Starting a Pet Boarding Business

If you have a passion for pets, especially dogs and cats, pet care industry can be very rewarding, both in terms of profits and in getting fulfillment in doing what you love and serving pet owners needs. People, in particular working professionals, need pet boarding facility where they can leave their pets while they work and travel.

To start a pet boarding & grooming business, it is important to consider several factors :

  • Determining need for pet boarding in your desired area
  • Selecting optimal location for the facility
  • Deciding what additional services should the facility provide
  • Find out the zoning and licensing requirements

Market research will tell you the market size, target market (owners of dogs alone, or cats, birds and other small animals too?)

There are three options when it comes to boarding facilities: building your own, purchasing an existing facility, and buying a franchise.  Building your own pet boarding facility gives you the flexibility to make it exactly as you want it in terms of size and services that you can offer, and the total cost. The disadvantages to building your own are monetary considerations, construction and time line, zoning, licenses, and etc.

Purchasing an existing pet boarding facility has several advantages :  you save on time to build facility, zoning and licenses would be in place, the business has well trained staff running the day-to-day operations, and you can access get an immediate customer base that generates income.

Becoming a franchisee  will give a good brand name associated with your facility, the setup is easy, and you get the support you need. The disadvantage is that you are limited to in business decisions you can make and you have to pay royalty fees.

Plan your kennel setup carefully before beginning construction. Each kennel run should be at least 6 feet wide and 15 feet long to provide enough room for both large and small dogs. Play area should be open yet well fenced to prevent escapes and should house a number of dog-safe toys. A grooming area should also be included, with a number of grooming tables and bathing stalls. Set up a  small, sterile clinic area in your building plan for on-site veterinarian care, a front office for customers, and small back office for the staff.

Set up your front office with equipment such as a computer, telephone system, fax and copy machines, as well as chairs in the waiting room. Place a few pet care items up front such as dog treats, toys and dog food to entice your pet customers while they wait.

Stock your dog supplies well. Keep a range of cleaning supplies to keep your facility properly sanitized. Kennel cleaning products should include a sanitizer that will kill off any communicable diseases such as kennel cough, as well as a deodorizing product to eliminate powerful pet odors. Include a number of collars, leashes and muzzles available to transport your canine customers inside the boarding facility. Keep food and water dishes available in every kennel to keep your customers hydrated and full during their stay.

Hire staff to work with the pets who have the skills to handle situations in which the pet may be anxious or depressed. Many pets grieve when the owner is away, and they may refuse to eat or drink.

Contact and negotiate with insurance company to assure you are properly covered. Proper coverage is essential to prevent legal issues in case of accidents.

Never allow dogs that have not been properly socialized to freely interact with other dogs. Only pets that have been proven to be safe and dog-friendly should be allowed free playtime with other pets.

Other pet care services

Consider feasibility of providing a variety of pet care services such as private and group dog walks, daily pet visits, in-home overnight sitting, private boarding, day care, pet grooming, pet photography, dog waste cleanup, and obedience training.

Kennel Size, Layout and Exercise Facilities

Each country or state will have its own licensing requirements for pet boarding facility.

In Reading, UK for example, following are the dog boarding guidelines :

  • Each dog must be provided with a separate kennel except that dogs from the same household may share a kennel of adequate size with written consent of the dogs’ owner.
  • Each kennel must be provided with a sleeping area of at least 1.9m2 (20ft2). (Dogs must be able to lie down, turnaround and stand comfortably in the sleeping area, with sufficient space for the door to open fully for dogs of the same household sharing a kennel)
  • Bedding must be suitable to allow dogs to be comfortable. Bedding must be capable of being easily cleaned and sanitised and sited away from draughts. All bedding materials in use must be clean, parasite free and dry.
  • Adequate exercise areas must be provided for all kennels. For new kennels each kennels must be provided with an exercise area of at least 2.46m2(26 ft2 ) (for dogs up to 24 inches high at shoulder) or 36 ft2 for larger dogs, which is separate from the bedding area and exclusive to that kennel, for free use by dog at all times except at night.
  • Kennels must have a minimum height of 1.8m (6ft) to allow adequate accessibility to kennel staff for cleaning.
  • Kennels and exercise areas must open onto secure corridors or other secure areas so that dogs are not able to escape from the premises.
  • Heating facilities must be available in the kennel and used according to the requirements of the individual dog.
  • There must be some part of the sleeping area where the dog is able to enjoy a minimum temperature of 10°C (50°F) and a maximum temperature of 26°C(79°F).

US Market for Pet Grooming & Boarding

2010 Pet Services: grooming & boarding Industry Revenue    : $ 3.45 billion

According to the 2009/2010 National Pet Owners Survey, 62% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 71.4 million homes

Total Number of Pets Owned in the U.S. (millions)

  • Bird 15.0
  • Cat – 93.6
  • Dog – 77.5
  • Equine – 13.3
  • Freshwater Fish – 171.7
  • Saltwater Fish – 11.2
  • Reptile – 13.6
  • Small Animal – 15.9

HEALTH BENEFITS OF PETS

  • Pets Help to Lower Blood Pressure A recent study at the State University of New York at Buffalo found that people with hypertension who adopted a cat or dog had lower blood pressure readings in stressful situations than did those who did not own a pet. (Dr. Karen Allen, State University of New York at Buffalo)
  • Pets Help to Reduce Stress Walking with a pet helps to sooth nerves and offers instant relaxation. Studies conducted worldwide have shown that the impact of a stressful situation is lesser on pet owners, especially males, than on those who do not own a pet. (Josephine M. Wills, Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, United Kingdom)
  • Pets Help to Prevent Heart Disease : Because pets provide people with faithful companionship, research shows they may also provide their owners with greater psychological stability, thus a measure of protection from heart disease. (National Institute of Health Technology Assessment Workshop: Health Benefits of Pets)
  • Pets Help to Lower Health Care Costs People with pets actually make fewer doctor visits, especially for non-serious medical conditions. (National Institute of Health Technology Assessment Workshop: Health Benefits of Pets)
  • Pets Help to Fight Depression Pets help fight depression and loneliness, promoting an interest in life. When seniors face adversity or trauma, affection from pets takes on great meaning. Their bonding behavior can foster a sense of security. (Book “Between Pets and People: The Importance of Animal Companionship”, authors Alan Beck, Aaron Katcher, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas)
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