By SUE MANNING, Associated Press

    LOS ANGELES (AP) — Eight in 10 pet owners have taken their animals to the vet in the past year, with an overall average expenditure of $505, according to a new poll.

     Sixty percent of those who took their pets to the vet spent $300 or less, but the average expenditure was boosted higher by the one in eight pet owners (13 percent) who spent $1,000 or more.

     About one in six pet owners say their pet faced a serious illness during the year, and those pet owners spent an average of $1,092 on vet care. One percent say they took their pets to the vet and spent no money.

     Thomas Klamm, 76, of Boone, Iowa, says he and his wife Beverly spent $3,000 on their two Chihuahuas, sisters Kati and Keli, and he would have spent more if necessary, even though his annual income is under $50,000.

     The biggest bills resulted from a spinal condition Kati had, but Klamm says he has a lot of confidence in the vets and senior students at Iowa State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital in nearby Ames, where the little dogs have been going since they were pups.

     According to the poll, most pet owners have faith in the treatment vets recommend. Overall, 52 percent say vets do not often recommend excessive treatment, 26 percent say that happens moderately often, 17 percent extremely or very often.

     Those whose pets had been seriously ill in the past year were no more likely than others to say that vets suggest treatments that go beyond what is reasonable and necessary.

     Among those who did not take their pets to the vet last year, 52 percent say they only take their pets to the vet “when they’re really sick” and a third say they can’t afford it at all.

     Luis Calderon, 56, of El Monte, Calif., couldn’t afford to take Buddy, his 3-year-old German shepherd, to the vet last year. Buddy was given to Calderon when the dog was 6 months old. “We have become best friends,” he says.

     Calderon, a self-employed handyman, has a wife and two kids and says work is scarce. If Buddy needed a vet, Calderon says he would have to go through public services or use credit. “We would have to get him help.”

     How much would be too much? It would depend on what was wrong and what the vet said, Calderon says. “At that point I would have to consider whether to keep him or let him go, put him to sleep,” he says.

     He hates the idea of putting limits on Buddy’s health. “But we have to survive. At this point, my mortgage is No. 1. This month is really close to the edge,” Calderon adds.

     Fifty-eight percent of those who did not take their pets to a vet in the past year said they “have a type of pet that doesn’t need much veterinary care.” Among them, 52 percent have dogs, 52 percent cats, 10 percent fish, and 5 percent birds.

     Not surprisingly, higher-income pet owners (household incomes over $50,000) were more apt to take their pets to the vet than those with incomes below $50,000 — 90 percent versus 74 percent. Forty percent of those with household incomes below $50,000 who didn’t take their pets to the vet say they can’t really afford to do so.

     Art Jones, 62, of Alameda, Calif., says two of his family’s cats died in the last year. He estimates he spent $600 on vet bills — half of that to euthanize one of the cats. The other cat died at home.

     ”But we are not so wealthy we can spend thousands on a house pet. That’s unfortunate, but that’s the truth,” Jones says.

     He says he has family friends whose dog is getting cancer treatment and the cost is nearing $10,000. “To me, that’s insane,” Jones says.

     Over the past few years, Jim Salsman, 51, of Las Vegas, paid for several $500 trips to the vet for his neighbors’ cat, Mau, after the declawed feline got in fights with other animals. Last year, the neighbors left and gave the cat to Salsman. He ended up paying another $400 in vet bills, but says he didn’t mind because his neighbors were in foreclosure and struggling, and the cat became an important member of the family.

     ”He means everything to us,” Salsman said.

     According to the poll, dog owners were a bit more likely to take their pets to the vet than cat owners — 85 percent of dog owners compared with 79 percent of cat owners. But dog owners spent a bit less — an average of $537 — than cat owners, who spent an average of $558.

     The Poll was conducted Oct. 13-17, 2011, by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cellphone interviews with 1,118 pet owners. Results among pet owners have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.


     AP Global Director of Polling Trevor Tompson, Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.





How the poll of pet owners on veterinary care was conducted


By The Associated Press

    The Associated Poll of pet owners on veterinary care was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications from Oct. 13-17. It is based on landline and cellphone telephone interviews with a nationally representative random sample of 1,118 pet owners.

     Digits in the phone numbers dialed were generated randomly to reach households with unlisted and listed landline and cellphone numbers.

     Interviews were conducted in both English and Spanish.

     As is done routinely in surveys, results were weighted, or adjusted, to ensure that responses accurately reflect the population’s makeup by factors such as age, sex, education and race. In addition, the weighting took into account patterns of phone use — landline only, cell only and both types — by region.

     No more than one time in 20 should chance variations in the sample cause the results to vary by more than plus or minus 3.6 percentage points from the answers that would be obtained if all pet owners in the U.S. were polled.

     There are other sources of potential error in polls, including the wording and order of questions.

 Topline results are available at and


AP-GfK Poll: Clerks must issue gay marriage licenses
WASHINGTON (AP) — Linda Massey opposes gay marriage. But she was incensed last summer to see that Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk, was refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

“If the government says you have to give out those marriage licenses, and you get paid to do it, you do it,” says the 64-year-old retiree from Lewiston, Michigan. “That woman,” she said of Davis, “should be out of a job.”

Americans like Massey are at the heart of a shift in public opinion, an Associated Press-GfK poll has found. For the first time, most Americans expect government officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, even over religious objections.

It’s partly a matter of expecting public servants to do their jobs. But more broadly, the issue touches on a familiar dispute over which constitutional value trumps which: religious freedom, or equality under the law?

The question in recent months has entangled leaders with political sway, among them Pope Francis and the 2016 presidential contenders. But it’s not a new conflict for a nation that has long wrestled with the separation of church and state.

Where Davis’s answer was the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom — and she served jail time to back it up — a majority of respondents don’t buy that argument when it comes to public officials issuing marriage licenses. That’s a shift since an AP-GfK survey in July, when Americans were about evenly split. Then, 49 percent said officials with religious objections should be exempt from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and 47 percent said they should be required to issue them.

Now, just 41 percent favor an exemption and 56 percent think they should be required to issue the licenses.

That shift was especially stark among Republicans. A majority of them —58 percent — still favor religious exemptions for officials issuing marriage licenses, but that’s down 14 points since 72 percent said so in July.

The timing of the surveys is important, coming during rapid developments in the politics of gay rights and religious freedom.

Public opinion has favored same-sex marriage in recent years and some politicians — President Barack Obama, 2016 presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton and some members of Congress among them — have come around to that view. In June, the Supreme Court effectively legalized gay marriage nationwide.

The cultural change has influenced the governing bodies of some of the most conservative religions, including the Catholic Church under Pope Francis and the Mormon Church, which last week called for compromises between protecting religious liberties and prohibiting discrimination. Both institutions are trying to accommodate society’s shifting views while keeping a firm grip internally on their own doctrines against gay marriage and homosexual activity. And both churches steered clear of the appearance of backing Davis. The Vatican said the pope’s brief meeting with her in Washington should not be construed as a sign of support.

Mormon leader Dallin H. Oaks last week told a closed gathering of judges and clergy in Sacramento, California, that when conflicts between religion and law rise and are decided, citizens of a democracy must follow court rulings.

Davis, a Democrat, Apostolic Christian and clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, became the face of religious Americans who bristle at government requirements that conflict with their beliefs, whether those mandates cover gay marriage, contraception or abortion referrals. On June 27 — the day after the high court ruling — Davis refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses. In September she spent five days in jail for defying a court order to issue the licenses. Affixing her name to the certificate, she wrote in a statement, “would violate my conscience.” After serving her jail sentence, Davis returned to work — but her name no longer appears on marriage licenses for gay couples.

Nick Hawks, a business consultant in Ararat, North Carolina, agrees with Davis.

“We’ve got to decide at some point who’s going to be protected first,” said the father of three boys, 50, who says he’s a Republican-leaning independent. “It doesn’t seem quite fair” to allow a minority such as gay people to “control the policy.”

More generally, the poll offers evidence that Americans remain slightly more likely to say that it’s more important for the government to protect religious liberties than the rights of gays and lesbians when the two come into conflict, 51 percent to 45 percent. But that, too, is a slight shift since July, when 56 percent said it’s more important to protect religious liberties.


The AP-GfK Poll of 1,027 adults was conducted online Oct. 15 to Oct. 19, using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods, and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the Internet were provided access at no cost to them.



Poll results:

AP-GfK Poll: Americans still feeling economic gloom

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are more likely than they were a year ago to have positive views of the nation’s economy, but they’re still feeling more pessimism than optimism, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll conducted ahead of CNBC’s GOP primary debate on Wednesday.

The candidates will attempt to impress Republicans in particular, who the poll finds feel much gloomier about the economy than Democrats.

Here are some things to know about opinions on the economy from the latest AP-GfK poll:



A majority of Americans — 54 percent — say the nation’s economy is poor, the new poll shows. Just 45 percent call it good. Still, views of the economy are slightly rosier than they were over the summer, when a July AP-GfK poll found 41 percent of Americans described the economy as good, and more positive than they were a year ago, when just 38 percent said so.

Half of men, but just 4 in 10 women, describe the economy as good.

Americans are even less likely to see the nation heading in a positive direction overall. Just 36 percent think the country is heading in the right direction, while 63 percent think it’s headed in the wrong direction.

More than 8 in 10 Americans in the new poll described the economy as an extremely or very important issue, down slightly since July. Still, the economy rates higher in importance than any other issue in the poll.



The candidates will aim their messages at a Republican Party that has a particularly negative view of the economy.

While 65 percent of Democrats describe the economy as good, just 29 percent of Republicans say the same. Seven in 10 Republicans say the economy is poor, including more than 8 in 10 GOP supporters of the tea party. Eight-five percent of Republicans say the country is heading in the wrong direction.

Independents, too, are unhappy with the economy, with 33 percent seeing it as good and 62 percent poor.



Few Americans — just 17 percent — think the economy has improved over the past month, while 21 percent think it has gotten worse and the bulk — 60 percent — think it’s stayed about the same.

Most Americans don’t expect to see improvement in either the nation’s economy or their own financial situations in the next year, either.

Thirty-one percent say they expect the general economic situation to get better, 32 percent expect it to get worse, and 34 percent expect it to stay about the same. Likewise, 29 percent expect their household financial situation to get better, 25 percent expect it to get worse, and 44 percent expect it to stay the same.

Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say the economy has gotten worse in the last month, 31 percent to 13 percent. Democrats are more likely than Republicans to expect it to get better in the next year, 40 percent to 21 percent.



Whichever GOP candidate emerges victorious in next year’s presidential primaries will need to convince Americans that the party can do a better job than Democrats at handling economic issues.

Americans are slightly more likely to say they trust Democrats than Republicans more on handling the economy, 29 percent to 24 percent, the poll shows.

But neither party’s a clear winner on the issue — 15 percent say they trust both equally and 30 percent say they trust neither party.

Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say they trust neither party, 29 percent to 17 percent. A majority of independents — 55 percent — don’t trust either party.



Americans are slightly more likely to disapprove than approve of President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy, 52 percent to 46 percent, according to the new poll. But that’s an apparent rise in his approval rating on the issue since July, when just 42 percent said they approved.

Americans’ rating of Obama on the economy is nearly identical to how they feel about how he’s handling his job overall, with 46 percent approving and 52 percent disapproving.


The AP-GfK Poll of 1,027 adults was conducted online from Oct. 15 to 19. The sample was drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

Respondents were selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods and interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel without Internet access were provided it for free.



Poll results: