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Area businesses have gone to the dogs

By Andrew Gaug

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Valley companies are taking advantage of the booming pet services industry.



It appears society is going to the dogs and cats.

The pet industry last year provided $40.8 billion in products and services, such as food, toys and veterinary care. The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association said the industry will grow even bigger in 2008.

Businesses in the Mahoning Valley are cashing in.

“I’m seeing now our pets are being treated more like our kids,” said Karen Simpson, a floor manager at Petco in Boardman. “The economy is not in great shape, but people are still spending.”

This is evident in the business that’s sprung up around what used to be a mundane task — bathing a pet. Today, pet owners can turn this into a special event by taking their pet to a self-service wash or a specialized spa.

“The pet industry is seeing a humanization thing where throwing them in the bath tub and scrubbing them doesn’t seem to cut it,” said Leah Nelson, a spokeswoman for the manufacturers association.

The Come Stay and Play Pet Resort opened in Austintown in November and shows the latest advances of the pet industry.

Owned by Bill and Darlene Lowery, the resort serves as both a day care and boarding place for pets. Pet owners can drop off their pets for the day where they will be allowed to socialize with other pets, run around and relax for $20 a day, plus extra costs for screenings and medication.

“Instead of the owner coming home and the dog being ready to play, he’s already been playing and is looking to relax — much like the owner,” Bill Lowery said.

Another trend that the resort offers is an advancement in dog washing — a 24-hour self-service dog washing area. The area runs much like a self-service car wash where the owner puts in coins and is given an allotted time to clean and dry off their dog.

Lowery said because the machine is waist-high, it’s less of a pain on the owner and there’s no clean-up. The cost is $5 for the average, medium-sized dog.

If convenience is a must for pet owners, mobile dog groomers can come to their house and clean and cut the pet’s hair and nails.

In his 16th year as a mobile groomer, Bob Soltesz, co-owner of A Dog Gone Clean Mobile Pet Grooming in Austintown, said business always has been good.

“It pretty much escalated right from the beginning,” he said, “It’s much easier for everybody because we come right to the house. The dog is groomed in the van, and it takes less than an hour,” he said.

Maureen Kirksey, co-owner of mobile dog groomer Shear Purrfection in Youngstown, said some owners prefer to have their dog cut and cleaned by a mobile groomer.

“It’s less traumatic for some dogs because they can look out and see their house and smell their surroundings,” she said.

Many owners are now demanding their pets be treated as humans would, said Joy Kryzanowski, co-owner of the Howland Pet Resort.

“I think nowadays, people are really relating to their pets as an extension of the family and recognizing them for the individuals they are,” she said.

The Howland Pet Resort offers suites and condos for dogs and cats that include televisions as well as a stereo that plays classical music while the pet sleeps.

Kryzanowski said staying at a pet resort is completely different from locking it up in a kennel.

“If people have to leave their pet, they want it to be treated as if they were home,” she said.

Both the Howland and Austintown pet resorts emphasize the interaction pets will have with humans, including exercise, bathroom breaks and regular check-ups.

“I think a lot of people always wanted something like [a day care] for their pets,” said Julia Gunger, manager and trainer at Come Stay and Play. “Now, more people are coming because nicer places are more readily available,” she said.

Soltesz said the growing dog businesses in the area are great because it means more business for him.

“If people are willing to pay for doggie day care, that’s just as good for us because it shows people want to pamper their pets,” he said.