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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.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

House passes sweeping election and anti-corruption bill

Photo: Win McNamee via Getty Images

The House voted 220-210Wednesday to pass Democrats' expansive election and anti-corruption bill.

Why it matters: Expanding voting access has been a top priority for Democrats for years, but the House passage of the For the People Act (H.R. 1) comes as states across the country consider legislation to rollback voting access in the aftermath of former President Trump's loss.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

House passes George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

Photo: Stephen Maturen via Getty Images

The House voted 220 to 212 on Wednesday evening to pass a policing bill named for George Floyd, the Black man whose death in Minneapolis last year led to nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Why it matters: The legislation overhauls qualified immunity for police officers, bans chokeholds at the federal level, prohibits no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and outlaws racial profiling.

8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans plan to exact pain before COVID relief vote

Sen. Ron Johnson. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Republicans are demanding a full, 600-page bill reading — and painful, multi-hour "vote-a-rama" — as Democrats forge ahead with their plan to pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Why it matters: The procedural war is aimed at forcing Democrats to defend several parts the GOP considers unnecessary and partisan. While the process won't substantially impact the final version of the mammoth bill, it'll provide plenty of ammunition for future campaign messaging.