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POOCH PAMPERING

When hotels go to the dogs

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Say goodbye to cramped kennel cages and say hello to deluxe dog suites in swanky pet hotels.

Swimming pool, air conditioning, Skype... All pretty normal for a five-star hotel except that this is for guests of the four-legged variety. Now that pet hotels and resorts are opening across the country, pet owners no longer need to make do with cramped kennels for their furry friends when they have to go out of station. "The idea is that when you go on a holiday, the pet goes on one too, " says Shravan Krishnan, who launched Pets 101 Hotel for Dogs in Chennai last month along with friend K Arunodaya Reddy. Located on East Coast Road, the kennels are spread over a 5, 000 sq ft five-bedroom house. "We have converted three bedrooms into 14 kennels, two of which are deluxe, " says Krishnan.

But the animals get to romp all over the house and sprawling grounds. "They are in the kennels only at night, " he says. The kennels have air conditioning, and the hotel has a resting room for pet owners, Skype facility, 24-hour CCTV and a vet on call. "We came up with the idea a while ago since there are very few good kennels in Chennai, " says Krishan, who has a Great Dane, Buddy. "When I left my dog in a kennel, he came back with an infection, " he adds.

Priya and Roshan Poduval, who run Peppy Paws Pet Resort in Pune, are against the very concept of a kennel. "We wanted ours to be a vacation centre where dogs get to socialise with other dogs, " says Priya. They also offer day care.

"Many working people, especially the IT crowd, prefer to leave their puppies with us rather than alone at home. "

Priya Florence Shah, for instance, uses Peppy Paws regularly as she likes the fact that her lab retriever Tiara has the run of the place. "Other kennels are like small cages, here she gets to be with other dogs, " she says.

Some owners even leave their pets for long periods of time. "I left my Labrador Scotch for two months when my wife was pregnant, " says Seshadri Nookala. "Since I work in marketing and sales, I travel a lot and I wanted to leave him in a place where he gets to play and run around as he is never tied up at home. "

A golden retriever, Scooby, has been staying at Peppy Paws for over two years. "The owners went to the US and had twins so they couldn't take him. But they come to meet him regularly and Scooby will be joining his family in three months, " she says.

The resort, launched at Mundhwa four years ago, has a swimming pool, play area and can accommodate 50 dogs. "Since my husband is a trainer, dogs also get behavioural training, " says Priya, who charges Rs 350 for day care, has a pick up and drop facility and caters to people living in Mumbai and Pune. "The response has been really good so we are opening another branch at the end of this month, " says Priya.
Priya provides home-cooked meals for the animals such as boneless chicken with rice and veggies. "We charge Rs 500 per night for small dogs like pugs, cocker spaniels and beagles, Rs 600 for large dogs like golden retrievers, Labradors and Dalmatians and Rs 700 for giants like St Bernards and Great Danes. While daily grooming is included, owners have to provide food or pay extra for it, " says Krishnan.
Pet hotels generally have a strict admission procedure. "We only take in dogs aged four months to eight years. They have to be friendly and not suffer from any medical condition," says Krishnan.

Peppy Paws usually ask owners to come for a trial session with their pets. "We figure out whether the animal is friendly and can mix with other dogs, " says Priya. She also insists on a health certificate signed by a vet. "Owners have to do an anti-flea and tick treatment for the animals and fill in a pet sheet, with details of food schedule and walk time, " she says.

While there is demand all year through, owners need to book well in advance for the summer holidays. "We already have eight dogs coming in for the summer, " says Krishnan.

Hotel owners also feel that opening up these places will encourage more people to keep pets. "Most people don't get a pet as they are worried about what they will do with them when they have to go out of town, " says Priya. "But with such facilities, they feel more confident."

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