Megatrend 8 – Pets are the New Children


We all remember that first new puppy when we were kids. At the risk of tarnishing my macho image, I confess to being frightened of our first dog, Shandy. She would jump up and scratch me with her paws, then lick my face in a way that reminded me of being kissed by that great aunt who you try to avoid when she comes for Christmas lunch. But I soon warmed to her as she grew from a puppy into a lovable mongrel. And how I cried when mum and I had to take her to the vets to be put down when she reached the grand old age of thirteen.

My American business mentor and co-author of my next book, Dan Kennedy, says that the number one item on his list of complaints he intends making to God is why do dogs live for such a short time? The average adult could go through canine bereavement five or more times before joining them in doggy heaven. Same with cats. They manipulate their way into your affections, usually in an aloof ‘I can take or leave your loving’ kind of a way, then get themselves run over when their ninth encounter with lady luck goes pear shaped.

Of course we are surrounded by weird people who like weird pets. Why would anyone want snakes or lizards in their spare bedroom? Ken Livingstone had his newts. George Clooney had a pig. And don’t get me started on Michael Jackson’s menagerie. But the important point is that stupid levels of spending on animals has now gone mainstream. I live near a big branch of Pets At Home. It’s a sign of the times that they took over a failing Curries PC World, presumably people buy their white goods online these days. It’s a humungous big shed and it’s full of live animals as well as every accessory or foodstuff you’d ever need for them. Everything from rabbits and guinea pigs to tropical fish and lizards. There’s an on-site vet, an on-site dog grooming parlour and the vitally important insurance policies can also be bought during yoru visit.

Move over Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre-White. We’ve moved on. It’s now the age of the Celebrity Vet. Living in Richmond we can claim ownership of the Vet On The Hill, Aussie Dr Scott Miller. What’s incredible to me is the sophistication of treatments and even advanced surgery now routinely offered to keep these mutts healthy and happy. I’ve watched knee replacements, eye operations, behavioural therapies and more that would put the NHS to shame. Whether a dog that’s unlucky enough to end up on a council estate in Luton will end up with the same lavish healthcare I’m not so sure, but it’s clear that the value of the pet sector is rising fast.

We also have the Supervet himself, Professor Noel Fitzpatrick. Operating from his long established practice in Eashing and his new animal hospital in Guildford, he’s taking animal care to a whole new level. He recently acquired the UK’s first hyperbaric veterinary chamber for specialised tissue healing and offers a whole range of treatments directly to patients and via referrals from other vets. Norfolk based CVS now owns three hundred vets practices across the country and their website now advertises bereavement counselling for those who’ve lost an animal.