fur babies with treats and special amenities, and share it all on social media. This is an opportunity to win over new, loyal return guests and brand ambassadors.

• “A rising tide lifts all boats” could not be truer for cities and the businesses in them. As we have seen in St. Petersburg, having a city that recognizes and supports the importance of pet friendliness and its impact socially, emotionally and economically empowers businesses to take that step and learn from their leadership.

The good news is there are so many powerful and creative ways to make it work. Pets Living the Dream is a pet friendly consulting practice dedicated to helping businesses and cities do just that. We are using our Safer at Home time to develop new programs for businesses and cities to make the most of this new normal in the pet friendly space.

Pre Covid-19 pet friendly was a nice option, post Covid-19 it will be a must have. The impact on the business and professional world will be profound and have a lasting effect. Smart companies and cities will adapt and embrace pet friendliness now as the world begins to emerge and return to a new normal. The opportunity is immense – and 84.9M homes agree.

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