Pet boarding

Pet boarding companies struggling after a year with little travel

“Until people are traveling again and need boarding service for their pets, our business is irrelevant.”

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For the past year, Ashley Horan has struggled to keep the lights on at her pet boarding business as travelers remain scarce.

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As airlines and tourist destinations suffer, places that offer vacations for furry friends left behind have been the businesses overlooked during the pandemic, said Horan, who owns Everydog and Cat in Roller with her husband Lonnie.

“We don’t have a great voice. People don’t think about how we do it and we all try to be really stoic about it, ”Horan said. “But we are struggling. We don’t have a business, and that’s a hard thing to say.

In mid-March 2020, as Saskatchewan began to shut down, all of Horan’s bookings for the rest of the year were canceled in a single weekend, with people becoming unsure of their travel plans.

Business picked up a bit over the summer months as COVID-19 cases slowed and people took vacations, but the fall brought a further drop in customer numbers. In the 10 years that she has owned the business, this was the first year that the space was not full for Christmas and the summer months.

“There aren’t enough reservations for us to pay for all of our overheads… so it’s better for us to be completely closed than to have one dog at a time or two dogs at a time. In fact, we save money by being closed.

This is exactly what the company has had to do for now.

Horan’s last furry guest returned home on Friday and she said she won’t be taking any new dogs until borders open and international travel resumes. Her business is fueled by both domestic and international travel, but she said the “big bookings” came from people leaving the country for a week to two months at a time.

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Ashley, left, and Lonnie Horan, owners and operators of Everydog and Cat in Rouleau on Friday April 16, 2021.
Ashley, left, and Lonnie Horan, owners and operators of Everydog and Cat in Rouleau on Friday April 16, 2021. Photo by BRYAN SCHLOSSER /Regina Chief Position

Louise Yates, co-owner of K-Lane Kennels in Kronau, also saw her income drop immediately to zero when the pandemic struck. In the year since, business has come and gone in small waves during generally busy seasons, but it’s still nowhere near what it used to be, Yates said.

With 19 years in the business already, Yates said she has weathered the financial crisis better than new companies. It was still a difficult year.

“For anyone starting a small business, you know, the whole advice is that your first few years are the hardest and I wouldn’t agree. A pandemic is the hardest,” she said.

“Until people are traveling again and need boarding service for their pets, our business is irrelevant.”

K-Lane Kennels has remained open and welcoming new guests, but Yates has also turned to renting out part of its space as a private off-leash dog park to help generate additional income.

Horan also had to diversify his sources of income to survive the pandemic. She and her husband already had a “hobby business” that made custom leather dog collars. When the number of dogs they were caring for dropped dramatically, they started to get into this business.

As collars’ revenues increased, Horan said they made the difficult decision to permanently shut down the cat boarding side of Everydog and Cat – a much smaller part of the business than the boarding for dogs – so their collar making studio can expand into this space.

“Everyone is coming up with different ideas to try and get more business,” Horan said. “I don’t know how long some companies can last, you know. When do you just say, “Oh boy? “”


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