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AP Poll: Half of pet owners give pets human names

By jim Published: June 23, 2009

Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — So much for Rover and Fido.

Almost half of American pet owners gave an animal a human-like name, such as Jack or Sophie, according to an Associated poll of more than 1,000 pet owners released Tuesday.

Some of the more unusual names: Hollywood and Chichi Mittens, both cats; Vegas the Labrador Retriever; Jibber Jack the dog; the Beagle named Talulublue, and Louis XIV, the Yorkie.

In all, 49 percent of respondents, including 51 percent of dog owners and 50 percent of cat owners, had given at least one of their pets a human-like name.

The most popular? Max got more mentions than other names in the AP Poll, but not enough to give it any broad claim of popularity (less than 2 percent of all mentions). One database of pet names, maintained by Veterinary Pet Insurance, also finds that Max pops up more frequently than any other name.

There has been a move away from classic dog names such as Spot and Lassie, according to VPI spokesman Curtis Steinhoff. There were 13 Fidos in VPI's database in 2008, placing the name at No. 2,866. Rover was No. 2,534, behind names like Grendel, Ginger Snap and Munchie.

Steinhoff said the trend reflects a stronger bond between people and their pets.

Pet owners who give their pets human names are more likely to see them as full members of the family, said Wayne Eldridge, veterinarian and author of "The Best Pet Name Book Ever!"

But he cautions against reading too much into pet names. Many people choose names based on the animal's appearance, he said. One of the most unusual names in the VPI database was Snag L. Tooth for a cat with a "snaggle tooth" that protrudes.

And some people don't know why they chose a certain name for their pet.

Like Beth Hart, 63, of Houston, who started naming her dogs Sassoon for the hair salon Vidal Sassoon. Her current Shih Tzu is Sassoon the Third. Her husband named their Lhaso Apso, "Dawg," their second dog with that name.

Daniel Rivera, 23, of Lansing, Mich. said his 4-year-old daughter named their pit bull lab mix Little Fella. He said he guesses the name fits since the dog has very short legs.

For some it's all about being creative. Susan Jacobs, 45, of Long Beach, Calif., named her black poodle Kingston for her best vacation ever.

"It was beautiful, the people, the music, the warm weather," she said of her trip to Jamaica a decade ago. "Now whenever I say his name, I think of that time of in my life."

The Associated Poll of pet owners about their pets was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media from May 28-June 1, 2009. It is based on landline and cellular telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,110 pet owners. Interviews were conducted with respondents on both landline and cellular telephones.

Digits in the phone numbers dialed were generated randomly to reach households with unlisted and listed landline and cell phone 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 2.9 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.

The questions and results for this poll are available at

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