Dog kennel shortage: ‘Perfect storm’ results in serious space shortage

Rise in pet ownership during Covid coupled with closure of some kennels due to rising costs is resulting in pressure on dog kennels

Chrissy Mahon Commercial Manager with the DSPCA holds Bruno, a rescue Chihuahua currently looking for a nice home at the DSPCA Pet Hotel and Doggie Daycare.

Conor Feehan

Dog owners planning their summer holidays are being advised to seek kennel accommodation for their pets as soon as possible because a massive increase in demand has led to a shortage of spaces.

Many kennels and dog minders are having to turn away new customers because of demand pressure on their services.

A big jump in the numbers of people travelling since Covid restrictions were lifted, an increase in dog ownership, and the closure of some kennels due to rising insurance costs have all been put forward as possible reasons for the spike in demand for existing places.

“The problem of trying to find a place for a pet has been caused by a ‘perfect storm’. A lot of people got dogs during the pandemic,” said Donal Delaney from Beech Grove Boarding Kennels in Upper Glanmire in Cork.

“They are an asset to any family and some people got dogs to help with Covid loneliness. Coupled with that there are families trying to catch up on their holidays and see people they missed during lockdowns.

“It has all led to increased demand for kennel spaces.”

“We have around 30 kennels and we are not taking new customers for June, July and August. We stopped around six or seven weeks ago.

“It’s the same for grooming appointments. In fact, we are even ringing other kennels in the area to see if they could manage some of the spillover, but they are in the same position as us.

“We used to have high demand in July only, but this year it’s different.

“Our advice to people who are going away is to get accommodation sorted now.”

“Do it yesterday,” he added.

A recent CSO survey revealed that one in five (20pc) pet owners said they had acquired the pet since the start of the pandemic.

Alan Russell has been running West City Kennels and Cattery on the Old Naas Road in west Dublin since 1988, and says they are turning down around 30 or 40 people a day who are ringing looking for a place.

“I have room for around 50 dogs and 40 cats, and I was telling someone a few days ago that if six other kennels opened around me we would all still do business,” he told the Irish Independent.

“I’m full now until December. Some people are really stressed out trying to find places for their pets. It’s something that people need to sort out early.

“Pet ownership went up during the pandemic. I see that with the number of people with dogs I meet when I’m out walking my own. It really jumped during Covid.

“I think rising insurance costs are a factor in a number of kennels closing too. It can cost €8,000 to €10,000 a year now, and I think a few places that closed during the lockdowns just didn’t open again afterwards partly because of rising costs.

“It’s hard work too. I walk about 20km a day around the kennels just looking after all the dogs, and then I still go out and walk my own dogs after that,” he added.

The DSPCA in Rathfarnham in Dublin also runs a Pet Hotel & Doggie Daycare Centre, and commercial manager Chrissy Mahon said she has never seen a year like this one for demand.

“The summers were always busy, but we used to have downtime for training and cleaning, but now there is demand all the time.

“We have 52 individual suites which are all indoor and heated, and since late October last year, we’ve been fully booked all the way to August and we are booked for Christmas and the New Year too,” she explained.

“We think the demand is because everyone’s calendars were affected during Covid.

“Some haven’t been home in over two years. Other people had to postpone their weddings and are catching up on them now, and even communions and confirmations have been moved about.

“We could do our daycare three times over, the demand is so high, and we are doing more and more puppy classes than in pre-Covid times.”

One thing Chrissy is critical of is the lack of regulation in the pet-minding industry. “Boarding facilities are not regulated in Ireland, so we advise people to really do their homework when choosing a place to put their pet,” she said.

The cost of putting your dog in a kennel varies with the size of the animal and how many pets you are having looked after.

The average-sized dog will cost around €18-€20 per day, and pet owners may see that rise in the future as the cost of pet food, as well as energy costs associated with heating and grooming increase.

“A bag of food that cost €14 last year now costs €20,” Mr Delaney, of Beech Grove kennels in Cork, said.

The DSPCA said it had not increased its costs this year because management was aware that people are already struggling with price inflation, but said prices may have to be reassessed next year in line with rising costs.

A shortage of kennel spaces has led to a growing demand for dog sitters, who either mind the pet in their own home or house-sit in the family’s home.

An online service called Pawshake, set up to fill the gap in the pet-minding market, operates as a service to introduce families to potential sitters.

It now operates in 19 countries in Europe, Canada and Australia.

“We have noticed the demand in Ireland has doubled since pre-Covid times, and we have 5,000 sitters in Ireland on our system,” said Pawshake CEO Tanguy Peers.