Pet Owners Not Worried That Their Pets Will Get Sick From Pet Food

by Joseph Carroll

Most don't agree with pain and suffering damages for pets

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- In recent weeks, many dogs and cats have gotten sick or died from pet food that was contaminated with melamine from wheat gluten used in different kinds of pet food currently on the market. Despite this, a new Gallup Panel survey finds most dog and cat owners unconcerned that their own pets will get sick from contaminated food. Pet owners say they are now less likely to buy certain brands of pet food, but they are not less likely to buy pet food at a grocery or pet food store, feed their pets canned pet food, or take the extreme step of no longer feeding pet food to their dog or cat. Most Americans tend to agree with state laws that usually do not allow pet owners to sue for pain and suffering damages if their pet dies due to the negligence of a third party.

Concerns Over Contaminated Pet Food

The March 26-29, 2007 survey was conducted last Monday-Thursday and may not reflect recent changes in opinion due to developments in the last few days. The poll asked dog and cat owners if they were very worried, somewhat worried, not too worried, or not worried at all that their pets will get sick from eating contaminated pet food. Only about one in three pet owners say they are very or somewhat worried, while the vast majority says they are not too or not at all worried.

Cat owners are slightly more likely than dog owners to express concerns that their pets will get sick: 36% of all cat owners compared with 30% of all dog owners.

What Will Pet Owners Do Now?

The poll also explored whether dog and cat owners would change their feeding habits as a result of the recent cases of pet food contamination. A majority of pet owners, 59%, say they are now less likely to buy certain brands of pet food. But, most pet owners say they are not less likely to buy pet food at a grocery store or pet food store, feed their pets canned pet food, or feed their pets any kind of pet food.

The poll also finds essentially no difference between dog owners' and cat owners' actions as a result of the recent cases of pet food contamination.

 

Less Likely to … ?
Among Dog vs. Cat Owners
March 26-29, 2007, (percentage saying "yes, less likely")

 

All dog owners

All cat owners

 

%

%

Buy certain brands of pet food

59

59

Feed your pet canned pet food

44

39

Feed your pet any kind of pet food

22

20

Buy pet food at a grocery store or pet food store

18

18

Should Emotional Losses Be Recovered?

Some people who have suffered the loss of a pet in recent weeks may be considering a lawsuit against the company that manufactured the tainted food. But, according to news reports quoting legal experts, pets are treated as personal property in most states and owners would only be entitled to actual monetary damages (due to medical treatment of their pet) and not pain and suffering damages to compensate for any emotional loss.

When asked about this in the latest poll, just 33% of Americans say pet owners should be able to sue for pain and suffering damages; 63% say pet owners should only be entitled to receive compensation for actual damages.

Americans who own both cats and dogs (36%) are more likely to favor pain and suffering awards for the loss of a pet than non-pet owners (22%).

Survey Methods

Results for this panel study are based on telephone interviews with 1,006 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted March 26-29, 2007. Respondents were randomly drawn from Gallup's nationally representative household panel, which was originally recruited through random selection methods. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 624 dog or cat owners, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

5. As you may know, juries can award monetary damages for pain and suffering in addition to actual damages in a lawsuit involving a person's death. What do you think should happen when a pet dies due to the actions of another person or company? Do you think a pet owner should be able to sue for pain and suffering damages, or should a pet owner only be entitled to receive actual damages for the loss of their pet?

 

 

Should be able to sue for pain and suffering

Should only be entitled to actual damages

No opinion

       

2007 Mar 26-29

33%

63

4

9. (Asked of dog or cat owners) As you may know, some pets in the United States have gotten sick or died from eating dog and cat food that was contaminated. How worried are you that your pet will get sick from eating contaminated pet food -- very worried, somewhat worried, not too worried, or not worried at all?

BASED ON 624 DOG OR CAT OWNERS

 

 

Very worried

Somewhat worried

Not too worried

Not worried at all

No opinion

           

2007 Mar 26-29

9%

24

34

33

*

* = Less than 0.5%

10. (Asked of dog or cat owners) As a result of the recent cases of pet food contamination, are you now less likely to -- [RANDOM ORDER], or not?

BASED ON 624 DOG OR CAT OWNERS

 

2007 Mar 26-29 (sorted by "yes, less likely")

Yes, less likely

No, not less likely

No opinion

 

%

%

%

Feed your pet canned pet food

41

56

3

Buy certain brands of pet food

59

40

1

Buy pet food at a grocery store or pet food store

18

79

3

Feed your pet any kind of pet food

21

77

2

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