Pet Care Services Are Big Business for Small Business

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Pet Owners Spending More on Time-Saving, Specialty Pet Care Services

JENNIFER CHEESEMAN DAY AND JOE WEINSTEIN  |  FEBRUARY 18, 2020

Do you need a dog walker for Rocky, a cat sitter for Bella or training for Buddy?

Half (about 60 million) of American households own pets and the amount of money they spend on their four-legged friends is evidence of the growing need for time-saving pet care services.

Over the decade ending in 2017, sales of pet care services doubled, to a total of $5.8 billion, according to the latest Economic Census statistics.

Over the decade ending in 2017, sales of pet care services doubled, to a total of $5.8 billion, according to the latest Economic Census statistics.

The pet care services industry (NAICS code 812910) includes services such as grooming, boarding, training and pet sitting. It does not include veterinary services, boarding horses, transporting pets, pet food or other pet supplies.

With over 100,000 pet care service businesses, this industry increased its number of establishments by more than 60% since 2007, for both employer businesses and self-employed (nonemployer) businesses.

The number of people employed in pet care services rose sharply from 2007 to 2017. Excluding the self-employed, the number of workers grew from 52,855 paid employees to 111,384, a 111% increase, according to County Business Patterns data.

This substantially outpaces other pet-affiliated businesses, including pet and pet supply stores and veterinary establishments, and far exceeds not only the totals for all industry sectors (7%) but also the U.S. population growth (8%) during the same period.

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Pet Care Services Are Big Business for Small Business

The pet care service industry is a haven for small businesses and may appeal to gig workers.

Nonemployers (84%) and businesses with fewer than five employees (10%) made up the vast majority of businesses in the pet care services industry in 2017.

Among the 211,000 pet care service workers, just under half (47%) are self-employed (assuming one person per nonemployer business) and about half (49%) work for companies with fewer than 50 employees.

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Catering to pets

Among employer establishments in the pet care service industry, 42% provide pet grooming services and 28% provide pet boarding services, according to the 2012 Economic Census.

Average annual sales, not accounting for operating expenses, are among the highest for other pet care services ($393,000) and animal training ($373,000).

Pet sitting and dog walking average about $236,000 per business annually.

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More Money and Bigger Houses, More Pets

No matter how cute the pets, they cost money. In fact, pet ownership rates increase with household income.

Close to 60% of households with incomes of more than $80,000 a year have pets compared with 36% of households with incomes less than $20,000.

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People in large homes also have the highest rate of pet ownership. About 60% of homes with four or more bedrooms have a pet.

But even households with zero bedrooms make room for a pet — about 18%.

Outside space matters, too. Two-thirds of households in rural areas have pets, compared with just under half of urban households.

Space makes a difference across the urban landscape, as well.

In some sprawling metropolitan areas, such as Phoenix and Riverside, Calif., more than half of households have a pet.

In contrast, in more compact and dense areas such as New York City, only a third of households have pets.

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