Albuquerque Journal, Roberto Rosales) THE NEW MEXICAN OUT, Associated Press
In this Sept. 12, 2012 photo, Barley Room waitress Kaitlin Livingstone, center steps over the overcrowded patio during happy hour in Albuquerque, N.M. Dogs abounded at The Barley Room, as the Animal Humane’s “Tail Date” club was having one of its monthly social gatherings to benefit homeless pets. But similar scenes are playing out on a smaller scale throughout Albuquerque. Whether in Nob Hill or the Northeast Heights, pet owners can find an eatery that allows four-legged guests in its outdoor seating area.

Americans love spending money on pets. In fact, U.S. citizens collectively spent $61.4 billion on pets in 2011, wich comes to roughly $500 per household.

While some may consider such excessive spending to be a poor budgeting choice, Yahoo Finance posted a video on Tuesday that claims pet ownership might be a better investment than you think.

In the video, Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, science advisor for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, expounds on the unseen virtues of pet ownership, along with commentary from enthusiastic pet owners.

“Having a pet in the household makes you feel better about your life, and makes it less likely that you’ll go out and spend money on things you don’t need,” Zawistowski says at the video’s introduction. “When the going gets tough, you walk your dog; you may not need to go out to the bars or restaurants.”

The short video, which was produced by Yahoo Finance’s Cost of Living, purports that along with providing a distraction from unnecessary spending, pet ownership can also reduce your medical bills.

The companionship of pets provides a mood boost, the video claims, which can curb spending on antidepressants. Animals can also help young children build a stronger immune system, and decrease the likelihood of future visits to the doctor.

Pets can also help create good business opportunities, the video explains, because they often help instigate conversation.

Who knew a Chihuahua could have such a great return on investment?

Watch the full video at Yahoo! Finance.