How Much Is a Dog's Life Worth?

Simon F. Haeder, Deven Carlson, Joe Ripberger

Americans love their pets, spending more than US$70 billion last year on their beloved companions. This far exceeds the $7 billion spent on legal marijuana, and $32 billion on pizza, just for two examples.

Of the $70 billion, close to $20 billion pays for veterinary care, $16 billion is on supplies and over-the-counter medicines, and $32 billion is for food.

These large sums make it evident that Americans put great value on the lives of their pets. Yet how much value? We set out to find an answer for the pet Americans are particularly fond of: their dogs.

Read more: Why losing a dog can be harder than losing a relative or friend

We did so by using an experimental survey design that has been used to establish the value of human lives and many other “priceless” things. Ultimately, we concluded that the value is of the average dog is about $10,000. While some may chuckle at our research, we believe it holds important implications for human medicine, health and well-being.

The path to monetizing Bowser

Starting in the 1920s, the federal government initiated efforts to rationalize its decision-making processes by more systematically accounting for potential costs and benefits of public interventions. While the Flood Control Act of 1936 codified these developments, the Roosevelt administrations sought to expand the range of impacts accounted for in these cost-benefit analyses to shape public policy.

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