(By Dale King) HOUSTON – The reality of dog kennels and pet care facilities has changed during the past couple of decades, even though the widely accepted image of canines being kept in cinderblock cages that exit into chain link-fenced dog runs hasn’t.
Many modern-day canine care centers across the nation look more like ranches or resorts than kennels, offering vast, green fields for playing, shaded acreage for socializing and pools for swimming and cooling off. And cages, it seems, are becoming passé except for hard-core cases.
A PET BAKERY
Even in Houston, the idea of “cage-free” dog care isn’t new. “We were the first to go completely cage-free, in 2004,” said Debbie Sullivan, owner of Jackson’s Place Dog Daycare, a location that also sports a pet bakery.
A recent announcement from Davis Commercial real estate let realtynewsreport.com know that Jackson’s had purchased a 2,692-square-foot building on 5,000 square feet of land at 1635 Dunlavy St. for a new, permanent home in the heart of Houston’s River Oaks/Montrose area. John Leader of Davis Commercial represented Jackson’s Place in the transaction. “Jackson’s Place is Houston’s premier cage-free dog daycare, boarding and bakery facility, located in the heart of the River Oaks/Montrose area,” the press statement said.
Sullivan said her place is 100 percent cage free. Many aren’t. She noted that some offer cage-free boarding and care as an option, but not all dogs qualify. Pets with behavior problems don’t normally make the cut for cage-free, so they have to remain caged while the family is away.
Gretchen Meieberg owns Urban Tails, another Houston facility for dog care. But this one offers caged as well as cage-free accommodations. Unlike other care centers with large, outdoor play areas, Urban Tails is an entirely indoor spot. It has an indoor pool, and many dogs who spend days and/or nights there enjoy an occasional dip.
The owner said Urban Tails began offering the cage-free option more than 14 years ago.
Humane treatment seems central to the cage-free concept. “When I started Jackson’s Place, I didn’t want dogs in cages. I didn’t know whether or not it was a trend.” The center is named after her late golden retriever who was a rescued dog. “When I got him from the SPCA, he was in a cage.” She didn’t like it, and she vowed not to put pets into the restrictive enclosures.
DOG COUCHES IN AIR-CONDITIONED COMFORT
Kristyn Goddard and Brian Kneier, a married couple in Sun Valley, Calif., own and operate Paradise Ranch Pet Resort, a place where dogs relax at the edge of quiet pools or on couches or carpets in cool, air-conditioned houses. Goddard said online she created a cage-free environment “out of my empathy for dogs being locked up in a dog boarding kennel.” She said she felt “there had to be a happier way to provide for the boarding of dogs.”
All dog care facility operators interviewed said canines must be evaluated before they can romp into the cage-free program. Not every pet has the temperament to live that way.
Another key to safe cage-free care is to have a staff member remain on the premises 24/7. Sullivan said one of her employees spends the night at the facility. Meieberg said the same, pointing out that to operate a proper cage-free kennel, “you need the staff to support it.”
PRIVATE PARTIES FOR FIDO’S CLOSEST FRIENDS
Sullivan said her new, larger building includes a place for grooming – something she didn’t offer before. Doggie lovers “can also rent out the backyard play area for private pet parties.”
She doesn’t expect noise, if any, to annoy neighbors. “We had neighbors in our previous location,” she said. “We told them to let us know if they were bothered by noise.” No one ever complained.
SOOTHING MUSIC AND THE GLOW OF LATE-NIGHT TV
An array of amenities greets the occupants of dog boarding centers, ranging from beds to couches, televisions to soothing music.
Dog parties are also available. Central Bark in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and Bark-N-Buddies in Edgewood, Wash., charge $125 for up to 20 dogs for three hours. The Canine Cabana in Riverview, Florida, gets $195 for up to 15 dogs.
The Animal Planet network says indoor dog parks usually get about $75 an hour to let doggies have a howling good time.
April 29, 2016
Dale King is a regular contributor to Realty News Report, a Texas-based publication.