HADLEY â€” For Chris Pratt, opening Wagging Tails Pet Resort has been a dream come true. But her decision to enter the pet care industry in the Pioneer Valley was also grounded in a foundational principle of business â€” the demand was there.
â€śThere is room for more,â€ť said Pratt, speaking the day before Wagging Tailsâ€™ grand opening earlier this month.
A former office manager, Pratt was inspired to enter the pet boarding business after she learned that her new puppy was a lot less happy when she wasnâ€™t around.
â€śWhat can I do where I can bring my dog to work every day?â€ť said Pratt, recalling her thought process.
Pratt said that she then researched the need for dog boarding, training and day care in the area.
â€śThe other places (in the area) are booked,â€ť she said, specifically referring to holiday and summer times.
Pet boarding, and pets in general, are indeed a growing industry.
According to the American Pet Products Association, consumers spent some $69.5 billion on pets in the United States last year. That includes $6.16 billion in the â€śother servicesâ€ť category, which includes grooming and boarding.
The association estimates that in 2018, $72.13 billion will be spent on pets in the United States, with $6.47 billion going to other services.
Pratt acknowledged that when she was growing up, dog day care didnâ€™t exist. She said that the growth in the industry is fueled by millennials who are waiting to have kids but still have their â€śfur children.â€ť
â€śThey (pet parents) need someone that they trust to take care of their fur children when theyâ€™re gone,â€ť Pratt said.
She said that the whole process of setting up the business took about 14 months from the time of its conception.
In addition to dog and cat boarding, Wagging Tails also offers dog training, dog and cat grooming and dog day care.
Dog day care at Wagging Tails starts a $30 for a full day and $23 for a half day, with 10- and 20-day packages offered for each. Dog boarding is priced at $42 a night, with one- and two-week packages, while cat boarding is $23 a night, also with one- and two-week packages.
Grooming for dogs is $30-plus, depending on breed, for a bath, and $55-plus depending on breed for a groom, with a la carte items also available. Baths for cats are $38, with a full groom priced at $45-plus, depending on coat condition, with a la carte items available as well.
The tuition for most classes offered is $175, or $500 for an in-home class.
Pratt said one of the early challenges is attracting customers. That said, she said the one-on-one specialized trainings with lead trainer Greg Riley are booked through mid-August.
â€śHe just has so many credentials,â€ť said Pratt, who noted that Riley, an anthrozoologist, canine behavorist/psychologist and canine educator, moved from the eastern part of the state to work in the business.
Although Pratt has no formal animal training herself, she did note that she has experience taking care of and training her dogs and those of her friends and family.
â€śIâ€™ve been a lifelong owner and trainer of my own dogs,â€ť she said. â€śItâ€™s something that I enjoy doing.â€ť
Wagging Tails has now been open for roughly a month, with its grand opening occurring June 13. Pratt said that business has been doing OK, and that there are a lot of repeat customers already.
She said that the biggest challenge getting started was finding someone willing to build her a building, as she wasnâ€™t able to find a building that suited the needs of her business.
Developer Barry Roberts ended up building the structure at 220 Russell St. and is renting it to Wagging Tails.
It features two double kennels with â€śsuitesâ€ť that hold one large or two small dogs, a cat room, and indoor and outdoor play areas. There is also a room with DOGTV that is designed to help dogs relax. DOGTV is also available in the playrooms and kennels.
â€śWe wanted it custom-made for dogs,â€ť she said.
Additionally, treats are made on-site at the facility, some of which are frozen and some of which are baked.
Pratt also noted her facilityâ€™s commitment to cleanliness, saying that the kennels and playrooms are cleaned daily, and that there are drains in the floors to facilitate this, as well as the presence of ultraviolet lights to help filter the air and kill bacteria.