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Airport pet sitters cater to jet setters

Bob Farricker hustled off his JetBlue flight at 6:15 Saturday evening with little time to spare. He dashed through Tampa International's main terminal, snatched a bag from the carousel and hopped into his car in long-term parking. In minutes, the South Tampa consultant was retrieving Sammy the black Labrador from his kennel, Camp Bow Wow, just before closing time at 7 p.m. "It's such a convenient thing," Farricker says. "And he has more fun there than when he's home."

Pets are big business. Nearly two out of three U.S. households own at least one pet, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. Americans will spend an estimated $3.2-billion on boarding and grooming this year.

So it's little surprise that new and far fancier versions of traditional pet kennels are popping up around airports for busy travelers.

Pet Paradise, based in Jacksonville, operates "luxury reports" for dogs and cats at airports in Jacksonville, New Orleans and at Houston Bush Intercontinental. Canines run on playgrounds with artificial turf and swim in a bone-shaped pool. For $65 a night and up, they can lounge on cushy beds and flat-screen TVs (Animal Planet is a favorite).

Minnesota's Animal Humane Society is completing a plush boarding facility at Minneapolis International Airport with heated floors, a therapy pool and spa including pet massages and "podicures."

The Camp Bow Wow chain of 91 franchises has a half-dozen near airports, founder Heidi Flammang says. Besides being convenient for travelers, it's easier for owners to find the kind of zoning acceptable for kennels in industrial areas on the edge of airports.

Franchise owner Barbara Cardin converted a new warehouse in gritty Drew Park into Tampa's first Camp Bow Wow. By day, dogs separated by size frolic in fenced play yards inside or outside. By night, they snooze in 4- by 8-foot cages to piped-in classical music. Owners go online and watch Web cam views of their pups playing.

Boarding costs $40 per night. Camp Bow Wow is open 365 days a year, including all holidays. That, plus the location, are huge selling points to travelers, Flammang says.

"People love the easy access," she says. "They don't go out of their way to drop their dog off. And they want to get there quicker when they're home to get a lick on the face."

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

Airport pet sitters cater to jet setters 12/02/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 3, 2008 3:45pm]
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