ST. GEORGE —Hitting the road this summer? Making plans to care for pets is every bit as important as lining up transportation and lodging for people. Different pets have different needs. What is suitable care for one animal may not work for another. Fortunately, there is a huge array of options available to pet owners.
Paws for a cause
Why should people have all the fun on vacation? Pets like to explore new places and faces too. Boarding facilities have come a long way in recent years, offering a number of amenities designed to not only provide food and shelter for animals, but make it enjoyable as well.
Animal tenders have evolved with the times, with many providing yards where dogs can meet and mingle. Bed N Biscuits Pet Village is one such facility that has the added bonus of benefiting the homeless population served by Switchpoint Community Resource Center in St. George. Switchpoint Development Director Linda Stay said they are one of a handful of homeless shelters in the U.S. that doesn’t make those they serve give up their dogs.
“For many of these people, their pet is their last connection to life,” Stay said. “That dog has seen them through very, very hard times.”
Bed N Biscuits is open to the public and run by professional animal handlers, but clients of Switchpoint can volunteer there in exchange for boarding their pets. Stay said volunteers earn “Switchbucks” to pay for boarding their dogs, and gain job shadowing skills in the process.
“When there’s accountability and when they have something invested, it starts to build their confidence,” Stay said. “Over at Switchpoint, everything is about empowering individuals.”
People aren’t the only ones who like to be pampered while on vacation. Pet professionals are catering to the needs of animals who have taken a walk on the spoiled side. Facilities such as Bed N Biscuits Pet Village offer grooming services for pets who are being boarded, as well as owners who just want to drop their animal off on their way to work and pick them up after. Bed N Biscuits Manager Lance Williamson said their day spa is a big part of their business.
“We use that word,” Williamson said. “Some dogs love the spa, some don’t!”
Home but not alone
The market is responding to the needs of pet owners who can’t board their animals for a variety of reasons. Some pets don’t interact well with other pets. Others have medical issues that make it so they shouldn’t be around other animals. Cats are especially finicky and prone to stress when put into a new environment.
Lili Landers, owner of Canyon Fairy Petsitter, said caring for cats is about more than just feeding them and changing the litter box. While cats may seem aloof, they have emotional needs for companionship. Cats are also prone to mischief and need someone to check on them. Landers recalled one incident when a cat she was sitting ate a ball of yarn. Landers said if the owners had just left the kitty with a bowl of food, he probably would have died.
“I had to take him to the emergency vet,” Landers said. “They had to do surgery to get 20 feet of yarn out of its stomach.”
Speciality pet companies are popping up like prairie dogs, available to meet every kind of need an animal owner may have. Animal care companies are available to run errands such as taking pets to medical appointments or to the groomers. Chris Burow, owner of a company called House and Pet St. George, said she has responded to a variety of unique requests.
“One time we were hired to take a cat to catch a flight from Las Vegas,” Burow said.
Mobile pet providers are often called for in-home services, especially when it comes to exotic animals. Over the years, Burow has cared for pigs, birds, fish, chickens and even a silk worm that needed to be fed fresh leaves. Burow said the most challenging animal she’s cared for was a rooster.
“Roosters are very protective of their chickens,” Burow said. “If he feels they are in danger, he will attack.”
Need a summer job? Animal tending is great for people who love pets and want a flexible schedule. In order to attract clients, would-be animal sitters are advised to set up a limited liability company. In St. George, the Small Business Development Center sets up LLCs for free. Assistant Director Lennart Erickson said it’s part of their service to the community.
“We get them the IRS Employer Identification Number,” Erickson said. “Then you’ll take those two documents to the City License Department and get your license.”
New pet tender companies are required to pay the $70 LLC fee to the State of Utah, plus a $50 fee to the City f St. George for a General Business License.
Erickson strongly advises getting liability insurance for anyone working with pets in people’s homes.
“You want to cover yourself insurance wise even if you’re just going to do it for a few months,” Erickson said. “While teenagers may think they don’t need it, their parents will be liable for any losses.”
Early birds get the worms
With so many people traveling this summer, boarding facilities and in-home tending services are getting booked quickly. Plan ahead for pets, making sure whoever is watching them has all relevant medical and dietary information needed to keep the animals safe and happy.
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