Monetizing Bowser: A Contingent Valuation of the Statistical Value of Dog Life

Deven Carlson, Simon Haeder, Hank Jenkins-Smith, Joseph Ripberger, Carol Silva, David Weimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Households in the USA spend about $70 billion annually on pets. Dogs, the most common pet, can be found in nearly half of American households. An important shadow price in the analysis of policies affecting human mortality is the value of statistical life (VSL), which is imputed from how people make decisions involving tradeoffs between small mortality risks and other goods. The value of statistical dog life (VSDL) is also an important, but until now unavailable, shadow price for use in regulation of such goods as pet foods and environmental toxins. Additionally, an estimate of the VSDL would have uses outside the regulatory process in valuing programs involving zooeyia, in setting tort awards for wrongful dog death, and in property divisions in divorce settlements where joint custody of dogs is not feasible. In order to estimate the VSDL, we conducted a contingent valuation of a national sample of dog owners that elicited willingness-to-pay for changes in mortality risk for pet dogs. Specifically, respondents were asked about willingness-to-pay for a vaccine that would reduce the risk of canine influenza. The design included both quantity (different magnitudes of risk reduction from the offered vaccine) and quality (differences in nature of death from the influenza) treatments as scope tests. It also included treatments involving spillover effects to other dogs and a priming question about disposable income. Based on the analysis and consideration of its assumptions, we recommend $10,000 as the VSDL.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-149
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Benefit-Cost Analysis
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 11 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Public Administration


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