Mar 8, 2020 - Energy & Environment

The environmental impact of Fluffy and Rover

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The 163 million dogs and cats in the U.S. ate one-quarter of the 94.3 billion pounds of meat the country produced in 2015, or as much as 62 million Americans did, according to estimates by UCLA professor Gregory Okin.

Why it matters: Raising that meat generated greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 64 million tons of carbon dioxide, or as much as the yearly emissions of 12.3 million passenger vehicles. U.S. pet ownership has increased since 2015 when the pet census was taken and Okin made his calculations. As the number of pets has increased, so have emissions.

By the numbers: In 2018, there were...

Yes, but: Because cats are carnivores, animal-nutrition specialists believe going vegetarian or vegan is not a healthy option.

  • As omnivores, dogs benefit from a mixed diet that includes a certain amount of animal protein depending on the breed.

What's new: More pets are increasingly feasting on high-end foods, which contain high-quality meat and require more land, water, fossil fuels, phosphate, biocides and pesticides to produce.

Owners can shrink their pets' dietary footprint by reducing the amount they're fed.

  • Veterinarians classified more than 100 million dogs and cats as overweight or obese in 2018.
  • Owners can also feed their pets lower-quality proteins, as dogs and cats can happily chow on meat byproducts, such as marrow, kidneys and spleen, left from processing meat for humans.
  • Environment-conscience prospective pet owners might consider adopting animals with smaller carbon footprints like birds, rodents and some reptiles.

The bottom line: “This analysis does not mean that dog and cat ownership should be curtailed for environmental reasons, but neither should we view it as an unalloyed good,” UCLA's Okin concludes.

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Hong Kong dog diagnosed with "low-level" coronavirus infection

Pet groomers take preventive measure against the coronavirus while working on the dogs. Photo: Lam Yik/Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Pet owners are urged to adopt "good hygiene practices" like avoiding kissing animals after a dog was found to have a "low-level of infection" of the novel coronavirus, Hong Kong authorities said in a statement Wednesday.

Why it matters: This would appear to be the first case of a likely human-to-animal transmission, per a spokesman for the city's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. But he stressed there's "no evidence that pet animals can be a source of infection of COVID-19 or that they become sick."

Go deeperArrowMar 5, 2020 - Health

Plant-based meats maker Impossible Foods raises $500 million in new funding

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Impossible Foods, a Redwood City, California-based maker of plant-based protein products, raised $500 million in Series F funding led by Mirae Asset Global Investments.

Why it matters: This massive round closed last week. Not only is that notable in our new abnormal, confirming what we heard last week about venture capital willingness to cut checks, but it also should help Impossible handle short-term business disruptions.

A New York Times tweet on Zoom etiquette backfires

After a New York Times tweet on Wednesday suggested that those working from home leave their kids and pets out of work video conferences, Twitter erupted with rebukes.

Why it matters: Most of corporate America is adjusting to working from home right now, with many workers also managing kids who are home from school.