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More couples are turning to fur children

10:49 PM, Jun 27, 2011   |    comments
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George Clooney's girlfriend, Elisabetta Canalis, made headlines recently when she told Italy's Cosmopolitan magazine she doesn't feel the need to have children. "My maternal desires are fully satisfied with my dogs," she told the magazine.

So can pets really be as fulfilling as having children?

"For me they are definitely like my children," Kia Baskerville says of her 6-year-old labrador mix, Jake, and 2-year-old cat, Auto.  "I love them like they are human children."

Baskerville, and her husband John Cooper, have been married 8 years.

"I've got a bit different view of them," says Cooper.  "I love these guys.  They bring me a lot of joy.  But they aren't kids to me."

"I understand John's thinking. And where he's coming from," says Baskerville.  "I know he'd like to have a child. And I'm not completely ruling it out but at this point, and time in my life, this is it," she says as she clutches Jake by the shoulders.

Baskerville is quick to point out she is not a child hater.  "I love people's kids. It's a joy to have them come out and spend time with us.  But I know I'm going to send them back to mommy and daddy. And I'm going to get on with my life."

And it's one very busy and crazy life.  Baskerville is a special events producer for CBS News.  She covers The White House and is on the road a lot.  Cooper is a cameraman, and he has also gone back to school.

"There are certain age groups that have busier lives," says Tamer Elsafy with Flexcin International.  "We're in a faster paced society. Things are moving so quickly. They don't want to worry about a child right now.  They'd rather have a dog that gives them that little comforting feeling." 

Tamer Elsafy owns a supplement company. Flexcin International also operates the FlexPet Shelter Program to assist in the adoption of older dogs. 

Elsafy recently conducted an online survey of 1.250 pet owners between the ages of 21 and 30.  Sixty-one percent of the respondents said they would rather adopt an older dog over a puppy because a younger dog requires more work, which the respondents had no time for in their busy lives.  But what has grabbed the media headlines is that the majority of respondents said they would choose having a dog instead of children because they aren't sure they could handle the demands of a child.

"Maybe that does sound selfish," says Baskerville.  "Having a child I wouldn't have the freedom, the liberty, to be able to go out and work in crazy hot spots around the world and do what I do.  My lifestyle is so crazy that if I had a child I potentially would have to change, make a lifestyle change, that I really don't want right now."

"I think some people treat their animals better than their children," says Kelly Ballentine, who owns Pet Barn, a high end pet supplies store in Burtonsville and Annapolis.

Stores like Pet Barn have taken "bone appetit" to a whole new level.  Not only is there gourmet, organic fare you can feed your pet, but you can also do it in style.  How about a $200 bowl set for Fido or some lush bedding and a fancy jeweled collar or fancy leash?

"A customer will spend any amount of money if they find the right thing for their dog," says Ballentine.  "They will buy something that matches the color scheme of their house or what they like to wear when walking their dog."

This year, according to the Nationa Pet Owners Survey and published on the American Pet Products Association website, pet owners are poised to spend $48 billion on their pets.

WUSA 9

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