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Pampered Pet Business Booms in US

  • Deborah Block

Americans spent $50 billion on their animals in 2011

At “A Dog’s Day Out” in Alexandria, Virginia, people bring in their dogs to stay either for the day or overnight.

Interior decorator Gay Lynn Fourney is a regular customer. “She’s my little girl, and I just want to make sure that she has a good time during the day while I’m at work, because I do work a lot, and I just don’t want to leave her at home.”

Pampered pooches

Half of all Americans own a pet. According to the American Pet Products Association, one out of every two households keeps a domesticated animal, mostly cats and dogs.

And despite a recession, many pet owners - like Fourney - are spending more money than ever to care for their animals. At “A Dog’s Day Out” in Alexandria, Virginia, people bring in their dogs to stay either for the day or overnight.

At “A Dog’s Day Out” in Alexandria, Virginia, people bring in their dogs to stay either for the day or overnight.

America's fondness for its animals has created a new and lucrative market for pampering pets. Americans spent $50 billion on their pets last year, up 23 percent since 2007.

Chas Richardson, owner of “A Dog’s Day Out”, has tapped into that market.

He says his business makes a 25 percent profit. “The pet industry continues to explode with growth. Our market, dog care, we believe has nothing but growth ahead of it.”

Duane Ekadahl, head of the Pet Food Institute, believes the industry has grown because more people are treating their pets like family.

“People want to return the affection they get from pets," he says, "and so they buy good food, good products, toys and so on.”

Canine cookies

As Americans seek healthier lifestyles, many are adopting a similar approach when it comes to their pets, including better food and dog treats. Canine cookies are baked daily at “Dogma Gourmet Dog Bakery and Pet Boutique” in Arlington, Virginia.

Canine cookies are baked daily at “Dogma Gourmet Dog Bakery and Pet Boutique” in Arlington, Virginia.

Canine cookies are baked daily at “Dogma Gourmet Dog Bakery and Pet Boutique” in Arlington, Virginia.

“They’re all healthy ingredients," says manager Kamala Mohammed. "We don’t put any added salt, sugar or preservatives into our cookies. In fact, I have some people that come in and buy a cookie for themselves because it’s all human-grade ingredients.”

Judy Smith buys cookies for her three dogs. She owns “Woof Woof Travels”, a pet travel agency, and says more people are traveling with their pets.

“I can tell you which cities are very pet friendly," Smith says, "and once you’ve decide on that, fix you up in a hotel or motel, give you activities that you can do there, including restaurants that are pet friendly.” Shannon Parker's dog gets a blueberry facial at "Bark and Bubbles” in Fairfax, Virginia.

Shannon Parker's dog gets a blueberry facial at "Bark and Bubbles” in Fairfax, Virginia.

Salon for dogs

The ultimate pampering for pets might be found at dog salons, such as "Bark and Bubbles” in Fairfax, Virginia.

Pets can be washed and groomed, have a birthday party or get a facial.

High school student Shannon Parker opts for the self-serve version. She's giving her dog a blueberry facial while she bathes the animal.

She says coming here to wash her dog is worth the cost. "She kind of gets the water all over the house. For me, it’s just a much better option than me trying to do it myself.”

The business has taken off, according to owner Vicky Pittman.

“I just always felt that it would succeed because it seemed so practical that if I was looking for a place to wash my dogs that there were other people out there looking for the same thing,” she says, addng that dogs have a special place in American society. “People love their dogs. There is a special dog bond.”

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