Cutting their teeth in the property market

Cutting their teeth in the property market

By Rosemary Williams

Article featured in Total Property - Issue 4 2016

Once relegated to the outer fringes of cities and farmland areas far away from neighbours, commercial pet care facilities have moved into urban areas and are a growing business phenomenon.

The first city-based ‘doggy day care’ operation was set up just over a decade ago and is well–established, but some new start-ups operate from industrial and semi-suburban zoning in properties ranging from the North Shore to South Auckland, that were formerly mechanics’ workshops, panel beating yards and light manufacturing premises. They are also close to residential areas and/or arterial routes in handy locations where city owners often queue at 7am to drop their dogs off like children at day care centres. Several facilities offer pet drop off and pick up services in their branded vans.

As one business owner put it: “Our customers are cash rich but time poor. Dropping their dog off is part of their daily routine and they appreciate not having to walk their dog at night - especially in winter.” The canine care industry also caters for people who don’t want to leave their dogs home alone to be a barking or whining nuisance to neighbours. Kiwi doggy day cares offer services from day minding, to exercise regimes, socialising, training, dog walking, grooming and overnight kennelling – even ‘field trips’ and short overnight farm stays.

However, it’s not an easy business to set up. Many centres have enlisted the services of specialists to guide them through the council consent process – costing anywhere from $20,000 upwards.

Planner Angela Stewart says the most important factor is site selection. “Generally rules for industrial and business zones will be more accommodating towards doggy day care. Sites further from residential properties are preferable while those adjoining residential properties may be problematic.

“The key factor to consider is noise. Applicants need to commission an acoustics’ report which will look at the potential noise issues. It may make suggestions to limit the noise impact – like acoustic fencing, sound installation or limited dog numbers and/or operating times.”

One canine care centre insulated its building - which also protected its four-legged clientele against industrial noise nearby.

“The provision of on-site parking for doggy day care, including sufficient parking for key drop off and pick up times, is important,” Stewart says.

The future is less rosy for doggy care centres. When the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (PAUP) is finalised there will only be four zones that a pet facility will have the right to set up in - three of them in rural areas. All others, and the extension of existing facilities, will have to apply for resource consent.

Under the PAUP, dog kennels and pet day care will be a permitted activity in Light Industry, Rural Production, Mixed Rural and Rural Coastal zones. Three of these zones put the businesses back where they were 30 years ago on the periphery of Auckland in rural areas. As one owner says: “Back into the Dark Ages.”

It is understood that lawfully established doggy care centres would continue to operate without obtaining resource consent, but any proposal to change the scale of any business would trigger a consent requirement.

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