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Saturday, May 25, 2019

Who Do You Live With?

We were trying to explain the Census to our 7-year-old son. They want to make sure they count everybody, we said, so they send a questionnaire to every home. We have to fill it out and send it back.

"So they want to know everyone in our family?" he asked. We said yes. "Cheddar too?" Cheddar is our dog. No, the Census does not ask about pets... but shouldn't it?

Just the day before, I had gone to see a new doctor. They sent me an online form to complete in advance, and they wanted to know if I lived with any pets. On an individual level, there was a clear medical interest in pets. The data would also be invaluable on the larger scale of the Census.

Statistics about pets would be useful for a range of public health and planning professionals. The currently available data pales in comparison to what could be compiled with minimal effort by adding a simple question to the Census. The new data would be invaluable for planning and operating shelter systems more efficiently, and private veterinarians could use the data to help identify locations to open a practice. Epidemiologists would be able to model potential disease vectors much more accurately. Sociologists and market researchers would surely find new relationships by parsing the data. Ideally, urban planners would utilize the data to help plan dog runs within an overall park system and consider zoning issues with pet-related land uses.

Obviously, this late in 2019, the Census Bureau is not going to add a question to the decennial census. It is worth real consideration for inclusion in the ongoing American Community Survey, since regular quality data about the animal members of our community would be so useful.

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