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Get onboard with pet boarding

Providing a safe haven for cats and dogs while their owners are away can be a moneymaker.

Get onboard with pet boarding
Do you want to open a boarding facility at your veterinary hospital? First, identify the nearby competition.

What if you could charge boarding rates like these at one central New Jersey veterinary hospital?

  • Canine: $38 to $49 a night, depending on the dog’s weight.
  • Feline: $32 to $84 a night, depending on the accommodation selected.

Granted, the rates may be higher than what is charged in your town, but they show there’s plenty of money to be made in pet boarding, especially if you’re the only local veterinary-level option.

Don’t agree? Consider this:

  • The American Pet Products Association reported that while veterinary care remains the second-highest source of pet industry spending after food, the outlay on services like boarding, grooming and pet sitting was expected to grow by 6 percent in 2017, to $6.11 billion.
  • An Entrepreneur magazine article titled “Business Ideas: Kennels” stated that the “profit potential range is $25,000 to $150,000 per year.”

Veterinary practices offer boarding services ranging from simple kennel care to deluxe suites with add-ons such as bedtime tuck-ins, teeth brushings, massages and swimming pools. Many market medical services such as diabetes care for when owners are traveling.

Identify the Competition

What about you? Is it time to add pet boarding to your menu of services?

First, find out if your town needs another boarding facility. Roger Layman, a principal architect with Labella Associates who has designed veterinary clinics throughout North Carolina, helped a client investigate the potential.

“We went through demographic studies in her ZIP code to find out how many households were in her area … and how many have dogs, children, etc.,” Layman said. “We discerned that yes, the demographics could support another boarding facility.”

Next, determine whether the potential boarding revenue would outweigh the costs. The Entrepreneur article stated that establishing a dog kennel “from the ground up can easily exceed $150,000.”

Do the Math

Your cost could be much lower depending on the available indoor and outdoor space. You’ll want to factor in these expenses:

Equipment and construction: These include kennel runs and related equipment, epoxy flooring, fencing (for outdoor play), and light construction work.

Ritch Batterton, president of TriStar Vet of Boyd, Texas, gave the example of a veterinary practice that can support about 20 kennel runs.

“You could realistically put in 20 nice modular runs using stainless steel side panels and doors with glass fronts, plus an epoxy floor, for around $35,000, assuming you have a good base floor and drainage,” Batterton said.

Additional costs: Consider permit and license fees, liability insurance to protect against injuries, property insurance to protect against damage to the boarding area, and ongoing utility costs such as electricity, water and waste disposal.

Staffing: The payroll expense is a biggie.

“The No. 1 thing high-end pet owners want from luxury boarding is for someone to keep their pet happy for as many hours as possible,” said Holly Gibson, manager of marketing and innovation at Kansas City, Kansas-based Shor-Line. “This requires staff time. Someone needs to lead this project, and if it takes off, it will become a full-time job.”

Making Money

Now, what about revenue? Karen Felsted, DVM, MS, CPA, CVPM, CVA, the owner of PantheraT Veterinary Management Consulting, advises practice owners to be realistic with cash-flow projections. For instance, at what point will pet boarding break even? At 30 percent occupancy? Sixty percent?

No boarding facility is full every day of the year. You’ll be busy during holidays and vacation periods, but then you might have quiet times.

Felsted recommends integrating boarding with the medical side of the practice for increased revenue.

“When a boarder comes in, do a miniexam and don’t charge for it,” she said. “You can look for stuff that needs attention and then make money with the care you’re providing during boarding: a dental cleaning, annual exam and so on.”

Finally, commit to promoting your boarding services.

“How are you going to be the superior boarding facility in your market?” Felsted asked. “And how will you market your services? You need to consistently promote your beautiful runs. Install online cameras so clients can see their pets, text a picture every day, and so forth.”