Pet Adoption Increase Will Mean Rise in Business, Says Hounds Town CEO
Jackie Bondanza, President of Hounds Town, attempts to corral dogs with Michael Gould, CEO and founder of the doggie daycare franchise.
As folks began sheltering in place in March due to COVID-19, animal shelters started emptying as more people decided they needed a pet to keep them company. From March 15 through the end of the month, more than 600 people completed online foster applications for New York City and Los Angeles foster programs through the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
But what happens as people start slowly returning to work as stay-at-home orders are lifted in many states?
“The problem comes in when people go back to work, what are they going to do with their dogs? I’m not sure if everyone thought that out past the current crisis,” said Michael Gould, CEO and founder of Hounds Town USA. “There will be a problem when people go back to work—their rituals will change, and dogs will be affected.”
Gould, a founding member of the NYPD canine unit and commanding officer, founded Hounds Town after retiring from his military and law enforcement career. He believes as new pet owners start heading back to work, they’ll start seeking out pet care—which could benefit his business.
Gould has already seen a shift in his customer base during the pandemic. They used to take care of a lot of teachers’ dogs, but now, their prime customer base has shifted to healthcare workers and caring for their dogs.
Gould allows “bully breeds”—a term that refers to breeds people have labeled as being more aggressive sometimes—to be included at Hounds Town. They group dogs into packs based on personality and temperament, a trait that sets Hounds Town apart from competitors. Hounds Town also partners with local animal shelters to foster dogs that may be more difficult to adopt due to age or behavioral issues. At the beginning of May, they helped two dogs from the animal shelter get adopted.
“That’s what we’re all about,” Gould said. “In times when we’ve ever been involved in a crisis situation, we go into philanthropic mode. We’re very well-networked with shelters wherever we’re located.”
With 11 locations open, mainly in the New York City region, Hounds Town has 14 locations in development across Florida, Tennessee, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Georgia.
The brand also created the Fresh Air Fund, where they pick a day of the week for shelters to bring in dogs to their facilities to get social interaction and play time with other dogs.
“Our philosophy is we allow dogs to be dogs, meaning dogs have different needs than humans do,” Gould said. “I use this crude tag, that they can come hump, dump and jump without being screamed at.”
Classified as an essential business during the pandemic, Hounds Town takes care of dogs for people employed in the military, where they’re often deployed for longer periods of time.
“Daycare at Hounds Town is not a luxury, but a necessity…Human customers rely on us, and dogs become addicted to coming to daycare, just like kids get excited about going to the park,” Gould said. “We’ve made dog ownership possible for 20 years. That’s what we do.”