Growing demand for pet care businesses

ASBURY, Iowa (AP) — Nikki Leibfried tossed a blue rubber ball into the backyard of an Asbury home Thursday afternoon, and 3-year-old Willa ran off to find it.

“Good girl,” Leibfried said, scratching Willa’s ears when the golden retriever dropped the ball at her feet a moment later.

Willa’s home was the seventh Leibfried visited Thursday as part of her work with her business, Nikki’s Pet Sitting. She and her 13 employees care for dogs, cats, reptiles, rabbits, birds and fish in the tri-state area while their owners are at work or out of town.

Although summer and spring breaks are always busy times, Leibfried said his schedule has been particularly packed lately. In early July, it was booked through August and Labor Day weekend.

“In the last year, I’ve hired five people just to try to keep up, and I could probably hire six more,” he told the outlet. Herald of the Dubuque Telegraph.

Leibfried’s experience has been echoed by other pet sitting and dog daycare business owners, who report increased demand for their services. Many cite the COVID-19 pandemic as a factor in that push.

“What’s happened is, during the pandemic, a lot of people have gone out and adopted pets, many of them first-time pet owners,” said Mary Erschen, owner of the Dubuque company FidoFit. “When things really started to open up again, people started going back to work, and this summer and early spring, people started traveling.”

Erschen operates a professional canine gym at 595 Huff Street, Suite C. FidoFit offers classes and training for dogs and their humans, as well as “Puppy Montessori” exercise and enrichment classes and a “day gym” program, which works like a dog. . nursery with structured gymnastics activities.

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In his 12 years in the business, Erschen said he’s never seen anything like the current level of demand, which leaves his voicemail filled every night with customers looking for a place for their furry friends to stay and play.

“I can’t even read all the emails and voicemails, even if all I’m doing is a courtesy call,” she said. “I suggested to people, ‘Have you thought about a pet sitter?’ But then, everyone is in the capacity of him as well.”

She said two local vets recently stopped offering boarding services, which has driven clients to businesses like hers.

At Dyersville-based Briley, a dog grooming, boarding and daycare business located at 1633 15th Ave SE, owner Briget Featherston is expanding her facility to meet increased demand.

The expansion will add 5,500 square feet of indoor space, including 22 additional kennels and a second daycare room, and nearly 14,000 square feet of outdoor space. Once the job is complete, Briley will be able to accept 30 to 35 dogs for the daycare, compared to the 15 the company can currently care for.

Featherston said he’s also looking to open a second location in Dubuque.

He said people who have purchased pets during the pandemic are realizing that animals not only require daily care, but also benefit from interaction with other dogs and humans at businesses like Briley.

“A lot of (the dogs) aren’t very socialized, just because their families were home all the time… and now that people are going out or having family and friends over, if these dogs aren’t used to a lot of the people He doesn’t know how to react,” he said.


Dubuque resident Victoria Vail owns Dog Days Dubuque, 3135 University Ave., which offers weekday dog ​​daycare and some puppy classes. It only took six months for the business, which opened in late 2019, to reach capacity, and Vail said she has had a waiting list ever since.

While he attributes some of the increase in business to “pandemic puppies” purchased during the COVID-19 lockdowns, he also feels the demand for services like his is the result of a change in people’s feelings towards their animals.

“I think the way people view their pets is very different than it was several years ago. These dogs are a member of the family,” Vail said. “I have a dog and he is like my baby. I think people want to treat their dogs very differently and want this kind of option for them.”

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