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 $1 million, 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.”
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.
• 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.)
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.