Congress: Going to the Dogs

With the dog days of summer now behind us, many people wonder how Congress can get its work done in a divided, partisan environment. Perhaps they can learn from the most nonpartisan among us — our pets.

Dogs can teach us to succeed in business and in life. These same lessons can apply to those that inhabit our nation’s capital. Dogs teach us patience and to listen non-critically to others. When we study the dynamics of dog behavior, it’s really less about being the alpha dog, and more about winning the friendship and loyalty of the pack.

Why a column about pets? The pet care industry works together to make it easier to care for our pets as cherished family members, and it’s an economic powerhouse, generating $221 billion in economic activity and supporting 1.3 million jobs. This is also an industry that works tirelessly to support animal welfare across America, most recently going all out to help the many pets displaced by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

While we can learn good behavior and important life lessons from our pets, it turns out that pets are also good public policy. The pet care community also supports the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers Act to provide service dogs to veterans with post-traumatic stress and the Pet and Women Safety Act to help survivors of domestic violence find safe shelter for their pets. Each of these bills has attracted more than 200 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle. Congress should pass these bipartisan bills, which will improve and even save lives. To members of Congress, the message is: Wag more, stress less, and make good laws!

More than 80 million households have pets, and there is growing scientific evidence that pet owners are healthier than non-pet owners. Not only do pets relieve stress and boost our sense of wellbeing, they also help families dealing with cancer, autism and Alzheimer’s disease. Research has also shown that communities with more pets have stronger social bonds. Furthermore, an analysis conducted by researchers at George Mason University found that pet ownership saves Americans $11.78 billion in healthcare costs. With numbers like that, we need to think about ways to make it easier to own a pet for a healthier society.

Although congressional leadership may say life on Capitol Hill is more like herding cats, remember that when people say Congress has gone to the dogs, it’s really a good thing.

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