Judging by the daycare centers for dogs in Long Island City, you’d never know we’re in a recession.
Within about a one-mile radius, there are at least four facilities, three of which sprouted since 2008 — and all are hopping. Each takes in 15 to 35 dogs on an average day, and demand is still rising.
“It’s definitely a market that isn’t saturated yet,” said Cody Osborne of Camp Bow Wow, which opened a franchise on Austell Place a little over a year ago.
Steve Neagus, Bow Wow’s owner, and Luis Martinez, who runs City Dog Lounge on Vernon Boulevard, both said the two facilities that opened in the last four months near the waterfront haven’t drawn customers away.
Most attribute the success of pet-care facilities to the Queens West development, which has brought several skyscrapers to LIC in recent years. As the new waterfront apartments fill up, the dog population is burgeoning, causing some to dub the neighborhood “Dog Island City.”
There are an estimated 1,000 canines in the Queens West complex alone, and developers are going out of their way to welcome more. AvalonBay, the company that runs the Avalon Riverview tower, set aside a prime piece of real estate — a corner unit with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline — for a pet-care facility and signed a 10-year contract with an entrepreneur named Bruce Barlin.
Barlin, who previously ran a pet-care business in Jackson Heights, opened Pooches Sport & Spa in late 2009 and said the new facility is a big draw for prospective residents.
“[Avalon] realized they had to get dog-friendly in order to be competitive,” he said.
Daycare costs can add up quickly — the going neighborhood rate is $25 or more per day — but that isn’t dissuading people from sending their pups to the sitter.
Those who run the centers say the service is popular because people want their dogs to socialize and exercise.
“Dogs come home exhausted,” Barlin said — which means their humans can come home at night and relax.
The daycare centers in LIC all feature cage-less “playpens,” where dogs can romp about together. Dog Island City, which opened four months ago on 50th Avenue, even has a miniature treadmill for dogs.
“They know the concept: You have to run, and the more you run, the more cookies you get,” said owner Lidia Lozovsky.
Fran Cimino, who has lived in the City Lights building for four years, said she has noticed a change in her dog, Bodhi, since he started going to daycare.
“For the first couple of years, I would just have him walked,” Cimino said. “Now he’s much more sociable. For his 11 years, he acts pretty spry.”
Some pet owners also say their dogs suffer from separation anxiety, which is eased by being around other canines and people.
In case personalized care and all-day stimulation isn’t enough to draw customers, LIC’s dog facilities seem to be one-upping each other when it comes to fancy amenities.
Camp Bow Wow has webcams situated around the doggie playpens, so owners can watch their pals from the office or the Caribbean. And for dogs who spend the night, the lights are turned down low and classical music is played.
Pooches, in contrast, claims fame with its “Pet-a-potty” — a fake fire hydrant atop a patch of artificial turf, which drains directly into the sewer.
“We know exactly how to keep [the room] pee-proof and smell-proof,” joked Barlin, who for several years boarded dogs in his apartment.
The snazzy features may wow customers, but daycare operators say it’s their personalized care that keeps clients coming back. They emphasize that they know each dog’s needs and work hard to cultivate trusting relationships in the neighborhood.
And despite what are frequently 14-hour work days, they say they’re happy.
“I love what I do,” said Neagus, who gave up his job at Morgan Stanley, built up a dog-walking business in Manhattan and finally opened the Camp Bow Wow franchise. The financial gig was “fun and glamorous,” he added, “but I really hated the job.”