Kuba dog campaignWho could say no to this face?Ken WardKuba, 10, has waged a brilliant campaign. Unfortunately, I’m the target. Who can say no to a puppy? It’s … Grinch-like.

My parents managed the trick, but that’s because my Dad was raised on a farm and Grandpa Ken, on my Mom’s side, trained hunting dogs — so when my folks said dogs didn’t belong in a city, who was going to argue? I don’t have the background, or perhaps backbone, to peremptorily dismiss the matter, so I’ve fallen back on penny-ante arguments, the sort of weaselly excuses grasped by legislators who don’t want to vote the right way.

Kuba, with unending patience, has batted each one aside. When you find yourself debating the pros and cons of a Boston Terrier vs. Portuguese Waterdog, it’s time to throw in the towel. (It’ll be a mutt, if there is to be an “it”; we’ve no budget for pedigree.)

As with any decision at the JP Green House, I’ve looked into the question of how this action will affect our carbon footprint. The blogosphere is full of articles and posts on how to reduce your pet’s carbon footprint, but I found no comprehensive analysis of the collective carbon impact of pet ownership.

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By rough calculation, however, the impact is sobering.

According to the American Veterinary Medicine Association, there are 72 million dogs and 82 million cats in American households (also 12 million birds and 7 million horses). Using the one (unattributed) estimate of pet emissions, 0.5 metric ton per cat and 1.75 tons per dog (which compare to 8.5 metric tons/year for U.S. homeless persons and seems in the right range), we get 41 million and 126 million metric tons, respectively, for U.S. cats and dogs, for a staggering total of 167 million tons/year. That is 375 percent greater then total U.S. cement production.

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Sure, we can cut the impact of one pet by a number of means, particularly avoiding mass-produced pet foods. And by adopting a mutt we do not add to the problem. But the larger question — is pet ownership compatible with averting climate cataclysm? — is a tough one.

So, Grist readers, please weigh in on the question, should Kuba have a puppy?