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Virginia Postrel

Must Love Dogs? If You Want the Job

The fur-averse are finding fewer friendly places to hide at work.
When's break time?

When's break time?

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

If you want to understand why “emotional support animals” on airplanes have become such a flashpoint, consider a striking seasonal statistic. This Valentine’s Day, the National Retail Federation projects that about 21 percent of Americans will buy a present for a pet, spending a total of $751 million. That’s up from 17 percent in 2008, when the group began tracking the category. (About two-thirds of U.S. households own pets.) People under 35 are more likely to buy Valentine’s Day presents for their pets and spend significantly more when they do.

The debate over animals on airplanes is part of a bigger cultural shift that is overturning existing norms about when and where pets are appropriate. Animal owners have long loved their pets, but lately they’ve taken their devotion to a new level.