| Will Bobb splits his time between Naples and Atlanta.
When he can, the 52-year-old real estate investor brings along his cuddly 7-year-old Pug, Tulip.
But when that’s not possible, he and his wife turn to a local Pets Are Inn franchise, which offers boarding in private homes.
“This is a perfect solution for us,” he said.
Bobb doesn’t like the idea of leaving the dog at the veterinarian’s office and having it sit in a crate while he’s away.
“She’s pretty much a people dog, a lap dog. She will sit on anyone’s lap for three or four hours and just sleep,” Bobb said.
Host families undergo background checks, and their homes and references are checked out before their applications are accepted to take in pets.
For pets, it’s “a home away from home.”
The pet owners and the host families never meet. While some might not like the idea, it doesn’t bother Bobb, who said his dog always comes back happy.
“We only know what they’ve told us. The pet sitter writes a little note telling you how she did,” he said.
Bobb started using the service a few months ago after seeing the company’s van driving down Pelican Bay Boulevard. He was familiar with the name because he had friends who used the service in Minneapolis, where Pets Are Inn was founded in 1982.
While the cost is a little more than what the average vet or kennel charges, Bobb feels the service is worth it.
“The dog is more comfortable,” he said.
The local franchise, Pets Are Inn of Southwest Florida, is owned by Mike Horn, a former longtime State Farm Insurance agent in Naples, and his family. It’s one of 20 nationwide.
Horn, 62, and his wife, Ilene, 56, started their business after retiring on July 31, 2007. She was his office manager at State Farm.
“We’ve loved pets so much all our lives this was something that made sense to us,” he said.
The Horns’ 24-year-old son also owns and works for the company.
| Pets Are Inn offers a chauffeured pick-up and delivery service for pets. The company van is on the road more and more, as business grows.|
“Things are starting to pop here with us,” Mike Horn said. “We’re having some good success.”
The focus has been on Collier County, but the business is looking to grow in Lee County, too.
The service is mostly geared toward dogs, but hosts take in the occasional cat. Others pets may be taken in, too.
“We did take in a guinea pig. It stayed with the host family for 19 days. So it was pretty neat,” Ilene Horn said.
Prices start at $34 a day for dogs and $24 a day for cats, not including transportation costs. First-time clients get a 10 percent discount.
While there are many other pet sitters and boarders in town, the Horns aren’t too concerned because their service is different than what most others offer. Most sitters go to the pet’s home.
The pet service industry is a great one to get into, with Americans spending more time and money than ever taking care of their animals, Mike Horn said.
“People’s pets are part of their family,” he said. “Our little Daschund climbs up his ramp and goes to bed with us every night.”
The company’s more than two dozen hosts include young families, who only have time for a pet once in a while, and elderly residents, who live alone and want companionship without the demands of taking care of a pet every day.
“It’s kind of like grandkids, where you take your grandkids in, you spoil them and love them, and when they are all riled up and full of sugar, you give them back to the parents,” Mike Horn said.