FORT LAUDERDALE — Summer is in full swing, and for some consumers this means vacation time. But for their four-legged friends, this often means a staycation at a pet boarding facility or at home with a pet sitter.
Americans will spend about $55.5 billion on their pets this year, according to the American Pet Products Association, and $4.54 billion of that will be spent on pet services, which include boarding and pet sitting. "Our pet hotel is busy, busy, busy all summer long," said veterinarian Ken Simmons, owner of the Barkers Hotel & Purrington Inn at the Simmons Veterinary Hospital in Lake Worth.
The hotel mostly caters to cats and dogs but will accept "anything that moves," hospital administrator Sherri Kelley said.
Inspired by the renowned Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Barkers distinguishes itself from other boarding facilities by trying to provide pets with the same luxury experience their owners expect when going on vacation.
The most expensive room goes for $90 a night and includes the pet equivalent of a king-sized bed, a flat-screen TV and skylights.
Cheaper rooms are smaller and include the pet equivalent of a queen or twin bed. Most rooms are tiled.
During the day, the dogs are let loose to play in a pool area and in a grassy park, which together cover 2 acres. More than 40 employees supervise the residents. Grooming and training services are also available. Busboys deliver food on carts, and all dogs receive baths.
The Coral Springs Animal Hospital offers a more cost-conscious option that still includes plenty of playtime. Rooms start at $20 a night and include at least three walks a day for all dogs. The hospital also eschews wire cages, opting for glass-enclosed rooms.
Hiring a pet sitter might be more feasible for some owners and their pets.
When selecting a sitter, Terry Chance, a director at Pet Sitters International, recommends that owners ensure the individual has insurance, a contingency plan, a clean criminal history and experience caring for animals.
A qualified sitter can bring professional quality to pet care, something "your friend or neighbor can't do," she said.