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This pet care fund is aimed at animal-loving investors

Healing with animals
Therapists take their practice from the office to the farm 06:31

Talk about the dogs of the Dow. A new exchange-traded fund that invests in pet-related companies -- everything from pet food to veterinary services -- is taking aim at Americans' growing obsession with their furry friends. 

The ProShares Pet Care ETF began trading on Tuesday under the ticker symbol PAWZ, aiming to lure investors who want to bet on the growing sector. It's the second such animal-spirited fund offering to launch this year.

The pet industry is booming in the U.S., expanding at twice the rate of GDP since the Great Recession, according to ProShares Managing Director Steve Cohen. Americans spent about $70 billion on their pets last year, according to the American Pet Products Association, an industry trade group.

That's no surprise given that Americans are now more likely to have pets than children, thanks to the aging baby boomer demographic and millennials delaying having children. Those trends are at the heart of the Pet Care ETF, Cohen said. 

Seven out of 10 households own pets, up from 56 percent in the 1980s, he noted. "The baby boomers, the largest generation, have become empty nesters and are filling their houses with their new children, which are pets," he said. "Then there are millennials, who are putting off having children."

An investing idea with more bark than bite?

Americans not only have more pets, but they're pampering them more than ever, noted Cohen, who has two dogs and said he was up all night with one of them after the pup ate a soap bar. "Ninety-five percent of pet owners consider pets as part of their family," he noted. "They focus on what they eat, whether that's eating healthier ingredients, like organic or grain-free foods, and we're doing the same thing for our pets."

The fund invests in 24 stocks tracked in the FactSet Pet Care Index, which includes large companies such as Nestle -- maker of pet foods such as Purina -- and smaller businesses such as Pets at Home, a U.K. pet supplies retailer. 

Whether the fund has more bark than bite remains to be seen. It's certainly not the first pet-related fund to begin trading this year. The Gabelli Pet Parent Fund NextShares debuted in June under the ticker PETZC. It has attracted $1.2 million in assets, considered a small amount for a fund. 

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