A couple of years ago, four friends that happened to be two sets of brothers – Matthew and Mark Stewart, and Scott and Tyler Parker – jointly embarked on new career chapters.
Some said they were going to the dogs but they are proud to have founded Dog Thrive, aiming to get a slice of the $72 billion pet industry.
Because there was a need for indoor/outdoor pet day/night care service in the Crofton/Gambrills area, they opened a location on Route 3 at Johns Hopkins Road. In 2017, they opened a second location near Westfield Annapolis (the mall) and are contemplating another location on Bethany Lane, in Ellicott City.
While boarding facilities are nothing new, “Our breadth of services, with grooming and training, isn’t the norm,” said Tyler Parker.
The staff is on hand 24/7 from June through September at the Gambrills location, which hosts “about 70 dogs per day. Annapolis hosts about 50,” Parker said, with costs running from $25 for a half-day, $29 for a full day and various packages; suites cost $75 for 24 hours.
Carmen Rustenbeck, CEO of the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based International Boarding & Pet Sitting Association, called the setup of such facilities “a market issue. The local population dictates what’s expected,” she said. “What you see in New York City is quite different than what’s offered in a small town.”
Rustenbeck said, “New Yorkers may want their white Westie to be even whiter, so they can order a blueberry masque, or request other options like special treats, having a story read or aromatherapy. One facility in Wisconsin employs a chef.”
Anything that can be done for a human “can also be done for a pet. That means opportunities for service providers,” she said. “The big issue here is finding certified professionals and explaining to pet owners why that approach is solid.”
Elisa Kamens, owner of Club Pooche, in Columbia, concurs. She’s been in the business for 25 years and was “the first person in the area who got proper zoning in Howard County to allow dogs in buildings,” she said.
After caring for two dozen dogs in her home for many years, she received her zoning permit in 2008 and founded Club Pooche, “That’s when the industry expanded,” she said, calling the Columbia market “saturated. I have 20 competitors, including [the Snowden Square] PetsMart.”
She accommodates “up to 65 dogs at $65 per day,” all costs included. Kamens said clients need to be sure to ask boarding facilities various questions about costs, kennel cough, sanitization, how emergencies are handled, etc.
There’s always plenty to know. “What this industry is about,” said Rustenbeck, “is understanding what’s best for your pet.”