Starting A Pet Business -
5 Important Elements to Consider

Starting a pet business provides a great deal of opportunities if you love animals and want to start a home based business with minimum of capital to get started.  

Many households are the home to multiple family friends (and this trends continues to rise!). 

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We have “Fido” who is a terrific companion; “Whiskers” who sports her ‘tude and rules the household; “Goldy” provides a calm serene retreat, while "Pete" and "Priscilla" Parakeets offer their own charm to the household.   :)  

There are definitely millions of pets needing to be cared for today including dogs, cats, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, birds, fish, and reptiles.  Of course, you may be interested in providing services for larger animals such as horses, llamas, cows, pigs, and the like.

And according to the 2012 Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, there is positive economic outlook for you if you're starting a pet business: 

  • Pet businesses are the fastest growing home-based business in the U.S.
  • 70 Million dogs are owned in the U.S.
  • 74 Million cats are owned in the U.S.
  • 63.2% of pet owners consider their pets to be family members
  • Americans are projected to spend over $53 Million on their pets in 2014.
  • Spending on pets is continuing to increase despite a sluggish economy

Starting a pet business may be attractive to you because of the apparent fun of working with animals (which is a good thing!), but it's also very important to approach this as a business and consider all of the work and aspects of starting a pet care business such as the business side of your enterprise, the responsibilities required to care for these creatures, the ability to keep the animals and yourself safe. 

I've worked with veterinarians who went through a great deal of schooling to work with animals only to realize (after they began practicing) they didn't really like the people side of the business.  

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Pet owners can be extremely demanding because they want only the "Best" for "Fido" and "Whiskers".  Keep this fact in mind when you are planning to start a pet business.

Pet owners may not recognize your personal time and might want to call you in the middle of the night to discuss a problem with their pet. Since they aren't familiar with the difference between small health issues and an emergency (much like new parents), this might become disruptive to your life.  Have a plan for dealing with these types of issues. 

Also, many pet owners need help during holidays, evenings, and weekends -- are you willing to work during this time??  If not, consider what type of business will best meet the schedule you are wanting to work.

For many, when they are starting a pet business, they just race in without much forethought and planning about what may be required to start this type of business.   My hope is you'll take some of the following information and make a solid business plan for your enterprise prior to jumping in. . .  it may save you from a lot of frustrations later.

What's Booming In the Pet Industry [Infograph]

Starting a Pet Business - Legal Requirements

While all businesses have general legal requirements -- this is not what I'm referring to here.  There are a variety of different federal, state, and local laws which may govern the type of business you are wanting to operate.  There may also be required licenses.  It's important to determine what may be required of you prior to opening your business.

Ethical Responsibilities

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I believe ethics are extremely important today -- and especially when starting a pet business. These issues may become very important for you both personally and professionally. As you start your business, write down what types of ethical considerations you'll want to make part of your business, how you'll handle them, and what your business ethical policies will be for your business.     

For example, will you promote adoption of pets vs. "pet mill" produced animals?  If so, how will educate your clientele about the pros/cons of the different types of animals?  Incorporate this into your business/marketing plans to set yourself apart from your competitors who have differing views or haven't addressed these issues. This will let people know you're a professional who has given thought and consideration to these issues and why they are important. 

Pet First Aid

Have you had pet first aid or are you willing to get educated in this area?  This will take some time and financial resources,but may be a reason you are hired by your clientele.  You can find Pet First Aid and CPR classes at PetTech.   They have both hands-on and online classes.  In addition, they have an app you can place on your smartphone which can provide you with first aid help if you're out walking, hiking, or playing with a pet who has an accident.  

And while we're talking about apps, check out the free app ICEforPets.   This cool app allows pet owners to put all of their pet's vital information in one place -- veterinarian, exercise/food schedules, picture(s), medications, allergies, and emergency contact number.  It even allows for house sitting information complete with alarm codes, key hiding places, etc.   

If you're pet owner gets delayed at the airport (like happened to me recently), they can contact you and get you into the home to rescue "Fido" and let him out to play and do his business.   A huge value-added service giving the owner peace-of-mind.  

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Business Insurance

You'll want to investigate the different types of insurance available to your company and determine what types of riders you may want to your basic policy.  Ask yourself what your risks/liabilities there may be as you begin starting a pet business. Consider different types of riders and work with your insurance professional to determine the policy for you:

  • Do you need to cover your spouse, partners, or employees?  
  • Property Insurance - covering property damage of the pet owner?
  • House Sitting insurance?
  • Pet Daycare insurance?
  • Pet Grooming?
  • Dog Obedience Training?
  • Additional Insureds?  This is for others who could experience liability from your business.

Have a serious discussion with both your attorney and insurance professional to make sure you're covering any future risks or liability which could arise from your business!

Associations

When starting a pet business, there are a variety of reasons to join one or more Associations in your specific niche.  They can help to provide expertise and mentoring (especially if you're new to the industry), negotiated rates on insurance, offer education to keep current on your specialty, allow for networking and building positive relationships to stay current on the most up-to-date services, and marketing through referral networks and just being able to identify your affiliation in your marketing materials.  

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