Pet industry taking a hit in Rock County - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Pet industry taking a hit in Rock County

By Jeff Angileri - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

JANESVILLE (WKOW) -- Americans are spending more money than ever on their dogs and cats, despite the bad economy. Pets are a $45 billion per year industry, according to the American Pet Products Association.

But the numbers don't add up in Rock County, where the recession means people are prioritizing, and pets aren't always at the top of the list.

It's a difficult situation for people -- take care of what many people consider a member of the family -- or hope their pet stays healthy.

Sandy Olson and Joe Prochazka are life-long dog owners.

When their puppy "Diesel" got hit by a car last week, they took him to the vet, and got an unwelcome financial surprise.

"It was like $195 just to come in," Joe said.

So they left, leaving Diesel with a gash in his leg, and concerns about possible internal injuries.

"He's been really sore," said Sandy. "If you touch him in the wrong spot he yelps, if you pet him wrong he yelps."

In Janesville, it's not a good time to be a pet, pet owner, or person who works with pets.

"Ever since they announced the closing of General Motors, and ever since the plant closed, we've seen a big cut back," said Wendy Frisk, manager of Janesville Veterinary Clinic.

"We've cut hours, cut staff, and are trying to pay off a building addition."

With Rock County's economy struggling to recover, she isn't surprised by the decrease in business.

"On the priority of either I need to feed my family, or I need to get my dog's teeth cleaned -- the dog has to wait a little bit."

Frisk says vets do basic treatments to help pets whose owners can't pay. But the clinic has to survive, too.

"It's one of those hard situations where you really want to help this animal, but we also have to pay our electric bill," Frisk said.

That's leaving some pet owners with a guilty feeling, especially when you're talking about man's best friend.

Said Joe, "You've got someone that's there for you, not matter what. You do for them they do just as much for you, if not more."

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R) introduced a bill last summer that would allow a tax deduction of up to $3,500 per year for pet care expenses.

But with so many other economic issues to deal with, legislators haven't even considered it, and the bill's gone nowhere.

Vet insurance is another option for pet owners -- it can cost between $2,000 - $5,000 over a pet's life.

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