According to a study out Monday on global climate change, your dog (or your cat) is probably killing the environment, and if you want to stem the tide of global warming, it's time to say "good-bye" to Fido and Fluffy.
The study, which appears in the online journal, PLOS, claims the human compulsion to seek out animal companionship is one of the primary factors affecting our climate, particularly in the United States, where there are 163 million companion animals -- roughly one pet for every two Americans -- the highest number of any country in the world.
Researchers at the University of Sydney, in Australia, claim that those 163 million pets have a detrimental impact on the environment, from the food they consume, to the waste they produce.
"In the US, there are more than 163 million dogs and cats that consume, as a significant portion of their diet, animal products and therefore potentially constitute a considerable dietary footprint," the study's abstract proclaims. "Here, the energy and animal-derived product consumption of these pets in the US is evaluated for the first time, as are the environmental impacts from the animal products fed to them, including feces production."
The problem isn't just the United States, though. The popularity of companion animals has grown, worldwide.
"Americans are the largest pet owners in the world, but the tradition of pet ownership in the US has considerable costs. As pet ownership increases in some developing countries, especially China, and trends continue in pet food toward higher content and quality of meat, globally, pet ownership will compound the environmental impacts of human dietary choices," it continues.
There's only one solution: no more pets. "Reducing the rate of dog and cat ownership, perhaps in favor of other pets that offer similar health and emotional benefits would considerably reduce these impacts," the study concludes.
Alternatively, the researchers recommend having your pets go vegetarian, something that's not recommended by veterinarians or animal health and welfare experts who concede that having some type of meat-based protein is best for your four-legged friends -- particularly those whose ancestors were carnivorous.
The study, the researchers say, isn't designed to dissuade animal lovers from taking in the maximum number of pets possible, but rather encourage Americans to consume less meat. Livestock farming is a significant contributor to global climate change, they say, and the less meat we consumer, the better it is for the environment. And humans make up the vast majority of that consumption; dogs and cats consume only around 19% of the meat protein humans do.
Researchers probably won't find much success in convincing Americans to ditch their furry friends, anyway. Americans love their pets, and despite claims to the contrary -- and pervasive environmental hysteria -- Americans have greatly reduced their carbon footprint over the last decade, pets and all.