Adrienne's Sustainable Pet Retail Store
- 1 Observations
- 2 Ecosystem
- 3 Natural Strengths & Stresses
- 4 3D Margin Map
- 5 Risks & Mitigating Actions
- 6 Refining Our Language: What do we mean by "pet" and "pet owner"?
- 7 Resources
Some general observations from the group about pets, pet owners, pet ownership and related businesses:
- A lot of pets out there, numbers growing, particularly in Midtown Detroit
- Pet care is expensive and not everyone can afford it - is there a compassionate alternative?
- Economic distinction in level of medical care
- Pets are teachers
- Pets are a rite of passage in youth
- Pet can be last family member to elderly
- People have deep emotional connection to their pets
- Pet care/pet supply industry ridden with waste
- Lots of misinformation about pet food
- Pets can promote healthy lifestyle (dogs get people to walk daily); having pets can reduce stress and promote good mental health
- Sometimes an adversarial relationship between pet owners and vets
- Pets build community; people meet each other, congregate with their pets
- Pet waste is an environmental issue
- Tendency to treat pets as humans (anthropomorphize); people exist somewhere on a spectrum from "It's just an animal"... to "It's just like a human"
- Pet neglect and abuse is a real issue
- Relationship with pets can be mutual; we care for them, they care for us
- Some medical service offered at street level for the homeless - maybe possible to offer same to homeless people's pets
- People love to talk about their pets - stories of their pets connected to periods in their lives
- Pets sometimes offer children their first experience with the entire life cycle of a living creature.
- Pet owners are nurturers
- People can offer pets the gift of a comfortable end-of-life based on evaluation of quality of life
- Pet owners can hesitate to ask questions of vet out of fear of judgement, sometimes get info from internet or pet store clerks
- From a legal standpoint, pets are property
The Ecosystem in which Adrienne's pet business would reside looks something like this:
- Pets (including stray animals)
- Working animals
- Pet owners
- Pet critics (cranks and other non pet owners)
- Pet Day Care
- Humane Society and other shelters
- Working animals
- Pet food and toy manufacturers
- Pet pharmacies
- Grocery stores
- Pet stores
- Dog parks
- Pet services businesses (dog walkers, groomers, etc)
- Pet owners are a very diverse group
- 39% of Americans own at least one dog
- 33% own at least one cat
- 78.2 million owned dogs in US
- 86.4 million owned cats in US
- For some, their pets provide their sole means of interaction with others
- People come together at pet shows/clubs
- Some engage in pet sharing (2 families owning a single pet), esp. in urban areas
- Some engage in bartering for pet services
Pet Day Care:
- Includes traditional kennels, day care centers, in home care
- Wide price range; can pay on a daily or monthly basis
- Wide variety of amenities: boarding, grooming services, etc
- They can sometimes make bad neighbors (noise, smell, e.g.)
- Business that is growing quickly
- Purpose is to socialize your pet (dogs, primarily); play, walks, exercise while owner is at work
- Only doggie day care in Detroit is Canine to Five in Midtown
Some people don't care for keeping animals as pets (hard to believe...), here are some reasons:
- The look at pets as if they're an invasive species
- There are about 20,000 stray dogs just in the City of Detroit
- Pet owners aren't always responsible, and release pets they can no longer care for
- Dog waste is left on the streets in in people's yards
- Risk of dog bites
- Cats (both owned and feral) kill birds
- They build community - a place for people who share an interest in their pets can come together and meet one another
- Good for the mental and physical health of both dogs and their humans
- Easier for people to obey leash laws when there is a place available to them to allow their dogs to run freely and interact naturally with other dogs.
- As number of urban pets is on the increase, dog parks are becoming more popular in cities around the country.
- Some cities have indoor dog parks
- Dog parks can have all kinds of amenities: fountains for splashing around and drinking, bulletin boards or kiosks for sharing information.
- Only 1 official dog park in Detroit; some informal ones have popped up around the city, and there is a Kickstarter campaign for a dog park in Corktown
- Grocery pet sections tend to focus on cats and dogs, but also have supplies for birds, fish, turtles, etc.
- Trends for humans we also see for pets, i.e. low-cal foods, organic products...
- Grocery stores sell both pet toys and pet "critic" products, such as repellants
- Products available vary widely by store
Vets and such:
- Vet visits have declined by about 17% in recent years.
- Vet costs are often higher than people expect
- Interest in health insurance for pets has increased by about 43%
- Many clinics require cash payment at the time of service - no credit or payment plans
- Pet owners are not always aware of the importance of preventative care
- Pets are living longer than in the past
- Vets are sometimes not good business people
- Cat owners use veterinary services less than dog owners
- Many pet services mirror services for humans: spas, massages, doggy washes, grooming salons, etc.
- Poop pick-up services
- Dog/human trainers
- Funeral services
- DIY pet grooming shops
- Pet services businesses seem to be fast growing and immune to recession
- Dogs bred to avoid certain problems, allergies, for example
- Also bred as service animals or for other specific tasks (herding, etc)
- Big movement away from breeders and toward shelter adoptions
- Ethical questions around issue of breeder "rejects"
- Breeders can provide a more complete medical history than shelters can
- Breeders are expensive; some connection to social class
- Pets come "certified" for their breed from the breeder
- Breeders from Detroit have a bad reputation
- More pets in the US than people: 46 million dogs, 39 millions cats, 12 million fish
- 65% of pets are acquired at low to no cost
- 25% are adopted from a shelter
- Average cost to keep a pet per year: $600-$900
- Growth in pet ownership seems to be recession proof
- Pet ownership unites a diverse demographic
- More baby boomers getting pets to fill their "empty nest"
- Pet life expectancy in increasing
- Strong public health concern about pet ownership: government programs promoting spaying and neutering
- Promoting pet adoption vs. breeding can help to keep overpopulation down
- Working animals are probably at the root of domestication
- We use animals for hunting, herding, search and rescue, drug sniffing, service dogs, guarding property
- Working animals are bred for their instincts in a particular behavior
- These animals need to work in order to be happy and healthy
- A given purpose leads to good health in working animals
- Some animals (dogs & cats) are used as "comfort" animals for people undergoing stress
- Working animals are highly intelligent
- There is no national organization for shelters in the US
- There are 197 shelters in MI
- Low barriers to opening a shelter: no fees, no expiration date
- Different types of animal shelters: municipal control facilities, animals rescue groups, animal sanctuaries, and traditional humane society shelters
- Human Society Shelters can provide food vouchers, vet care, education, advocacy and a help line
- 75% of dogs adopted from shelters are over 6 months old, 50% of cats are over 6 mos.
- 501C3 Nonprofit shelters - very little transparency of funds donated to these groups
- Shelters, in general have very low accountability
- In 2011, approx. 62% of Americans owned a pet
- They spent about $50 billion on pet care, $7 billion of which was for prescription medicines
- There is a lot of overlap between medications for humans and animals
- Spending in the area is expected to increase by 40% over the next 5 years
- Aging pets and overweight pets is where the greatest spending on meds occurs
- Flea and tick meds = over the counter; heart worm meds = prescription
- Vets report about 23% of their revenue comes from meds
- New trend to purchasing meds online
- Prescription meds are beginning to show up on shelves (OTC) at Costco and Target - How is this happening?
- Bill is being considered to require that vets write up a prescription that can be taken to any pharmacy to be filled (portability)
- Virtual pets
- There is a lot of misinformation on the internet about pets and pet care
- Web MD for pets
- VIN.com: Online community for veterinarians
- Breeders and breed organizations are on the web
- Yelp and Angies List and Craigs List help to locate vets and groomers and others offering pet services
- Humane Society puts up pictures and stories to encourage pet adoption
- There is a dating site for pet owners
- Lots of shopping sites for pet foods and other supplies
- Estimated that people spend about $20 billion/year on pet food, $12 billion on other pet products
- Trend toward organic "green" pet foods and products, esp. because of problems with products manufactured abroad
- Foreign manufacturers have been unreliable (Dogs died in China due to toxic food, e.g.)
- Innovation in food industry will come from the grass roots (small) rather than the industry
Natural Strengths & Stresses
Natural Strengths: What current trends can we identify that would positively support the existence of a sustainable pet retail store such as Adrienne is proposing?
- There is an increasing number of pets nationwide and in urban areas
- People are spending more on pet services than in the past
- Pet ownership helps bring people together and builds community
- Eco-friendly, sustainable, organic pet products are increasingly popular
- Go local movement in popular
- DIY culture is big in Detroit
- There is very little available in terms of pet care services in the city
- This pet shop could function well as an information hub and community builder
- More pets in an urban area bring more negatives: waste, noise, bites, etc.
- Trend toward treating pets more like humans rather than the animals that they are - anthropomorphizing
- It's harder to take care of pets "properly" or to "do pets right" in an urban area (less room for dogs to run,e.g.)
- More people are getting their information about pet care online
- People have a tendency to become defensive when you try to give them advice about pet care
- Both people and their pets have been migrating away from life in a more natural environment
- Recession/poverty affects pet care - people less likely to spend money and do vet visits if they don't have the funds.
3D Margin Map
Risks & Mitigating Actions
- Proliferation of online retailers
- Who would be attracted to this kind of business?
- Neighborhood risks: choosing the right place, safety, etc.
- Capital investment
- Downward pressure on price points
- Detroit has a lower income population
- Would there be a community backlash? Why focus on pets?
- Cultural and generational differences on perception of pets and pet care
- Is there anyone else doing this?
- Danger of deciding on a location too early before really understanding the neighborhood
- This business could be instrumental in building a strong community
- Advice is at the center of this business
- Reuse and trading of pet products could take place in a physical space
- Opportunity to employ neighborhood youth for deliveries by bike
- Unique business model: totally differentiate yourself from other pet businesses, including the name of the business
- Develop a deep knowledge of the community - deeper than most
- Message: pets are for people
- Connect pets with older community members - strengthen this connection
- Business should be open and welcoming
- Develop a wiki - get on social media
- Promote DIY
- Face-to-face communication, help, advice
Refining Our Language: What do we mean by "pet" and "pet owner"?
The discussion here centered around our use of the words "pet" and "owner" and what we really mean by them. How do we define "pet"? What implications does that word bring? And what do we mean by "owner"? Can we really own another living creature? How are "pets" treated in the law?
This chart reflects some of the thoughts of the Dogg Pound group on these questions. We covered such areas as:
- The history of the human - domesticated animal relationship
- The etymology of the word "pet"
- How the law recognizes our pets
- The Judeo-Christian tradition regarding the relationship between humans and animals (dominion)
- Native people's traditional views of the animal - human relationship
- Our responsibilities when we take an animal into our home - care, food, medicine, etc. What do we owe them?
- Our view of animals (dangerous, companions, symbiotic) and, how do they view us?
- Being aware of their natures (as animals, not in comparison to humans)
As well as alternative words that might be used in lieu of "pet" and "owner":
- Keeper (both the human and the animal)
- Possible name for business: Dieter's Place (named after Adrienne's good pal)
- Ape rights and the myth of animal equality
- "our non-human brothers" and "our evolutionary comrades"
- Project GAP
- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
- Swiss Law Protects Rights of Social Animals
- "social species" considered victims of abuse if they are not allowed to cohabit
- prospective dog owners required to take 2-part course on taking care of their pet: theory and practice
- anglers must take a course on how to catch a fish humanely
- Animals as Pets from the BBC
- "It is only ethical to keep an animal as a pet if both the animal's biological and psychological needs are properly catered for."
- Examples of unethical environments and treatment
- Bill Would Value Pets as Companions, Not Property from USA Today (Maine)
- based on a bill sponsored by a northern Maine lawmaker that would allow a pet owner to recoup up to $5,000 if their pet is killed by another person or animal.
- The Guardian Campaign
- "I am not their owner; they are not my property"
- focuses on changing the language and behavior toward animals
- Animal Academics: Using the word pet insults your pet, er, companion
- According to a report published in the Journal of Animal Ethics, using “derogatory” terms when referring to animals of any kind can affect the way they are treated.
- "Animals have feelings, too - Be humane
- "It is critical for children and adults alike to understand the need to treat other living creatures with respect, responsibility and compassion."
- DPTV’s Humane Education Media Campaign presents three Thursdays with six animal shows that aim to educate and inspire with positive messages relating to more humane perspectives and better treatment of animals.
- Top Pet Industry Trends for 2012 from Pawsible Marketing Blog
Animals in the News
- Animal Rights Becomes Surprise Topic in New York Mayoral Race NYT, April 13, 2013
- Animal Abuse Registry Detroit Free Press, April 14, 2013
Who Provides Information on Animals?
Organizations and Websites
- National Geographic - Animal Facts
- American Veterinary Medical Association
- Pet MD The particular page I linked to is Pet MD University
- Web MD - Healthy Pets
- Just Answer - Veterinarians
These stores offer training classes, online information, online communities for sharing Q&A's, etc.
- Jane Goodall Amazon Page (various books on chimpanzees; mindful eating)
- Dian Fossey Amazon Page (Gorillas in the Mist)
- Farley Mowat Amazon Page (People of the Deer; Never Cry Wolf)
- Vanessa Woods Amazon Page (The Genius of Dogs)
- Virginia Morell Amazon Page (Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures)
- John Bradshaw (Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet, Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behaviour Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet)