Huge Indoor Dog Park Pampers Your Pooch
All Things Considered, April 7, 2009 · Open the door to Unleashed Indoor Dog Parks in Dallas, and it feels a little like you’ve stepped into the lobby of a Hyatt or maybe an upscale health spa.
But just beyond the waterfall wall that curtains the front desk is a sight for dogs’ eyes. The park is the size of a jet airplane hangar. But instead of 737s and an endless expanse of concrete, it looks like an indoor practice facility for a professional football team.
When the facility opened last week, 300 dogs arrived to romp on the 50,000 square feet of artificial grass laid over a foot of fine gravel.
Customer Nancy Perry has already begun bringing Jack, her 5-year-old Labrador retriever, here regularly. “I like that it’s clean; I like that it’s safe,” Perry says. “I like that it’s monitored. I think it’s a great concept.”
Outdoor Dog Park Wasn’t Ideal
Kelly Acree, 33, came up with the Unleashed concept. She regularly took her dog, a Labrador retriever mix, to Dallas’ very popular municipal outdoor dog park. That park was so popular that it soon became overwhelmed. Then she had the idea of an indoor dog park.
“People didn’t clean up after themselves, so it smelled bad,” Acree says. “There were no amenities, no restrooms, nothing to drink. Half the time, the water spigots wouldn’t be on, so you couldn’t even water the dogs in the heat of the summer. So we thought if you took it inside and it was air conditioned, clean, and you had handlers to break up fights and make it safe — and you made the experience comfortable for both the owner and the dog — would people be willing to pay for it?”
Kelly and her husband, Cody, combined their own money with investors and raised a $10 million startup fund.
In addition to the indoor artificial grass, the facility has 2.5 acres outdoors and a canine water park under construction. Inside, there’s also a supply store, grooming facility and day care. For owners, there are tables and WiFi, and soon there will be a cafe and restaurant with seating on a second floor overlooking the indoor park.
An all-day pass costs $7.50 for one dog and $10 for two.
Acree says the plan is to use all the revenue sources and to rent parts of the facility for adoption events and parties.
“We’ve got enough capital to keep it going,” she says. “It’s part of our startup costs, and right now we’re covering our costs.”
Patrolling The Park
Dog handlers patrol the park at all times. No pit bulls are allowed. Dog whisperer Russ Ottmer says that if you know dog body language, which he says he does, you can nip dog fights in the bud.
“Since we have a lot of people out here to assist, we can take care of it as it happens,” Ottmer says.
In Texas, the economy is doing pretty well compared with the East and West coasts, so the Acrees hope there’s still a robust customer base in Dallas for this kind of experience.
Customers can give the park their credit card number, and their dog gets a little toll tag for his or her collar that bills automatically — no need to stop at the front desk.
The Acrees hope this facility will be the first of many. They’re thinking about building a second in Plano, north of Dallas, and after that, possibly in Phoenix and Minneapolis.
Original post on NPR:
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