GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - While the costs associated with raising a child continue to increase, more Americans are choosing to have fewer children; and in many cases, turning to a 4-legged friend instead.
It's a nationwide trend, but Colorado is one of those leading the way as a recent report shows there are more than one million dogs in this state and only 350,000 children under the age of 5.
Here in Mesa County, there are over 20,000 registered dogs and over the past few years fewer dogs have been brought into the shelter; 20% less.
"That means that pet owners are treating them as family members; they're taking better care of them," said Penny McCarty, with Mesa County Animal Services.
Birth rate author, Jonathan Last, says some of the reasons families are opting for pets are higher divorce rates, delayed marriage and motherhood, women in the workplace and effective birth control.
Statistics show the first time American pets outnumbered children was back in 2006.
Here in Mesa County, there are just under 10,000 children under the age of 5.
And while 20,000 dogs are registered, Animal Service officials say there are probably more like 35,000 living here.
The U.S. isn't the only country where adults are substituting a pet for a child; it's also happening in Italy, Japan and other countries.