Southern California boasts about 1,200 of the country's 9,200 independent retail pet stores, according to the Western World Pet Supply Assn., a regional industry group based in Los Angeles. And the typical Californian spends about twice as much in pet stores each year as the average American, making the state's pet stores a $350-million-a-year business, said Tom McLaughlin, association executive vice president.
Tropical fish, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians are particularly popular in Southern California, experts say. About one in four Southern California pet stores sells mostly aquariums and tropical fish, McLaughlin said. Nationally, the ratio of aquarium stores to general pet stores is 1 in 12, according to industry estimates.