While You Shop, Give Your Pup a Home Away From Home
Brooklyn startup hopes to spare dog owners from having to leave pups waiting outside
After growing up in Charlotte, NC, with a large backyard for her dogs to play and run free in, Chelsea Brownridge went through some culture shock when she moved to Brooklyn with her rescue terrier Winston.
Brownridge likes to take Winston on long walks around New York City, but she experienced a dilemma when including errands in her routine: either leave Winston cooped up at home all day, or save the shopping for another time.
“I thought ‘What if there were literally dog houses everywhere you went so that no matter where you are, your dog has a home away from home, a safe place where they’re protected from the elements, protected from theft?’,” said Brownridge, the founder and CEO of Dog Parker, a pay-by-the-minute dog kenneling service.
Brownridge’s research determined that dog theft is a rising problem around the country, especially in major cities, and that most owners were not willing to tether their pets up in public spaces. Health code regulations prohibit pets from being admitted to businesses that serve food, leaving active pet owners in the cold.
“There seemed to be a big enough market opportunity there and the problem statement seemed to resonate with a lot of dog owners,” she said.
After a pilot launch last October, there are currently five working Dog Parker prototypes deployed in Brooklyn serving 75 members. Dog Parker membership costs $25 annually, and member dogs must be at least four months old with up-to-date vaccinations. Membership grants owners a card to access the houses, which cost 20 cents per minute ($12 per hour) to use.
“The members love it, they get it. They’ve experienced the problem of leaving your dog at home,” Brownridge said. “Across the board people are very happy with it.”
Dog Parker house features include:
- Insulated walls and solar powered cooling fans and pads to keep temperatures between the veterinarian recommended 32 degrees and 85 degrees Fahrenheit inside the units. In extreme temperature conditions, the Dog Parker units are remotely shut down once vacant.
- A webcam to allow all the Dog Parker units to be monitored remotely for cleanliness and the well-being of the guests.
- ID card scanners to ensure that only Dog Parker members can access the houses, and only the owner who checks their dog in can check it back out.
As Brownridge and her small team prepare to expand the Dog Parker service throughout Brooklyn, she is excited about several innovations, including a mobile app that will allow owners to reserve units ahead of time and check in on their dogs throughout their stay, and new custom-manufactured units that include sanitation lights to sterilize the air between stays.
The Dog Parker team plans to roll out another five units in the coming weeks before upping the deployment to 100 by April.
Even with all of its safety features, Brownridge still understands that many owners will have reservations about using Dog Parker.
“People’s first reaction is ‘I’d never leave my dog in a strange box on the sidewalk’,” she said. “But this is a safer alternative across the board, every single time, than tying your dog up to a pole. That’s what we don’t want to see anymore is dogs left out on the sidewalk.”
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