Stan Laroche has been walking dogs for over a decade but he’s never been busier than he is now. It wasn’t too long ago that he would usually wrap up his day at 3pm. But earlier this week at 4:30pm, he still had two more dogs to get to. They were new potential clients and he was going to do a meet and greet with the dogs before deciding whether to take them on. He had another new dog lined up the following day, and then again on Friday.
“This week alone I’m picking up four new clients. Before, that would take me three to four months, maybe even longer,” said Brooklyn-based Laroche who runs Downtown Stans Dog Walking.
Compared to the 65% drop-off in his business when the pandemic hit and people suddenly could walk their own dog, it’s night and day.
“My biggest problem is I need workers,” he said. “Everybody adopted in the pandemic but now they’re going to the office again.”
The surge has been across the board with all the dog walkers Laroche knows. Because he also offers pet sitting services, during which he stays with the dog in the owner’s apartment while they’re away, Laroche is rarely in his own apartment these days amid this summer’s travel and wedding boom. “I haven’t been home in three weeks, it’s nonstop pet sit.” he said.
More than 23 million American households got a pet during the first 14 months of the pandemic according to ASPCA, something Christa Chadwick, the organization’s vice president of shelter services described as a level of “unprecedented interest.”
Although certain pandemic trends have proven to be short lived, pet spending is unlikely to decrease. As they navigate a return to office, many owners are actually doubling down on animals and adding a second pet to their household to keep their first one company.
“People are getting their pets a pet,” said Dr. Cherice Roth, chief veterinary officer for Fuzzy, a pet telehealth startup. “It’s really common and it does actually increase the number of pets that have to be seen.”
Meanwhile, pet benefits like a pet stipend, which offers workers a set monthly sum to spend on animal daycare or walking services, or the option to bring your pet to the workplace, are becoming some of the most requested employee perks.
According to a survey this June from Nationwide, a pet insurance provider, 49% of Gen Z respondents and 45% of millennial respondents say that having pet-related benefits available to them would influence them to stay at their current employer or leave their company for one that does. Across all age groups the figure was 32%. There’s even indication that employees are willing to forgo snacks, vacations and raises if it means they can bring their pets to the office.
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