Cash Cow or Your Pet’s Care?

A colleague recently sent me this Dogtopia ad from the Delta in-flight magazine. It was also featured in a half page ad in the Wall Street Journal. In case you don’t know, Dogtopia is a franchise doggie day care. Their webpage says they have over 70 locations with plans for 400 more. As pet parents, we found this ad shocking!

Let’s start by acknowledging that Pet Camp is a for profit business. We have amazing employees that want to get paid, need health care, and deserve a retirement plan. We need to invest in our facilities, comply with ever increasing list of rules and regulations facing small businesses in San Francisco AND, honestly, support the owners of Pet Camp (meaning my family and me), who have to put up our house as collateral and take on personal liability every time Pet Camp needs to borrow money.

We firmly believe that you can provide amazing pet care, treat your employees with respect, provide a fair compensation package, and even be a certified green business while still making money… but a “cash cow?” Really?!? Not MY small business. How about just a reasonable return on your intellect, investment and hard work? How about getting into the pet care business because you really care about animals? You know, the live ones, not the “cash cows” Dogtopia seems to be more interested in. When people ask me about why we started Pet Camp, my answer is something like, “we thought of things we would do for free and then figured out a way to make money doing it.” We weren’t looking for a “cash cow,” we were looking for an opportunity to do something we loved to do!

Maybe Dogtopia started with these same ideas. Dogtopia was founded by Amy Nichols in 2002 and over the next few years it expanded to about 20 facilities. In 2012, Dogtopia entered into a strategic partnership with Thomas Franchise Solutions (TFS) and the rest is history. We have watched our local veterinary clinics get purchased by the Mars Corporation, which through its purchase of VCA also owns Camp Bow Wow (the other national doggie day care chain). The trend to consolidation or equity/venture capital investment and ownership is accelerating in pet care. Sadly, if the trend continues, in the not too distant future the majority of pet care businesses will be owned by large corporations or by equity investors motivated much more by the need for a return on their investment than by the need to provide quality care for your pet.

If you’re a Pet Camp client – thanks! Really, thank you for supporting a local San Francisco business, for paying the salaries, for health care and 401(k) plans of the counselors, for supporting the San Francisco companies we use to ensure we can provide your dog or cat with exceptional pet care, and thanks for allowing us to support the host of schools, civic groups and animal related charities to whom we donate our time and money. If you use another pet care provider, while we wish you would use us, at least use a local company that cares more about your pet than about being a “cash cow.” Dogtopia, thanks for showing the rest of us in the pet care industry and pet parents everywhere what your priorities really are!