The market for pets in the U.S. is important economically and socially. Pets differ from standard economic goods in significant ways, and the market displays a number of interesting problems, most notably pet overpopulation. Despite this, the market has been ignored by economists. This paper develops a dynamic model of the market for pets and uses it to study the problem of pet overpopulation. The positive predictions of the model square well with key features of the markets for dogs and cats in the U.S. The model is used to understand, from a welfare economic perspective, the sense in which there is overpopulation of pets and the underlying causes of the problem. The paper also employs the model to consider what policies might be implemented to deal with the problem. A calibrated example is developed to illustrate these corrective policies and quantify the potential welfare gains.
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