Gone to the dogs: Pandemic adoptions fuel construction of pet care facilities
Think of it as the dog days of construction.
Pet care has long been a substantial industry in the United States. But then the pandemic hit and Americans added an estimated 5 million additional pets to our collective households. That population spike fueled increased spending on pet food, veterinary care and a raft of other supplies and services.
A Morgan Stanley analysis released in late 2022 estimated that the pet care industry in the U.S., which totaled $118 billion in 2019, will reach $277 billion by 2030. With an average and sustained compound annual growth rate of 8 percent, pet care now ranks as one of the strongest segments of the retail market.
The emergence of that furry, feathery growth sector is creating new opportunities in construction.
In the past two years, MacKenzie Contracting Company’s book of business has included multiple doggie daycare/boarding/training facilities and multiple veterinary practices, including specialized facilities for pet dentistry, orthopedic surgery and physical rehabilitation.
The construction of pet facilities, which are often located in retail strips or industrial/flex buildings, don’t necessarily entail extraordinary challenges. But it does help to have certain specialized construction expertise to thrive in this niche.
“We do a tremendous amount of healthcare construction and there is quite a parallel between the work we do in hospitals and some of these pet facilities,” said Marty Copsey, President, COO and Principal of MacKenzie. “The veterinary orthopedic surgery centers have the same things that you see in a surgery center for humans — exam rooms, operating rooms, recovery rooms, medical gas lines, emergency backup power and specialized air handling equipment.”
Rehab facilities can include many of the same elements found in a physical therapy practice — exercise space, treatment areas and a pool. Such projects can also require teams to become familiar with some specialized veterinary equipment.
“If your dog has orthopedic surgery on its elbow, knee or shoulder, they will rehab the dog in water, much like humans rehab from orthopedic surgery in pools,” Copsey said. “I have lived with dogs for 40 years so I have personally experienced the treadmills that are waterfilled. They have four glass sides. They put the dog in and fill it with water. The treadmill starts and the dog is able to exercise their muscles in a weightless environment and not put weight on the joints that just had surgery.”
Dog daycare, boarding and training facilities involve simpler construction, but close attention to cleaning and waterproofing needs. Kennel areas typically have troughs and drains running beneath them and are clad in waterproof materials that can withstand being hosed down frequently. However, designs and product selections even for simple facilities are evolving.
“Years ago, you would have built these facilities with cinder block walls, painted the walls and that would be that,” Copsey said. “Now, they are covered with materials you would find in commercial kitchens. It is a very sanitary approach to animal care.”
America’s expanded dog population has also fostered construction of a new breed of social facility – the dog-centered drinking establishment. In late 2021, BC&E Members SEH Excavating and Floors Etc. helped build Bark Social Canton — a 15,000-square-foot beer garden, coffee house and off-leash dog park.
Bark Social’s principals, who had previously opened a facility in Bethesda, have announced plans to create another social club in downtown Columbia. An affiliate of Bark Social also recently raised $4.53 million to expand the concept further.