Pet Boarding and Daycare July August 2020

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VOL 10 • ED 4

JULY / AUGUST 2020

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SINCE 1927


STAFF PUBLISHER Barkleigh Productions, Inc. EXECUTIVE EDITOR Rebecca Shipman ART DIRECTOR Laura Pennington SENIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER Jenn Barraclough

CONTENTS

JUNIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER Jenny Thomas

J U LY / AU G U ST 2 0 2 0

Serenity

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WEB MASTER Luke Dumberth

Dog Retreat

PRESIDENT Todd Shelly VICE PRESIDENT Gwen Shelly CHIEF OPERATIONS OFFICER Adam Lohr DIRECTOR OF MARKETING & CLIENT RELATIONS James Severs EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT / ACCOUNTS MANAGER Karin Grottola

questions from the

MARKETING COORDINATOR Alyx Robertson

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SOCIAL MEDIA / PR Evan Gummo CONTACT

General: (717) 691-3388 info@barkleigh.com Editorial: rebecca@barkleigh.com (717) 691-3388 (ext. 225) Advertising: james@barkleigh.com (717) 691-3388 (ext. 224)

Animal Behavior 6 10

Precautions to Take When Reintegrating “The Pack” Working Together: Behavior Modification Training To Help Your Business

Business 16 5 Lessons Learned from COVID-19 22 3 Post-Pandemic Revenue Mistakes You May Have Made

ON THE COVER: PHOTO OF SERENITY DOG RETREAT 4

Facility 40

Implementing Written Systems and Operations

Cats 44

Attract Your Ideal Cat Clients with Add-On Services

Industry News 52 52

New Products Classified Ads

Copyright July 2020. Pet Boarding & Daycare is published bimonthly by Barkleigh Productions, Inc, 970 West Trindle Road, Mechanicsburg PA 17055. Postmaster: Send change of address to Pet Boarding & Daycare c/o Barkleigh Productions, Inc., 970 West Trindle Road, Mechanicsburg PA 17055. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written permission of the publisher. Editorial offices: 970 West Trindle Road, Mechanicsburg PA 17055. (717) 691–3388 FAX (717) 691–3381 Email: info@barkleigh.com

PET BOARDING & DAYCARE


PET BOARDING & DAYCARE

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ANIMAL BEHAVIOR

PRECAUTIONS

TO TAKE WHEN

REINTEGRATING THE PACK

By Michelle Semanski

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P

eople all over the country are returning to work and getting back into what was once their regular routine. For many, this routine involves dropping their dog off at daycare before they head to work for eight or more hours. Over the last few months, most dogs have become accustomed to their owners being home (and likely waiting on them hand and foot). It may be a multiple-dog home, or they could have had “social distancing play dates” with a neighbor’s or a family member’s dog, but for the most part, they have been exclusively spending time with their human family. Like children returning from summer break to a new school year, these dogs may have changed a little. Throwing all the “regulars” back into their respective playgroups may not result in the same contented group of dogs that you were accustomed to when they all were together on a regular basis, with only short breaks to recuperate. Some of your regular daycare dogs may have been coming to you since they were newly acquired puppies, leaving little time for them to get settled into the role of sole (dog) pack member. So returning them back into a pack of their own kind, with limited individual attention from the humans, might be a bit of a wakeup call for those whose crave that human connection and have become accustomed to receiving it regularly. On the other hand, you’ll have those who couldn’t be happier to be back with their own kind; neck-biting, chasing and playing keep-away. Sometimes, no human can replicate that same-species interaction. So what should you do with those who come back, thinking they are king of the castle after being pampered by their home-bound humans for past several months, or suddenly possess a new behavior that may cause a hiccup in your once harmonious pack?


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First, you should reintroduce dogs slowly. Don’t just unleash your regular groups and expect things to return to normal. Start with a few dogs who have

sLOW REINTRODUCTION

a good relationship and slowly add in other dogs that they had already been used to playing with. If an issue arises with a dog who may have gained a little more confidence over their at-home period, step in to redirect the dog without giving it any additional attention—which is what it is likely looking for. If you continually have this problem with the same dogs (likely adolescents who outgrew that “puppy innocence”), it may be a good idea to incorporate them into a new group with better suited personalities.

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as willing to allow another dog in the group to take a toy from them in your daycare, as they may have before. It’s best to reintroduce toys slowly and not allow a single dog to

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SEPARATION ANXIETY

Separation anxiety is another new issue you may face due to this extended period of time dogs have had with their humans at home. Dogs who may not have been as attached to “their person” before may have made a change over the last few months. They may not be as eager to join back in with their buddies knowing their person is out there without them. The best solution to this is to simply continue with business as usual. If a dog previously enjoyed participating in daycare without much of a sign that they’d rather be with their human, chances are, they can return to that mindset. However, if this continues, and you have a dog showing no interest of joining back in with the group after a period of time, it may be best to have a conversation with the owner about whether daycare is the best option.

The early part of 2020 has taken a toll on all of us—and our dogs and those of our clients weren’t spared. While for most dogs, it may have seemed like the best possible outcome; their humans get to stay home all day with them. But dogs thrive on routine, and this has certainly thrown off their routine. So accept your daycare clients back with open arms, but be prepared for some small behavior changes to show up—even in those who may have been your perfect daycare

HIGH

AROUSAL With those dogs on the other end of the spectrum, who are simply elated to be back with their buddies again, you might expect an adjustment period for them as well. Obedience and manners may go completely out the window once they are reunited with their long lost friends. Be patient and keep an extra close eye on them to make sure they’re not causing any issues with the above-mentioned, notso-happy-to-be-back category.

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BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION TRAINING TO HELP YOUR BUSINESS

By Steven Appelbaum

I

think all of us can agree that 2020 is unlike any year we have experienced. Last December, who imagined that 3-4 months later the nation would essentially close down? That not only would millions of businesses be forced to close, but they’d be prohibited from reopening for months. And would anyone have guessed that vacation travel would grind to a standstill? Yet that’s exactly what happened. And while the impact of COVID-19 cuts across all industries, most in the pet business have been severely impacted. Daycares function in part because people are busy working and don’t like

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having to leave their pets at home all day by themselves. As of this writing, an estimated 35 million people are unemployed—a figure unimaginable six months earlier. Millions more are underemployed as companies had to cut back on the number of hours employees could work. Additionally, untold millions are working remotely or are waiting until their states allow the companies they work for to reopen so they can return to work. All of this negatively impacts daycares. Boarding facilities are buffeted by similar challenges. Spring and summer are traditionally busy times for boarding


facilities as people are more inclined to take vacations in the warmer months. Do you know anyone who is jumping on a plane right now to go on vacation? With travel at a fraction of normal for this time of year, boarding facilities that are open are reporting a huge drop in revenue. Pet trainers have also been affected by the pandemic, as they were deemed “nonessential workers” in many states. And even when it is possible for them to go back to work, one doesn’t need a crystal ball to predict that it will be a while before dog owners are comfortable attending group classes in any kind of meaningful numbers. The same holds true for private lessons. Lots of pet owners will hesitate before inviting a stranger into their home unless absolutely necessary. Some dog and cat trainers are using video conferencing to help make up some of their lost business, and it is here that real opportunities arise for all three types of businesses. At this juncture, daycares, boarding facilities and pet trainers each have something the other can benefit from. Boarding and daycare facilities have client lists; people who have used their services in the past, but for all the reasons listed, aren’t using them now. Many of these people are at home with their pets, and there is no reason to assume dog or cat owners have fewer training/behavior questions than before. Dog and cat trainers have the knowledge to assist owners with challenges they are having with their pets, but due to the current circumstances, are less able to perform their service. So, what to do? Work together! Contact your preferred dog trainer(s) and find out if they are interested in offering private and group problem-solving lessons via Zoom, What’s App or some other video chat service. Explain that you are going to contact your clients and offer these services to them with the trainer

conducting these video lessons. Split the revenue you generate from these with the trainer; 60/40 in your favor would be reasonable. Private lessons can be offered at $40-$50 per session, which is significantly less than what many trainers charge for in-person, private sessions. This nets the trainer $16-$20 per session. I suggest you respond to interested clients, sign them up, charge them and simply pay the trainer after the services have been rendered. Why would a pet trainer agree to this? Because many of them aren’t working, or are working reduced hours. This is found income for them. Why should you consider it? Because it is also found income for you, while at the same time assisting your clients with a need many of them have. This will enhance customer loyalty, which is always valuable. Group sessions can be offered less

Contact your preferred dog trainer(s) and find out if they are interested in offering private and group problemsolving lessons via Zoom, What’s App or some other video chat service.

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Group sessions can be offered less

consider contacting local independent

expensively to clients; $15-$20 per session

sessions and ask if they would be open

with a maximum of 5-7 participants. expensively to clients; $15-$20 per session with a maximum of 5-7 participants. Some trainers might be able to handle more students, but you want to be careful of the sessions becoming too unwieldy and people not getting their questions addressed or answered in a timely fashion. A group class of 5-7 participants generates $75-$100 on the low end and $105-$140 on the high end, with 40% going to the trainer. That’s $30-$56 per session, which will typically take about 90 minutes. Found revenue for all. I suggested the training sessions focus on problem-solving as opposed to obedience training because 60% of dog owners

pet stores. Let them know about your to offering products at a discount to students participating in your training sessions. If they are on-board, you have

enroll in training classes to address behavioral challenges. Besides, problem-solving lessons are easier to execute on video conferencing. You can list the behaviors the trainer is comfortable addressing and communicate that in your e-mails or social media posts to your clients when promoting the sessions. If your facility sells behaviors modification products or training aids, such as chewing deterrents, odor neutralizers, collars, harnesses, etc., the trainer could recommend them during the sessions. You might consider offering these products at a discount to those participating in these training sessions. If you don’t offer retail, you can

a number of options open to you. Tell the store that the trainer will mention their store by name and note the discount, as well as how they go about purchasing the products (some stores are open, some offer curbside pickup, etc.). In return, ask the store to please have any of their customers who are interested in signing up for a session contact you via email or phone. Ideally, they promote this on their website and Facebook page. This might result in more people signing up for the sessions—a win for everyone. Another option is to charge the store for a 2-3-minute introduction/commercial. This can be done by simply having

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the owner or manager join the group session at an agreed upon time. There they will be introduced, thanked for helping to support the session and able to present their brief commercial. Will a pet store whose business has been negatively impacted by the pandemic be willing to pay $20 to be in front of involved dog owners with discretionary income, informing them about relevant products they might purchase elsewhere? Some will. Or you might not want to charge stores at all. Simply offer this as a way of forging a stronger relationship with a business that caters to your demographic. After all, in tough times, having friends and allies is a prudent strategy—not to mention a way in which businesses can simply help each other. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented all of us with extraordinary challenges, but it also presents us with opportunities to rethink the ways we reach people and conduct some of our business. Steven Appelbaum is a professional animal trainer and founder of Animal Behavior College (ABC), a vocational school specializing in animal career training programs. ABC offers courses for people interested in becoming pet groomers, dog trainers, cat trainers, veterinary assistants and aquatics management specialists. They will be introducing a zookeeper assistant program in 2020. The school also teaches a variety of continuing education programs on subjects including; pet nutrition, pet massage, dog walking, pet sitting and training shelter dogs. Aside from managing ABC, Appelbaum works as a freelance author, lecturer and pet business consultant. For more information about Animal Behavior College, please visit the website at www.animalbehaviorcollege.com


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BUSINESS

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LESSONS LEARNED

one of us could have predicted the impact COVID-19 would have on our businesses. Stay-at-home orders and canceled events have been great for bonding with our pets, but as a business owner, social distancing has hurt your bottom line. And while we could wallow in self-pity, vent about our losses or how poorly our community, state or government (name the group of your choice) handled things, I think there is a better use of our time. This is the time to pivot and make changes. This is the time to give strong consideration to the future of your business. This is the time to determine how you will rebound from this crisis and how you will come out stronger in the long run. More than anything else, this should be the wake-up call to ensure you set up your business for success if something like this ever happens again. This is the time to consider lessons learned from a pandemic.

1

FROM COVID-19 By Robin Bennett, CPDT-KA

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PET BOARDING & DAYCARE

Get your finances in order. Sadly, despite government funding and local community/state grants offered to help businesses, there were many small business owners who weren’t able to apply, simply because they didn’t have their financial paperwork up to date. Lack of good financial data prevented some small business owners from even filling out applications. It’s true that most of us get involved in the pet care industry because we love dogs, so financial paperwork isn’t usually the highlight of our work—and it’s easy to put it off in favor of working with the dogs. But this pandemic should be a solid reminder that you have to run your business like a business, and you really need to know your numbers. Being able to run reports to understand your payroll, your expenses and your revenue is vital to ensure you


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are making money. As Peter Drucker states, “What gets measured, gets managed,” and we need to manage the money in our business. Action Step: Whether you are a small sole proprietorship or a corporation, hire a bookkeeper or learn to do it yourself. Keep your financials up to date and study them on a monthly basis.

2

Have a budget. Most pet business owners dread the question, “Do you have a budget?” Budgeting is valuable for a number of reasons: 1) It gives you a benchmark to distinguish the revenue goal you need to hit in order to make a certain profit. 2) It will tell you when you should increase your marketing or staffing. 3) It will help you understand the impact of discounts on your bottom line (and it would surprise you to know that many businesses are giving away over 25% of their profit without even realizing it). Having your budget reviewed by an outside consultant can help you identify leaks in your business where you are losing money. And, during COVID-19, a budget would have helped you know what you need to make in unique and original services to mitigate the devastating losses when revenue dipped. Action Step: Complete your budget for 2020; it’s never too late to get one done. Don’t wait until next year. If you

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aren’t sure where to begin, just pull your financial data from last year and use that (if you don’t have that data, refer to lesson #1).

3

Have an emergency fund. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 82% of small businesses that fail do so because of cash flow issues. This could happen because they don’t generate enough profit, because they have outstanding unpaid bills for client services or because they simply don’t spend their money wisely. In the case of this pandemic, the immediate halt of most pet care services without any notice pointed out the real need for all businesses to have an emergency fund. Every business should start saving money to build an emergency fund that is equal to 3-6 months of your expenses. The point of this fund is to cover your business in case of lean times when business isn’t as strong as usual, to cover emergency repairs that come up unexpectedly or to take advantage of opportunities that might arise for your company. Sadly, some businesses shut their doors completely because they had no reserve funds to cover minimal expenses. Do you even know the bare minimum expenses you have to pay regardless of whether or not you have a single paying client? In other words, what are your monthly expenses regardless of what dogs you have in your care? Start saving 3-6

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times that amount as a minimum. Action Step: Starting today, commit to building your emergency fund by setting aside some money each month. You will build it slowly, over time, but you have to start now. Of course, first you also need to ensure your business is profitable and making money so you have some cash available to save (another reason to get your finances in order and prepare a budget).

4

Diversify. During this pandemic, we saw that the businesses which had more diverse offerings were able to take advantage of additional revenue streams and pivot their business model quickly. Having more than one type of service allows companies to make up lost revenue in other areas of their business. This is a simple example of not having all your eggs in one basket. If that basket tips over, you have nothing.

Now is the time to consider adding other revenue streams to your business. This could be other services that are completely different from what you offer now (for instance, adding dog training or grooming to your dog daycare/lodging business), or it could mean adding different formats of your existing service (for instance, adding group classes, online training or evaluations to your private dog training lessons). It could also mean adding affiliate services or retail services. Action Step: Think about ways you could offer other revenue streams to your current business model and make a plan to implement those services during 2020.

5

Persevere and be creative. Pivot. Be Creative. Try new things. Experiment. I heard these phrases multiple times during

the pandemic. Those who come out the strongest will be the businesses that kept looking for the rainbow in the pandemic rainstorm; the businesses that adapted to the new normal of a stayat-home world, tried new services and kept in touch with their clients to find out what they needed. A crisis is a time when you can be overcome by the chaos and fear. But during a crisis, there is also the opportunity to find a new path, try new services, experiment with a new business model or create new revenue streams. Those who were able to break through the chaos and fear and get focused on moving forward to take advantage of new opportunities were also able to continue making money, gain new clients and continue their business. The heart of an entrepreneur is one that causes you to continue to adapt and adjust. Action Step: Take stock of your business. Does it look the same now as it did before the pandemic? If so, make changes so you can virus-proof your business for the future. Look at ways you can pivot and adjust your business model in case this happens again. No business should come out of the pandemic looking the same as it started. This is the time for creative adjustments to your business that will help you survive into the future. Robin Bennett is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, author, speaker, and expert on dogs. She founded one of the largest dog training companies in Virginia and has been using her expertise in “reading dogs” to teach pet owners and others in the pet care industry how to keep dogs safe for over 20 years. Robin’s first book, All About Dog Daycare, is the number one reference on opening a dog daycare. She is also the co-founder of The Dog Gurus, the nation’s premier resource for dog care professionals. Through The Dog Gurus she is now helping pet care professionals by showing them how to create sustainable businesses with teams that truly know dogs.

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3

POSTpandemic revenue

MISTAKES By Laura Laaman The pet care industry is supposedly

recession-proof—but COVID-19 showed us it’s not pandemic-proof.

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F

or some business owners, this was the first major crisis they’d encountered. Others faced the 2008 economic financial recession and September 11th. COVID-19 was unique, however, as it brought work and travel to a screeching halt. Pet care facility owners across the industry were shocked into a very defensive position. Even the most optimistic pet care facility owners naturally went into fear-induced confusion. In that reactionary mode, they made disruptive and difficult decisions for the goal of survival. As the country starts moving into the next phase, it’s time to not just survive, but also position ourselves to thrive. After all, most business owners didn’t get into business just to squeak by—they want to be successful. These are certainly complicated, confusing and challenging times; however, if you’re committed to overcoming this pandemic, it’s time to ensure you’re making the best decisions possible and avoid or undo any poor knee-jerk decisions. We’ve identified three major mistakes pet care facility owners innocently made that should be remedied as soon as possible: Ceasing Phone Procedure Quality Control: As you hopefully already agree, the pet care industry is uniquely tied to the phone—even in this internet age. The most profitable pet care facilities realized this and ensured phones were only answered by adept, highly-trained professionals. But when people stopped traveling and the well of phone calls suddenly dried up, pet care facilities were forced to allocate their

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resources to other places. Profitable phone procedures may have fallen by the wayside, and the few incoming calls were haphazardly handled by whoever was around to answer the phone. The good news is, the phones are starting to ring again. So as your phone lines start to light back up, it’s critical to restore quality control measures. When your most skilled and highly-trained phone experts are answering every call, phone inquiries are being treated like the golden opportunities they truly are. This means that you are realizing high conversion (turning inquiries into bookings). Smart business owners realize that just one client has the potential to spend tens of thousands of dollars with you over the lifetime of their pet. Therefore, they are set to convert as many prospects as possible. The reverse is also true. If you’re not confident every call is being handled with expert care, you’re forfeiting tremendous revenue you likely can’t afford to lose.

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2

Slamming the Brakes on

Marketing: When the pandemic first hit, most pet care business owners felt forced

to reduce or totally halt their advertising efforts. They felt the need to reserve cash. Now, however, is perhaps the most important time to resume advertising. If they haven’t already, your primary competitors will soon be stirring up an advertising storm. Like with the phones, web searches for pet care are increasing. If a pet parent doesn’t see your facility’s name, they will see someone else’s. Both existing clients and prospective new clients are at risk of being scooped up by your competition if you don’t resume marketing sooner rather than later. However, it’s important to get the most out of your marketing dollars. If you’re making the right marketing decisions and targeting the right places, you can start to



dig back out of the pandemic’s crater. Digital advertising effectively managed by a skilled provider allows for the most control and highest return. Cross marketing to your database provides wonderful, highly effective and inexpensive opportunities for your existing clients to use more of your services. Painful Pricing Mistakes: This third pitfall has been a trap for pet care business owners long before COVID-19, but the threat is now highly exacerbated. An all-inclusive pricing model means you include playtime in the overnight boarding price. All-inclusive pricing comes with a host of problematic side effects most business owners aren’t aware of. The inherent dangers of an all-inclusive pricing system include: • Reduced occupancy and frequency of visits due to a high, inflexible price point • Lower revenue overall due to a lack

3

of logical choices by the pet parent • Lower return on marketing investment due to intimidatingly high prices • Limited available market (a high percentage of dogs isn’t best suited in a group play environment). By separating activities from boarding, you can give pet parents meaningful choices on how much and what kind of activity they’d like for their pet. This model is proven to engage more customers—and it’s better for the pets, too. If you haven’t made the switch yet, now is the time to consider it. Now that we can see light at the end of the tunnel, it’s time to forge ahead toward a strong future. This means working even harder at maximizing each client’s engagement and spending with your company. Prior to COVID-9, when business was booming, it was easy to become complacent and simply assume another prospect was going to call. That

was dangerous thinking then—and now it’s deadly for your business. The world is beginning to return to some level of normalcy at last, but fierce competition still looms. Avoid these mistakes and remain committed to make your business strong. Laura Laaman is president of Outstanding Pet Care. Outstanding Pet Care guarantees to substantially increase the revenues of its clients with its proven services. If you’re interested in growing your revenues, schedule an individual consultation with Laura Laaman or one of her team members. Call Outstanding Pet Care at 1-888-735-5667 or go to www.OutstandingPetCare.com.

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PET BOARDING & DAYCARE



THINK TANK

questions from the

A Member of the Dog Daycare Business Think Tank asked: What’s the best way to directly market to the customers of your immediate competitors?

T

he holy grail of business marketing is being able to target the current customers of your competitors. It's a perfect audience; you know they have a dog(s), you know they are very interested in dog daycare and boarding, and you know that they are currently spending money on those services. You don't have to sell them on why they need it, you just need to persuade them that your business is better. Unfortunately, there really is no one accurate way to find out who is a customer at your various competitors. To market to them online, you would need a customer list, which I'm guessing your competition is going to be pretty reluctant to hand over to you. To get them offline, you would have to camp out at their facility and watch them leave, then stalk them and make them an offer in person to switch over to your business. That's creepy and not very practical. All is not lost though. There is another option that, although is not directly targeting customers of the competition, is still amazingly powerful and can yield great results, and it's called Facebook advertising. The 28

targeting on Facebook is incredibly focused and allows you to come very close to figuring out who the optimal people for your services are. Here's why Facebook ads comes close to finding your competitors’ customers: When I create an ad for a client and am choosing the targeting, the first thing I do is see if any competitors’ Facebook pages are listed and available to show ads to. If so, you can send ads to everyone who likes your competitors’ Facebook pages—which is likely to include many of their customers. Also, because Facebook owns Instagram, you can simultaneously show your ads there as well, giving you exposure on two social platforms instead of one. Unfortunately, (for reasons unknown) Facebook doesn't index all business pages, and the majority of small businesses seem to not show up for targeting. That sucks, but we do have another option that still works at finding very relevant people who may also be customers at your competitors’ businesses. We can target people in the immediate geographical

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area of your competitors (as well as your business) who have a dog, have spent money on dog-related products and/or who like other dog-related Facebook and Instagram pages. Although we're targeting more people than just the customers of your competition, everyone who views the ads will be a perfect fit for your business. And, if your offer, copy and creatives are good, you'll be able to bring a bunch of them into your business. The other platform you can use to get leads from your competitors is Google advertising, which works a little differently. With Google, instead of going out and putting your ad in front of them (an offensive approach), you wait for someone to search for your competitors in Google and pay for your business to be listed there (more of a defensive approach because you have to wait for people to search for the term). What's really cool is that your business may even be listed above the actual business they were looking

30

for—depending on how aggressive your budget is. This might be a competitor’s current customer, as well as other people who have heard of them and are just researching, but either way, if your ad is structured properly, you can get them to forget about your competitor (the one they originally searched for) and click over to your website. I know that you wanted a quick and easy way to reach all the customers that are going to your competition, but I'm sorry to say, it's not that easy. Hopefully you can now see that you have a few other options that, although aren't a guaranteed match to reach all of your competitors’ clients, can still get to some of them by using the powerful targeting capabilities of online platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Google. The great thing about using these advertising channels is that you can set any budget and get detailed reporting on how the campaigns are doing in real time so that

PET BOARDING & DAYCARE

you don't have to keep spending money on ads that aren't converting—and put more money into what is working. Questions for this column come from the Facebook group The Dog Daycare Business Think Tank and are answered by Fernando Camacho (Fern). Fern runs Overdog Digital, a digital marketing agency specializing in working with dog daycare and boarding facilities. He does private business consulting, staff training and helps pet businesses utilize modern resources to expand their customer base and grow their businesses. Fern is also the author of six books and is a speaker at national conferences and private events.

TO JOIN THE GROUP OR ASK A QUESTION, GO TO www.facebook.com/groups/ dogdaycarethinktank/


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PROFILE OF SUCCESS

Photo by Emily Followill

Photo by Emily Followill

Exclusive Care in a Breathtaking Setting By Kathy Hosler • Photos provided by Serenity Dog Retreat

34

PET BOARDING & DAYCARE


Photo by Emily Followill

— the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.

I

magine the complete bliss of vacationing in a sprawling southern manor surrounded by 25 lush acres of beautifully manicured lawns and gardens. During your stay you are treated to luxurious lodging, around-the-clock personal service, fun activities, and the opportunity to relax and unwind with a few close friends. That is what the guests of Serenity Dog Retreat get to experience! Beth Ramsey, founder and owner of Serenity Dog Retreat, has been an animal lover all of her life. During high school and college, Beth worked in a veterinary hospital as a receptionist.

After college, life and work took her on a different path. For the next 25 years, she held a position at Coca Cola. Beth never lost her love for animals, and she was determined that her second career would revolve around them. But, she did not want to open a standard commercial boarding kennel. She had something far more exclusive in mind. "I had a vision to create a pet boarding experience that would allow dogs to benefit from the same conditions I loved cultivating for my own four-legged friends—the freedom to play and explore in a beautiful natural setting, a restful,

PET BOARDING & DAYCARE

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quiet home-like environment and plenty of loving attention. I wanted it to be small, upscale and selective," says Beth. Beth started planning and looking for land while she was still with Coca Cola. She looked at existing facilities and even drew up her own plans, but nothing she came up with matched her vision. "Then, everything changed when I went to look at a historic Georgian plantation that was located on 25 acres near Atlanta, Georgia. "With great anticipation, I drove up the private driveway lined with 50 magnificent crepe myrtle. When the estate came into view, I immediately fell in love with it. It was like stepping back in time. The property and the layout were perfect." Beth set about implementing her vision to create unique boarding and daycare programs that would provide her canine guests with a stress-free experience in an exclusive setting. In August 2018, Serenity Dog Retreat opened its doors.


"When people arrive with their dogs, they are blown away by the magnificent estate and the accommodations their dog will enjoy," says Beth with a wide smile. "Invariably, the owners say, ‘Can I stay too? I need some serenity in my life.’" Beth repurposed a three-car attached garage into twelve walk-in luxury suites that have full-length tempered glass doors and airy, open ceilings. The bedrooms are furnished with toddler beds and flat screen televisions. "I wanted all the animals to be in an authentic home environment even though the dogs are only in the suites for eating and sleeping," says Beth. "At other times, they have full access to our Country Club Daycare services which are customized for each dog according to its age, interests and energy level. "The dogs are often with me in the living area of the house, or supervised by a staff member while lounging at our resort-style in-ground swimming pool or enjoying the outdoor play areas. "During rest periods, the dogs enjoy our gorgeous sunroom, kitchen or lounge area where they can relax and nap on comfy dog furniture. Or, they can do art projects, work on brain-stimulating puzzles or have fun chasing bacon scented bubbles," says Beth. There is a very thorough fourhour evaluation process for any dog that wants to come to Serenity. Owners go to the website, fill out the online application, and then they create a client portal and schedule the evaluation appointment. The evaluation is critical to making sure a dog can get along with the others, and also helps them become comfortable in the surroundings prior to their first overnight stay. "Dogs that have any kind of aggression or dogs that are super high energy are not a good fit for us. We

Photos by Emily Followill

“During rest periods, the dogs enjoy our gorgeous sunroom, kitchen or lounge area where they can relax and nap on comfy dog furniture.” – Beth Ramsey, founder and owner of Serenity Dog Retreat

PET BOARDING & DAYCARE

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are called Serenity for a reason," says Beth. "If a dog is unable to relax and socialize with others, this isn't the right place for them." The resort has a two-acre outdoor play area enclosed by a seven-foothigh fence. It includes the beautiful in-ground swimming pool. The dogs can come in to the main house whenever they want through the doggie door into the sunroom. To keep the amount of dogs they care for to a manageable number, they only accept dogs for daycare that regularly board at Serenity. The resort has a ratio of just 3-5 dogs per staff member. That ensures each guest gets the finest of care and lots of TLC. All of the staff is trained in CPR and first aid, and receives extensive education through The Dog Gurus training programs. "Having a small business allows me to build an amazing relationship with each of my clients," says Beth. "I am in constant contact with the owners. I send emails and pictures of their pets to them during the day. Now I am also making fun videos of their dogs’ activities and posting them on Instagram and Facebook. The owners love it!" Their website, www.serenitydogretreat. com, is the first contact that most people have with them. It has been very instrumental in matching the right clients to the retreat. All the information about their lodging and


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daycare services, their requirements and the amenities they offer is on their easy-to-navigate website. Beth hired a famous photographer to take gorgeous pictures of the estate (inside and outside), the lodging accommodations and of the dogs enjoying pampering at its finest. "I think it is really important to present your business in a complete and professional way," says Beth. “When prospective clients get to see the entire setup, it makes a huge difference." And, that difference is very evident. In just two short years, she proved that you don't have to be huge to be super successful. Beth Ramsey really found her niche when she decided to make a southern plantation into an exclusive retreat for pampered pooches. Calm, peaceful, untroubled—that really describes Serenity Dog Retreat. And, who couldn't use a little more Serenity in their life?

39


FACILITY

SYSTEMS AND By Jennifer Wolf-Pierson, CPACO Written policies and procedures can control your vision and help to train, manage and build up your staff. But how can you make your SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) an effective and viable part of the day-to-day operations?

Listen, Empower and Engage Ever overhear a team member say to a new employee, “this is how I do it”, instead of, “this is how we do it”? When you start hearing “I”, it’s either time to retrain and refocus the team on the procedures, or possibly rewrite the ones that are outdated or incorrect. Empower your team and let them know you depend on them to tell you if a written procedure isn’t working or is no longer relevant. Your processes are sure to change and evolve over time, and because of this, your team needs to be involved in adapting those procedures. An engaged staff member will move things forward and raise issues for the betterment of the company and enjoyment of their position. A disengaged staff member ignores the process because it may be outdated or wrong, or never asks 40

for clarification of the process. In other words, that person is walking briskly down the road of “I don’t want to!” This starts and ends with your company’s culture; no written SOPs can make up for lack of team buy-in. Leadership Meetings During your weekly meeting (which I hope you all are having with at least the management staff), dig into your SOPs. Make a commitment to review and revise at least one of your SOPs a week. Much like your training process, have the team read the portion of that specific SOP, then ask them questions. First, do we do this process consistently? Second, what can we do to make this better for us and our clients? Take notes while the team discusses the policy or procedure. You may be surprised where the conversation

PET BOARDING & DAYCARE


AT LEAST ONE OF YOUR SOPS A WEEK Recently, we reviewed our dog handling procedures and added a small, but significant piece to help us provide the best possible care. Following is the previous procedure (A), and revised procedure (B).

Do not let the dog pull you while walking.

Do not let the dog pull you

A

while walking.

Keep a short leash so that the dog stays at your side, which will help you keep greater control.

B

To stop this behavior, do not take part in a tug of war; simply stop walking and wait until the pet stops pulling. Once he stops, you can continue to walk. It might take several repetitions of stop-andstart, but continue this process until you are at your destination, no matter the time it takes.

We were missing the tools that the team would need to succeed—a written plan! Now we have one that all staff can follow, with more explanation, and a descriptive image to go with it.

leads. If you have a quiet crew, I have found that candy and caffeine always get people chatty! Monthly Department Reviews Inspect what is expected. Ask your managers to complete a Department Review monthly. These don’t need to be lengthy or complex, just consistent. We have simple checklists of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions with three categories per department: operations, service and training. Read the comments and track the failed items. If an item is consistently missed, it may be time to review, revise and retrain the topic. Owner/Operator Commitment No one is going to keep your dream alive if you’re not committed. It all starts and ends with the operator—so believe in your SOPs, believe in your people, and give! Give it your all and your team will see that you care. When you revisit and revise, they will jump on the bandwagon to help you. Step out of your role from time

to time and get dirty with the team. I’m not saying you need to work a full shift as a lodging tech, but take 20 minutes, grab your SOP and get to work. After our remodel ended in 2018, I

was determined to keep the facility 100% spotless year-round. The team does a bang-up job, but our daycare nap rooms were looking grimy. I took our room cleaning procedure and set out to get the

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OPERATIONAL DEPARTMENT REVIEW • MANAGER: complete & turn in to GM by the 5th day of every month • GM: complete once per quarter 1. Are all chore lists prepared at least 3 days prior to start date?

YES

COMMENTS

NO

discoloration off the FRP panels. I went through our process, and used too much surfactant, which made a ton of bubbles (the team still jokes about that mix-up), but the FRP still looked discolored. Was it me or was it our procedure? Well, it was a little of both. Adjustment in the steps with an added new tool and our daycare rooms became bright white again. Had I just assumed that the team was not following what was expected and not tried it for myself, it would have taken much longer to find the best solution.

“If it is greatness you want, it is greatness you must give,”

2. Are long-term boarders evaluated weekly? (i.e., health, weight, behavior, etc.)

YES

– Dr. Kevin Leman and Bill Pentak The Way of the Shepard

COMMENTS

Jennifer Wolf-Pierson, CPACO is a certified pet care professional

NO

serving the Spring/Woodlands/North Houston area. Since 2016,

3. Are there any changes in food or medication,

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CATS

WITH ADD-ON

(SERV ICES) By Deborah Hansen

Cat owners can be challenging for boarding facilities to attract and maintain for a multitude of reasons. Many cat owners believe they can just leave food and water out, and the kitty will be “fine”.

T

he cat clientele that is going to pay for boarding has many unique quirks. These owners have a certain way they expect their cat to be cared for and pampered. The majority of cat clients who bring their cats in for boarding have high expectations that can be overwhelming for boarding facilities. So, how do we not only meet but exceed the high expectations cat owners have of boarding facilities? We offer a menu of add-ons to attract the type of cat owners we dream of serving—while increasing your bottom line. Feline boarding add-ons range from meeting special requests of cat owners to luxury items. The key to many topselling add-ons is offering services the cat owner never realized were available. There are many easy and low-cost

44

options when it comes to feline addons for your boarding business. When your business is considering which add-ons to offer your feline boarding clients, there are three areas I like to start with: owner convenience, special requests and creature comforts. These categories will help you focus on the services that give you the best return on investment while meshing seamlessly with your branding to cater to your ideal clientele. Owner Convenience Owner convenience is a great starting point when considering the best add-ons for your feline department. Extended hours for drop-off and pick-up is an added service many facilities already offer. While this helps cat owners, many owners dread the

PET BOARDING & DAYCARE

process of taking the cat to the boarding establishment. Offering pick-up and delivery of the cat not only saves the cat owner time, but also eliminates the owner hearing the dreaded “cat car song” on the way to your business. Pick-up and drop-off services help the feline owner start their trip out of town on a positive note, making it well worth the added cost to the owner. Special Requests Special requests for cat owners can range from medication administration to unique ways to prepare meals. Many cat owners have a preferred method of feeding their cats which might include a mixture of water, kibble and multiple can foods. While some cat owners have specific feeding times, others are just as happy with the cat free-feeding.


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Then there are the owners who hand feed their kitty each bite the kitty eats. When catering to these special meal requests, it may be best to charge by the time the task takes to complete.

There are several directions your business can take with a litter box upgrade. Type of litter, frequency of cleaning and type of box all can be studied when exploring new add-ons for your boarding business.

Creature Comforts The add-on category of creature comforts can be very profitable to your business. The possibilities for this category really are endless. I always like to start with background sounds because I believe it is the best way to relieve some of the anxiety felines face in the boarding environment. Offering the owners a menu of music and TV options for their cat is something most appreciate and is simple to implement. Depending on your starting point, the upfront costs can be very low. How you provide water to the cats in your care can also increase your profits. A popular add-on service that can be offered and will enhance the overall ambiance of your boarding facility is a private drinking fountain. Adding drinking fountains will not only pull in extra income, but will also add the gentle sound of flowing water to your feline area. When choosing a drinking fountain, be sure to research the difficulty level in sanitizing each fountain.

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PET BOARDING & DAYCARE

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Some drinking fountains are easier to clean and reassemble than others. Litter box maintenance is another easy way to upgrade a cat’s stay. There are several directions your business can take with a litter box upgrade. Type of litter, frequency of cleaning and type of box all can be studied when exploring new add-ons for your boarding business. Some owners scoop every time the cat uses the litter box. These clients will gladly pay for the kitty box being cleaned three times a day instead of the standard once a day. The option of clients bringing their own litter, or your facility providing an upgraded litter, is also preferred by many owners. When a client brings their own litter, you save on your operating costs, making it a cost-effective option. An upgraded litter box could be one with a privacy hood or larger in size. When it comes to add-ons in the area of the litter box, the possibilities are limitless. An option with low upfront costs is time in the sun. I don’t know a cat that doesn’t enjoy a nap in a sun puddle! Offering time out of the enclosure in a room with direct sunlight is a big hit with feline owners. You can take it one step further and offer play time or petting time in the sun-room. Any cage-free time in a larger, separate room is a very popular add-on service. Many cats feel more secure when they have something to hide in during boarding. There are many options of things to add to a cat’s environment that are easy to disinfect while providing the comfort of hiding while in your care. When considering add-on services for your feline boarding business model, the possibilities are limitless. I always suggest looking at your branding and then begin with options that have a low up-front cost. Once you have established what is popular with your clients, begin to expand your add-on services into that area. Add-ons are a great way to attract and retain the feline clientele your business strives to serve.


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ANIMAL HEALTH

Animal Care is

Human Care: WHAT A PANDEMIC MADE CLEAR

By Annette Uda

A

s confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. approached 2 million and well over 100,000 deaths, the official number of animals in the U.S. with the virus stood at seven, including a tiger and a lion. Further, per the CDC, “there is currently no evidence that animals play a substantial role in spreading COVID-19.”i Yet, pet care businesses were shuttered, employees laid off and bank accounts left in tatters. When it came to the pandemic and pet care, was the concern all bark and no bite? No, not at all. What This Means for You What the pandemic made crystal clear is that animal care is human care, and that the changes made in the wake of this historic event will probably be the new normal for pet boarding and 48

What the pandemic made crystal clear is that animal care is human care, and that the changes made in the wake of this historic event will probably be the new normal for pet boarding and daycare facilities. daycare facilities. Inarguably, the human aspect of pet care has attained a greater level of importance in terms of infection control protocols (that has also translated to better human customer service) and industry experts see this as a permanent change. Lori Davis, CEO and founder of Paramount Success Group, a consulting business for pet boarding and daycare facilities, notes that, “what the general public may not realize is that long before the COVID-19 crisis, premium pet care providers have long practiced advanced cleaning protocols to reduce the PET BOARDING & DAYCARE

spread of viruses, bacteria, and germs.” But with the advent of COVID-19, she says, “we have seen a higher level of focus on cleaning high-touch areas where humans come and go.” Charlotte Biggs, Business Growth and Development Guru with The Dog Gurus, echoes this greater attention to human-detail sentiment, also commending the enhancement of “already well-established, industry-wide sanitation and disinfecting policies and procedures.” Both Davis and Biggs foresee the curbside drop-off and pick-up procedures, put into place by facilities in the wake of


the pandemic as infection control measures and to meet local guidelines, as an enhanced level of customer service that will continue. “A way of doing pet care business,” says Davis, “that will remain after people have moved on from the fear of COVID-19.” While orders and guidelines varied widely by location, in many states pet care was deemed an essential business. Many of you offered free or deeply discounted pet care for frontline workers which, ultimately, included you and your staff as you took in the pets of nurses, doctors and paramedics working endless shifts away from home and their pets. In the past months, pet care providers adapted—or should be adapting—to a new normal in protecting the health of staff and clients as they continue protecting the health of, and providing the best care for, their furry clients. Part of that new normal is an increased focus on sanitation protocols, along with continuing infection control education, to protect the health of both animals and humans. Reliable Sources for Information Because the information about COVID-19 has been something of a rollercoaster ride, knowing where to go for the most accurate, latest and relevant information is key. Unfortunately, the World Health Organization (WHO) has fumbled the ball on responsibly disseminating information. For example, in June, they relayed that transmission by asymptomatic carriers was “very rare”, and then the very next day expressed regret for saying that, clarifying that much is still unknown and that it could be closer to 40 percent (a number more in line with CDC studies). But the good news is, there are other resources. CDC The CDC has made COVID-19 information front and center and easily accessible on its website. Bookmark www.cdc.gov/coronavirus and navigate to specifics from there. PET BOARDING & DAYCARE

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RELIABLE SOURCES • CDC: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention • LOCAL GOVERNMENT

• ASHRAE: American Society of Heating, Refrigerating & Air-Conditioning Engineers PETBOARDINGDAYCARE and daycare magazine

Local Government Another potentially helpful resource is information from your local government. For example, Hays County, Texas is one of the fastest growing counties in the U.S., but for some time managed to keep its COVID-19 cases relatively low compared to neighboring counties. Two possible reasons for its relative success were consistent public safety reminders, distributed almost daily, from the county’s resident epidemiologist, and a local state representative who proactively distributed infection control information (and literally distributed masks) throughout the county. Take advantage of local resources. ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and AirConditioning Engineers) While that may sound completely far-removed from your business, these are the people who develop guidelines to help keep indoor environments healthy. ASHRAE recognized early on that COVID-19 could be spread through the air and that “ventilation and filtration provided by heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems can reduce the airborne concentration of SARS-CoV-2 and thus the risk of transmission through

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@BARKLEIGHINC

the air.” While some of their information might be more technical than you need, it’s important for building owners and operations managers to stay aware of disease transmission routes. ASHRAE has consolidated its pandemic information at: ashrae.org/covid19. When this rollercoaster ride started, the focus was on surfaces, but, at this point, the premise that the virus can be spread through the air is now generally recognized. COVID-19 education courses including Pet Sitters International’s course for professional pet sitters and dog walkers have made the fact that “airborne droplets carrying the virus can remain in the air and on surfaces even after the ill person has left the area” part of the standard education. Masks help, and that’s why wearing them has become standard protocol for many pet care providers interacting with their human clients. However, they are designed to limit larger droplets from landing on other people and on surfaces, where they can be mitigated with surface cleaning, but those limitations are why air transmission must also be addressed. What the Future Holds It’s good that industry experts like Biggs and Davis see changes made in the wake of COVID-19 as most

PET BOARDING & DAYCARE

likely permanent changes because this pandemic will not be the last. Indeed, the pace appears to be picking up along with increasing urbanization of wildlife areas (leading to more human-animal interaction and zoonotic risk), denser populations and global connections (e.g., worldwide passenger plane travel). As this particular pandemic plays out, the human connections to pet care have taken on increased recognition and an increased urgency to safely maintain those connections. Infection control for animals and humans in pet care environments is imperative. It’s something most pet care providers have known; with text updates being sent, investments made in remote access cameras installed for pet parents, and social media updates of happy, playing dogs posted. But now, with more human life and death implications, animal care is human care. Reference 1. https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ ourfocus/animalhealth/sa_one_health/ sars-cov-2-animals-us Annette Uda is the founder of PetAirapy. Annette has a passion for animal health and educating animal care providers on reliable, non-toxic ways to create clean, healthy environments for animals—and the humans that care for them—that are protected from airborne pathogens, infectious diseases, and noxious VOCs. To learn more about PetAirapy and for a complimentary ZUVA analysis, visit petairapy.com.



NEW PRODUCTS KINN INTRODUCES THE KUDOSE V-TECH PILL SPLITTER/ CRUSHER The Kudose V-Tech Pill Splitter/Crusher is a

CAT PERCHES FROM STONE MOUNTAIN PET PRODUCTS

revolutionary product that offers an easy and safe way to administer pet medicine for pet care providers and pet parents. With an easy-to-adjust Kut and Krush cartridge, you can effortlessly cut or crush pets’ medicine accurately every time. Need to save some for later? Our puncture-resistant, large-capacity and resealable Kinn Pill Pouches make saving and transportation easy. Mix crushed pills into pets’ food, water and/or treats. Additionally, The Pet Pilling Concierge is a simple-to-use handout to organize and track doses for multiple medications or multiple pets. For more information, visit kinninc.com/products/v-tech/

Cats love to climb! Add vertical exploration opportunities to your cat suites for a purrfect way to enhance your cat boarding offerings. Cat Perches are available as standalone platforms or two platforms at different heights connected by a ramp. Cat Perches’ walking and climbing surfaces are 1/4" HDPE plastic featuring Pawsitraction texturing to reduce slipping. HDPE is tough, easy to clean and available in 10 colors. Rugged aluminum tubing frames are lightweight and have rounded edges for easy installation. Angle brackets under each platform allow you to mount Cat Perches to any vertical surface you choose. stonemountainpetproducts.com

MONITOR YOUR FACILITY 24/7 WITH THE SENTINEL™ SYSTEM FROM SENSAPHONE® The Sentinel™ system from Sensaphone® is an affordable, easy-to-use monitoring system that provides 24/7 monitoring of conditions at animal boarding and daycare facilities to help operators ensure the safety and comfort of guests. The system tracks conditions like room temperature, humidity, ventilation, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, water leaks, power failure, refrigerator/freezer temperature and unauthorized access. When it detects a sensor reading has moved out of range, it sends notification via phone call, text or email, so staff can take fast action. Users can check real-time conditions and change settings with the Sensaphone app. www.sensaphone.com.

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PET BOARDING & DAYCARE

Wisdom & Grace So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?

Romans 14:19 • NIV Bible


PET BOARDING & DAYCARE

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Triple Two

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Creating a Higher Standard of Cleaning for

Pet Boarding and Day Care

Getting back to business is Priority #1 Take the first step by Cleaning and Disinfecting your facility with Triple Available Now

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