A group of architects from New Zealand have calculated that a pet dog has an environmental footprint twice that of an SUV. The calculations are based on how much land is required to grow enough food to feed a dog throughout its lifetime.
"Time to Eat the Dog" is the title of a new book by two architects from New Zealand. Robert and Brenda Vale have calculated that a medium-sized dog has twice the environmental impact of a large four-wheel drive vehicle, when all factors are considered.
The calculations are based on how much land is required to grow enough food to feed a dog throughout its lifetime compared to the comparable amount of energy and resources, converted to hectares of cultivated land, required for a large gas-guzzling vehicle. The calculations include both the construction of the vehicle as well as its running costs.
On average, a medium sized dog will eat 164kg (361.5lbs) of meat and 95kg (209.4lbs) of grain per year. Meat production is extremely resource consumptive, requiring on average 7kg (15.4 lbs) of grain and about 100,000 liters (26,417 gallons) of water to produce 1kg (2.2lbs) of beef.
All in all, the authors calculated that in all 0.84 hectares (2.08 acres) are required to produce enough dog food for Fido. A large dog will have an environmental footprint of 1.1 hectares (2.7 acres).
This is compared to the 0.41 hectares (1.01 acres) required to build and drive a 4.6 liter Land Cruiser for one year, less than half that required by a dog.
Cats don't pollute nearly as much, with a footprint of only 0.15 hectares (0.37 acres), ten times that of a hamster.
In comparison, a human in the West will require 1.8 hectares (4.4 acres) while a person from the Third World needs up to 6 hectares (14.8 acres).
The study sheds light on the environmental impact of some of the human activities we don't usually think of as environmentally unfriendly. While transportation is the leading cause of air pollution, there are many other sources which are less apparent than the cars driving down your street. These include coal power plants, oil refineries, plastic and metal factories, and not least large livestock farms and agriculture which not only emit greenhouse gases but also pollute groundwater, clear-cut forests and consume enormous quantities of petroleum based fertilizers.
So if you want to save the environment, skip the Prius and just eat Fido for dinner.