Americans love their pets. Almost 60% of U.S. households owned at least one pet at the end of 2016. According to some reports, even more Americans adopted pets after the COVID-19 pandemic struck — though some have also apparently returned their pets to shelters since returning to work. (These are the states where the most people have been working from home.)
Some parts of the country seem to be more pet-friendly than others. To compile a list of the states with the most pets, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data from the Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, published in 2020 by the American Veterinary Medical Association for companion animal veterinarians and the animal health industry. Collected in 2017-2018, the data is the most recent available, reflecting the total number of households and the number and percentage of dog-owning households in the 48 contiguous states as of December 31, 2016.
Some general trends are apparent: Pet ownership rates are highest in the Heartland and in mountain states like Wyoming, West Virginia, and Idaho. These are largely rural, less densely populated areas where people are more likely to live in single-family houses, which makes having pets easier. (Take a look at the official pets and animals of every state.)
However, other states with plenty of space, where people live in houses rather than apartments — including California, South Dakota, and Colorado — turn out to have relatively low rates of pet ownership. In any case, it’s good to bear in mind that people have pets for very different reasons — for instance, cats for companionship, dogs for hunting, and reptiles just to have around.