Photo by Claudio MatsuokaRecently the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) released the results of their extensive study of U.S. pet ownership and demographics for 2012. This study, which covers everything from statistics on the most pet-loving states to the percentage of people who regularly take their dog to the vet, provides incredible insight into the way we, as Americans, live and interact with our furry family members.

Did you know, for instance, that Vermont ranks #1 when it comes to states with the highest percentage of pet owners? A whopping 70.8% of households in Vermont include a pet, while just 21.9% of those in Washington D.C. report sharing their space with an animal companion.

And the AVMA has some very good news to share about where people are finding their furry family members — fully 44.9% of people who were thinking of acquiring a dog in the next year said they would look first at a shelter, and 39.8% said they would check a local rescue group. Only 19.1% reported that they would visit a breeder, and 15.1% said they might get their new dog from a friend or relative.

Clearly¬†the word is getting out about the benefits of adopting a pet from a local shelter or rescue!¬†There’s more work to be done, but it’s great to see that most people are thinking “adoption first” when it comes to finding a new family pet.

Here are a few other interesting tidbits about the pet-loving masses:

  • Two-thirds of us (62.2%) boast a multi-pet household
  • About 32.7% of us are dog people, 25.6% are cat people, and 15.3% prefer to have a mix of both species
  • Over half of us (51%) let our pets sleep in the bed with us
  • The lousy economy has had an impact on pet ownership — between 2006 and 2011, pet ownership decreased by 2.4% to 56% of households.

Unfortunately, the bad economy is also causing us to take our animals to the veterinarian less frequently. About 81% of dog owners took their pet to the vet at least once time in 2011, while only 55.1% of cat owners report taking their felines in for an annual check-up. But for both cats and dogs, vet visits overall were down from 2006. For dogs, vet visits dropped 1.7% from 2006 to 2011, while for cats the decline was a whopping 13.5%.

So while it’s great that more people are looking to shelters to find their pets, we can all do a little better when it comes to caring for the animals we choose to share our lives with. Many local groups offer low-cost veterinary care, so if you are having trouble finding the extra money for Fido’s shots or Kitty’s spay surgery, be sure to check with your local shelter to see what resources are available.