People spend more money on their pets in the United States than the total amount the government provides each year in foreign aid. According to the American Pet Products Association, pet owners will spend an estimated $58.5 billion this year, compared to the Department of State’s $52 billion budget for foreign assistance and support proposed for 2014. The pet expenditures also exceed the gross domestic product of a lot of small countries. (For instance, as of December 2013, Panama’s GDP was $36 billion, and it has a strategy-critical canal.)
“It’s astounding,” APPA spokeswoman Tierra Bonaldi says when confirming the $58.5 billion figure. “I have heard the U.S. Census Bureau puts pets as the eighth-largest sector, above toys and candy. It’s incredible what we spend on pets. But when you have one, you get it.” The love people have for their pets created a recession-proof industry in this country. “Even during the worst year of the recession, spending for pets increased,” she said. “People get such joy and unconditional love from their pets. They weren’t willing to skimp there.”
John Glorieux, whose Pompano Pet Lodge and Lauderdale Pet Lodge each has annual revenues that exceed $1million, also is not surprised by the pet industry market. “Gandhi said you can gauge the morality of a nation by the way they treat their animals — and it’s evident by what money they spend on them,” he says. In addition to buying their pets special food, toys and treats, some pet parents buy even bigger ticket items. “People have bought cars for their dogs to ride in,” Glorieux said, remembering one of his clients. “They’ve got a Bentley at home, but they bought an Expedition for their dog, so he could ride in it.”
As expected, pet parents spent the most money on dogs, followed by cats, Bonaldi says. “Other pet types have a hard time competing with those two,” she says, adding that the market is expanding for boarding and daycare facilities for these pets. “I think it’s a matter of demand driving supply,” she says, “and that’s why we’re seeing more doggy daycare [facilities] and pet hotels popping up.”
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While food, vet care and supplies (including over-the-counter medicine) account for the bulk of the annual expenditures, the fastest-growing sector over the past two years is that of pet services, which includes grooming and boarding, as well as daycare and pet sitting. Pet owners spent $4.41 billion on those services last year, up $250 million from the year before. They are expected to spend $4.73 billion this year, an increase of $320 million. That’s according to the Connecticut-based APPA — which bills itself as the leading nonprofit trade association of pet product manufacturers, their representatives, importers and livestock suppliers. APPA also found that doggy daycare nearly doubled between 2010 and 2012, albeit based on a small sampling of dog owners.
For those who traveled for at least two nights, dog owners were most likely to either travel with their dog in the car, leave the dog with a friend or family member, or board the pooch in a kennel or pet hotel. As much as 20 percent of dog owners now prefer to board their dogs, up from 12 percent in 2010.
In South Florida, the online Yellow Pages list scores of pet hotels and doggy daycare options. Their names are as cute as some of the fluffy creatures to whom they cater: Puppy Love Pet Care of Weston, The Litter Sitter of Miami Beach, and serving the Miami area: Dog Dude Ranch, Barkhaus, and Chateau Poochie. Then there are the pet sitters who come to you, such as Barking Madness, DogsGoWalking, and Paws-itively Purr-fect In-Home Pet Sitting, which also provides the dog walking service, At Your Barkin’ Call.
With about 200,000 licensed dogs in Miami-Dade and almost 100,000 licensed dogs and cats in Broward, the local pet business is clearly the cat’s meow. The following is just a sampling of the growing options.
▪ Pet Sitting by Potter
The first thing you need to know about pet sitting is that there is not much sitting going on. Jane Potter goes through a pair of sneakers a month, walking morning, noon and night. The first year in the business Potter walked so much — 20,000+ steps a day — that she broke her pedometer.
Pet sitters form an intimate, personal relationship with their clients. Like the pet, they are often looked upon as part of the family. After all, they have the key to your house and know your alarm code — and they usually are among the first people called in a crisis. “I’m two steps up from the maid, but I have the codes,” Potter said. This allowed her to swing into action when one client’s granddaughter died suddenly. The husband and wife could travel to the funeral at a moment’s notice knowing Potter was on the job.
Another advantage is that unlike with on-site daycare, there’s no rushing to drop off or pick up a pet during hours of operation. The client and pet sitter set their own hours. The client also can contract for something as simple as feeding the cat to watering plants, opening and closing curtains, taking out the trash and making the home looked lived in while the owner is away.
“You want somebody coming into your home when you are away — not anybody — but it’s Jane, for God’s sake,” says Anita Maduro, who tried doggy daycare for her two dachshunds, Frankie and Lola, and ultimately opted for in-home visits from Potter. Over the years they’ve become friends, swapping recipes and socializing at family functions.
Potter repays her client’s trust with a Midwest reliability. She grew up on a farm in Illinois and is used to early hours. During the holidays, she says, she starts her rounds by arriving at her clients’ homes as early as 5 a.m. There’s another set of rounds that roughly run from 10 a.m. to noon and then again from 3:30 to 7 p.m.
Unlike dog walkers, pet sitters tend to one family at a time. Unless the client has a large menagerie at home, they typically walk just a few dogs at a time. They often guard those dogs with their lives. Once while walking three large Labrador retrievers, Potter fell and broke her left wrist in two places. “But I want you to know,” she says, “I did not let go of the leash.”
▪ Totally Dog
Totally Dog is the kind of place dogs dream about. Or, at least the experience is something that drives them wild with anticipation.
“We call it Disney Land for dogs,” said Cathy Miller, who has been a client for a decade. “It’s great.”
Miller sends her two dogs — a Vizsla named Trump and a mixed breed named Bella — twice a week. Miller says the $160 weekly expense is well worth it because her dogs come back well adjusted and well mannered. “I am doing it for me as much as for them,” she says. “It gives me the opportunity to have the kind of dogs I like.”
Elena Sweet created Totally Dog in 1999 after Newsweek magazine rated Dade County dead last when it came to how we treated our dogs. “Dade County came back as the most unfriendly dog county in the United States,” Sweet said. “There was no place a dog could go unleashed.”
Sweet decided to change that. She had bought a five-acre parcel in the Redland expressly to provide a place for dogs to roam. She put down grass, planted shade trees, and built a ground-level bone-shaped pool, where timid dogs could wade and the more rambunctious ones could dive right in.
While her new canine campus was making a splash, so was the method she chose to get the dogs there — a bright yellow school bus dubbed the Doggie Bus. When feasible, she will pick up the dogs at the homes of her clients and harness them into their seats so they can look out the window and let the wind whip through their fur. For others living outside her route, she has designated stops. “Our job is to make the owner’s life easy,” she says. Part of that also entails curbing the dogs of bad habits, says Sweet, who is a professional dog trainer and Certified Canine Behavior Specialist. (Sweet also served as a firefighter/paramedic with the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and was deployed as a canine specialist to such disasters as the World Trade Center attacks and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.)
Twice a week, the bus stops in front of Abby Corbett’s Coral Gables home and picks up her golden Labrador retriever, Reggie. “That’s the best part,” Corbett said. “He reminds me. I don’t have to remind him which days are Tuesdays and Thursdays.” When the bus pulls up, “he literally jumps off all four feet and spins in the air and then he goes nuts.” Once Reggie gets on the bus, he runs up to each of the doggy passengers and says hello before heading to his harness in the back of the bus. Once hooked in, Reggie sticks his head out the window and watches Corbett and her young daughter as the bus pulls away. “Every morning it cracks me up,” she said, “and it cracks the neighbors up, too.”
▪ Your Good Dog
The first thing you notice when you enter Your Good Dog is what’s not there. There’s not even a whiff of dog in the place.
That’s thanks to the Air Oasis 5000 system that owner Alexa Holloway installed. It’s an air filtration system designed for 5,000-square-foot commercial spaces, and its effect on the 700-square-foot doggy daycare facility is nothing short of miraculous.
Because doggy daycare is such a social event, each day Holloway posts photographs of the dogs in attendance on a wall in the vestibule. That way, pet parents can see if their dog’s friends are there.
With maximum capacity at 10 to 15 dogs, Holloway says, “We’re very boutique; every dog gets individual attention.”
That could be why Happy, whose pet parents live in New York and winter in Key Biscayne, opted to board him at Your Good Dog when they took a summer cruise. “The owner flew into town and dropped him off and flew back to New York,” says Holloway, who has looked after the diabetic dog in the past.
Holloway has cared for and trained animals big and small, including snakes and alligators. In addition to daycare and boarding, she can train your dog to be a therapy dog or how to dance the hula and paint. (Her own dog, Teddy, has sold some of his works, including a $200 painting, she says.)
It’s the kind of facility that someone halfway across the world would feel comfortable leaving their pet for two months, sight unseen.
That’s exactly what happened last year, with a client from the Middle East who sought to board two Pomeranian puppies, says Andres Antunez, a co-owner of D.O.G. “Somebody called from Saudi Arabia. He bought two dogs in California. He said, I want you to take care of them until they are old enough to take on an airplane,” Antunez says. “They weighed three pounds, combined, when they got here. The interesting thing is they found us online. They had never been here.”
D.O.G. inspires that kind of blind confidence. The name says it all, or nearly all. D.O.G. — daycare, obedience and grooming. This indoor facility in the heart of urban Miami also provides boarding.
The kennels are so top-of-the-line they have names, just like suites in 5-star hotels. The Deco Loft accommodates one 20-pound or less dog for $30 a night. The Wynwood Loft accommodates a dog three times that size for $45 a night. The Downtown Loft is fit for dogs weighing up to 100 pounds, at $55 a night. If you have two dogs that weigh 60 pounds or less each, you might want to consider having them share the Midtown Loft, at $70 a night. And for the dog that needs his or her space, there’s always the Design District Suite. It can accommodate four 60-pound dogs and costs $120 a night.
The real draw is the two dog parks — one for the big dogs, the other for the smaller creatures who can’t run with the big dogs. Each includes canine grass and agility equipment that provide a workout in an air-conditioned setting well away from tropical heat and frequent downpours.
Crispy Soloperto likes that her rescue dog, an American Eskimo-White Swiss Shepherd-Staffordshire Bull Terrier mix named Frankie Sinatra Jones, comes home “happy and tired” after running around all day. She also likes how responsive the staff is. “The kids here, they care,” she said. She’s a regular who comes four to five times a week. Although Frankie Sinatra Jones is as cool as her name suggests, she would be underfoot while Soloperto tends to her day job as chief concierge at the Standard Hotel.
CATS & DOGS
▪ Lauderdale Pet Lodge
This is where the haute dogs and cool cats hang out.
John and Laurie Glorieux got it right when they created their flagship facility in Pompano Beach in 2000 and then the sister facility in Fort Lauderdale 12 years later. A lot of people have both dogs and cats for pets, and they often need to board both animals when they travel.
“I have two dogs and two cats,” Glorieux said. “We wanted to be able to board owners’ dogs and cats together. We never wanted people to have to go to different facilities.”
Their state-of-the-art lodge is designed so the cats and dogs never interact. They are kept in separate quarters and the ventilation system eliminates typical pet smells and mutes the barking and mewing — at least to human ears. After hours of exhilarating play, the dogs repair to suites that include enclosed outdoor runs, billed as the largest in South Florida. The cats relax in floor-to-ceiling kitty condos that provide the opportunity to climb three levels.
When not napping, the cats get to watch — from the behind the safety of a large glass window — all who enter the pet lodge, both two legged and four. Too bad they cannot see what most visitors see immediately upon entering -- a large group of dogs frolicking in a fountain. It’s actually an in-ground pool with jets of water shooting into the air. The scene is one of happy chaos, with dogs running, jumping, chasing and tugging on toys.
A manufactured setting in nature, the park features artificial turf and real trees. The gumbo limbo and palm trees block out the harsh Florida sun, as does a large UV shade tent above the chlorine and chemical-free pool. Smaller dogs enjoy a second pool area in the back.
After a day of lounging at the pool, for a small fee, some lucky dogs get to enjoy grilled burgers made from quarter-pound all-beef patties and doggy ice cream.
▪ Key Walks
In many ways Key Walks acts like a pet parent’s personal valet. If you’ve got a pet problem — even if it is something as simple as not having time to pick up dog food or as complex as the need to board for several months while looking for a dog-friendly apartment — Key Walks seeks to provide the solution, said company co-owner Sebastian Madero.
“We’re a complete pet service,” Madero said. “We provide pet care solutions — pet sitting, dog walking, grooming, take to the vet, dog food delivery. Having a pet takes a lot of time and attention and with people’s busy schedules sometimes they don’t have that time. And that’s where we come in and help them out.”
The owners and the employees are all young, energetic and eager. “This organization is completely run and operated by students and recent graduates,” Madero said. “There is no old man in the back calling the shots.”
One day in late August Laura Cadena, a 22-year-old student at Miami-Dade College, and William Mercado, an 18-year-old senior at Green Springs High School, were holding down the fort. They knew all the dogs by name and their idiosyncrasies. Cadena, who volunteers fostering pets at the local Humane Society, even knew one of the dogs on site was a Spanish waterdog, not to be confused with a Portuguese waterdog, the breed favored by President Barack Obama and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.
It’s evident they take pride in their work and the pets in their charge. Mercado was particularly smitten with Khaleesi, the Alaskan Kleekai (miniature Siberian huskie) who is named for a character in Game of Thrones. “You should see the looks I get when I walk her,” he says.
In addition to making themselves available for the various needs of their clients, the Key Walks also offers a free day of daycare. “That’s our catch,” Mercado said, proudly.
D.O.G. (Daycare, Obedience, Grooming)
Founded: November 2012
Owners: Brothers Andres and Hector Antunez, Julio Isaza, Juan Cochesa
Location: 2214 North Miami Avenue, Miami (Wynwood district)
Size: 15,000 square feet, all indoor
Daycare hours: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Cost: Daycare – half day (six hours): $20; full day: $30; package plans: $180 for 10 half days and $270 for 10 full days; monthly plan: $395. Boarding: $30-$120, based on size of suite and dog. Grooming: $40-$90, with package deals ranging from $100 to $150 a month. Training: $50 an hour and an extra $15 an hour if the owner wishes to be present.
Average daily dog population: 100
Boarding capacity: 63 rooms for up to 85 dogs
Clients: 1,600 overall
Revenues: $1 million+ annually, with a 70 percent growth rate year over year
Features: Separate play areas for large and small dogs, both with agility equipment. Holding areas for pick up, post grooming. Anesthesia-free doggy dental care. Bow Wow Bonuses include: Kong chew toy stuffed with organic peanut butter, a relaxation massage, bedtime tummy rubs and bone calls (where owners can speak to their dogs while away). Offering franchises beginning in October 2014.
Founded: January 2014
Owners: Sebastian Madero and Michael Mauri
Employees: 4 + subcontracted dog walkers
Location: 1423 Ponce de Leon Boulevard, Coral Gables
Size: 1,100 square feet
Hours: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-7 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Cost: Daycare: $15 half day; $20 Paw Pass Member full day; $25 regular full day; $200 10 full-day pass; Boarding: $30 small dogs, $40 large dogs, additional dogs 25 percent discount. Dog Walking: $10-$20. Grooming: $25-$90, depending of the size of the dog and the service.
Average daily dog population: 5-12 dogs
Boarding capacity: 16
Revenues: $100,000+ annually (for this facility and the dog walking program)
Features: The first day of daycare is on the house. Twice daily outdoor walks on a leash. Willingness to provide various forms of pet care from daycare and boarding to pet sitting and dog walking . The grooming offerings includes toe nail polish for the posh pooch, the ultimate matching accessory for any owner.
LAUDERDALE PET LODGE
Founded: November 2012 in Fort Lauderdale and November 2000 at the flagship facility in Pompano Beach (See www.PompanoPetLodge.com, for more information on the Pompano Beach site, which has a planned expansion for 2016 to include 4 acres, with lure coursing and competition courses to provide pet owners with activities they can enjoy with their dogs.)
Owner: John and Laurie Glorieux
Location: 2604 S. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale
Size: Nearly one acre, with 10,000 square feet under air conditioning
Cost to develop: $4 million
Hours: Daycare: Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; Boarding: Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-6:30 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday 3 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Cost: Daycare: $30 a day; Boarding: $55-$68 per night, depending on the size of the room; boarding for cats: $25 a night. Discounts for both based on multiple pets.
Average daily dog population: 90-100
Boarding capacity: 120 dog rooms (240 maximum capacity); 16 maximum cats
Regular clients: 1,200
Revenues: $1 million+ in each facility each year
Features: Two pool areas with NFL grass (as in National Football League), an astronaut filtration system for the pools, a UV shade tent stretched over the pools to shade the dogs to prevent overheating, gumbo limbo and palm trees provide plenty of opportunities for marking of territory. Cats enjoy three-level condos that stretch floor to ceiling and individual play time in a secure room that includes a scratching post and HDTV. Dogs can enjoy ¼-pound hamburgers and Frosty Paws ice cream. Pet parents can observe both dogs and cats via webcam.
PET SITTING BY POTTER
Founded: March 2009
Owner: Jane Potter
Employees: Two women assist with the cat clients, and 1 dog walking helper
Location: Coconut Grove
Hours: Varies according to the client needs. During the holiday season, Potter arrives as early as 5 a.m. to assist her clients.
Cost: $20 per ½ hour visit; overnights start at $75 for one pet, $90 for two
Daily jobs: 5-15
Clients: Average 60-80 return clients
Features: Although Potter mostly looks after dogs and cats, she has also cared for a pig, a ferret, a goat, water dragons, gerbils, hamsters, chinchillas, chickens and parrots. Aside from feeding and walking various pets, Potter is comfortable giving basic medications, including insulin to diabetic pets and subcutaneous IV drips. She will water plants, adjust lights and drapes, take out and bring in trash cans and bring in mail, packages and newspapers to give your home that lived-in look while you are away.
Founded: June 1999
Owner: Elena Sweet
Location: The Redland
Size: Five acres, fully fenced
Daycare hours: Tuesday-Friday 6 a.m.-7 p.m., with Saturday reserved for new client interviews
Cost: Initial four-day training at $280. Each subsequent day: $45, including transportation.
Average daily dog population: 15-20 dogs, with a maximum capacity of 30
Boarding capacity: No boarding
Clients: 150-200 regular clients. Serving West Kendall, Coral Gables, Coconut Grove, South Miami, Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay.
Revenues: $100,000+ annually
Features: Pickup and delivery at home or designated “bus stops” in a yellow school bus dubbed the “Doggie Bus.”™ Five acres in the Redland, where the dogs can roam freely and enjoy a 35x70-foot bone-shaped, fresh-water swimming pool. The area includes a small orchard with longan trees and a forest for walks. The owner is a retired Miami-Dade Fire Rescue firefighter and paramedic who has been training dogs since the 1990s.
YOUR GOOD DOG
Founded: November 2013
Owner: Alexa Holloway
Location: 660 Crandon Blvd., #170, Key Biscayne
Size: 700 square feet, indoor and out
Daycare hours: 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Monday-Friday
Cost: $8/hour up to 4 hours; $35 a day; $50 a day for boarding
Average daily dog population: 8-10 dogs
Boarding capacity: four small and two large kennels
Clients: 90 regular customers, 125 dogs
Features: Daycare, boarding, training. Specializes in small dogs, with cage-free indoor and outdoor play areas. The outdoor features K9 grass and a fenced in area surrounded by a neighborhood butterfly garden. The indoor area has shock-absorbent rubberized flooring to protect bones and joints. Surgery-grade air filtration system, Air Oasis 5000. Therapy dog training and painting classes.
Americans literally spend billions each year on pet care and pet products. In the past 30 years, the total has grown almost 228 percent. Here are figures for total expenditures to the U.S. pet industry for each each year since 2000.
EXPENDITURES IN BILLIONS
American Pet Products Association
Expenditures by Pet Owners by category
TOTAL (in billions)
Pet Services: Grooming & Boarding
Live Animal Purchases