creatures is their cat’s meow
A cherry hill
couple fine fun – and profit taking care of pets in their own homes.
From a cat that loves television to a goldfish that needs changing
scenery, Kevin and Tracy Neal’s customer list is made up of more
than a few eccentrics.
But judging by
the thriving pet house-sitting service the run, there is money to be
made in catering to creatures.
about what’s best for the pets, “said Tracy, who started PT’s Pet
Sitting Service as a sideline in the late 1980s. Since then, the
business has grown from about 20 neighborhood patrons to a client
list of more than 2,000 – and a six figure bottom line.
trying to consolidate our runs,” said Kevin, who by 1992 had quit
his sales job to move full time into the animal-care industry with
He averages 15
to 20 house calls a day in Burlington and Camden Counties and
oversees a staff of seven who manage full daily runs of their own.
The payroll grows to 14 during the summer and on holidays, when
business is most hectic.
estimated that he and Tracy put in at least 6 0 hours a week for
most of the year. “It’s 24-7. he said.
business has grown, the Neal’s have pampered a potbellied pig named
Molly and have come between brawling dogs. They have made daily
house calls for a goldfish named Fin, whose owners paid them to
rearrange a set of dolls outside the tank “so it would have a
different view,” according to Tracy.
And once, they
looked after a cat that loved Wheel of Fortune. “We had to be there
at 7:30 every night to watch it with him,” said Kevin , shaking his
they say, is keeping the customers satisfied. “We cater to whatever
the owner feels is best.” Said Tracy, offering one theory on why
in-home pet care has exploded in popularity during the last 10
“It is turning
into a for-real industry.” The Washington-based organization started
in 1989 with only a handful of members. Now close to 1,400 have
joined nationwide, with about 30 businesses signing up each month
discretionary spending is there,” McDermott said, noting the boom in
supermarkets devoted to pet-care products. “I’m taking my cat
tomorrow to get its teeth cleaned. That’s something I wouldn’t have
done 10 years ago.”
Those who have
used a pet-sitting service say it brings more peace of mind for
about the same cost as boarding at a kennel. Plus, it creates less
guilt, according to Loretta Ravelli, an animal lover who lives in
Cherry Hill but puts in long hours at a restaurant she owns in West
Deptford. Rather than go to a kennel, she hires the Neal’s to care
for her dog, “Phoebe, a beagle mix.
enough that you’re leaving, let alone taking it from its
environment,” she said adding that she thinks the $15 charge is well
worth PT’s 30 minute daily visits. The dog’s comfortable at home.
This is its own surroundings.”
Not only do
they feed and exercise the pets, but sitters also take care of other
mundane household chores. Bringing in the mail, making sure an
outside light is on, and checking for burglars is also part of the
job. “It’s almost like having a security guard as well as having a
dog walker.” said Lucinda Baker of Medford, whose 100 pound
rottweiler, Damien, gives Kevin all he can handle on the end of a
Kneeling inside Baker’s kitchen yesterday, Kevin cheerfully took a
rag to a spot on the rug left that morning by Damien. Smiling
continually, he insisted that accidents and traffic were the only
downsides of the job. “Welcome to my world”.
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