It's always been assumed that this slice of the demographic pie likely feels this way because their pets serve as surrogate children, that they don't have children of their own kids, or that their kids are grown and out of the house.
"All throughout the poll, it's clear that we don't just say pets are members of the family; they really are members of the family, and that's how we treat them," says Aaron Easterly, Rover.com CEO.
Also, 60 percent of people who self-identified themselves as "pet parents" allow their dogs to share their beds, compared to a still significant 40 percent who allow the dog on the bed, though they prefer to be known as pet owners.
You might think members of the more fervent group who call themselves "pet parents" might be more inclined to rescue mixed-breed dogs, but that's not so, according to the survey. Both groups (those calling themselves "pet parents" and those who prefer the term "pet owners') are responsible for about the same number of purebred dogs, at 61 percent.
Easterly says, "People want the best for their pets. If the perception, true or not, is that something is better, that's what people will do."
For example, among many, the perception is that organic pet food and raw pet food is somehow better than other pet food choices. The truth is that when it comes to raw foods, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College of Veterinary Nutritionists and others offer concerns regarding safety and come out against buying raw. Still, 39 percent of those calling themselves "pet parents" prefer a diet specifically marketed as organic and 16 percent seek out a raw food diet.
In many cities, restaurants are increasingly welcoming dogs in patios and sidewalk cafes. Some states have even formalized the idea of allowing dogs in patios and cafes into law for restaurants that think it's a good idea. According to the survey, these restaurants likely benefit, since about 70 percent of dog owners and dog parents say they'd more likely visit dog-friendly places. Welcoming canine clientele is good for business.
Also, the survey indicates just over a quarter of people who consider themselves "pet parents" concede their canine best friend has a social media presence (such as a personal Facebook page or Twitter handle).
Since Rover.com is a social community that connects dog owners with trusted dog sitters across the country, Easterly is pleased, though not surprised, that the vast majority of people who share their homes with at least one dog (over 75 percent) suggest that research into choosing a pet sitter is equally as important as choosing a babysitter.
"This statistic is consistent with all our other findings," Easterly says. Is it over the top? Not according Easterly.
"I'm not suggesting anyone should consider our dogs to moral or legal equivalents to real children," he says. "But obviously, dogs bring something to lives of families who share their lives with them. And we know that sharing our lives with dogs has medical advantages. Today, dogs truly are family."
(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)