A few years ago, Aaron Hirschhorn and his wife Karine went to visit their family on the east coast. They left their two dogs, Rocky and Rainbow, in a kennel. It cost them $US1,400 — more than their trip — and Rocky hid under Hirschhorn’s desk for the next two days.
“It was clearly a bad experience,” Hirschhorn told Business Insider last week in Santa Monica.
He and his wife started brainstorming better solutions and then spent 2011 turning their home into a dog-sitting hotspot. Over the course of the year, they took in 100 dogs when friends went out of town. The result was DogVacay, a network of local dog-sitters which has raised $US22 million from investors such as First Round Capital, Benchmark and Andreessen Horowitz.
Any animal lover can become a dog-sitter on DogVacay with a little bit of training. Hirschhorn says common sitters include busy professionals who want to spend a few weekends a year taking dogs to the park, or retirees who don’t want to commit to a new pet full-time. Hosts set their own prices, but the average comes out to $US28 per night. A kennel can cost $US50 on up to $US80 per night.
There have been situations where animals have gotten injured — or worse, died — while being dog-sat by DogVacay users. Hirschhorn says hosts are given up to $US3 million in insurance and dogs are covered up to $US25,000. He also says his team has 24/7 customer service and owners can receive photo updates of their pets on the app while they’re away.
For the most part, the app is a life-saver. “There are 78 million dogs in the US, which is more than there are kids, so a lot of people have dogs and our service helps them with a real need,” says Hirschhorn.
He let us tour his puppy-filled headquarters. Here’s where the dog-lovers congregate.
DogVacay Founder, CEO, and Top Dog Aaron Hirschhorn greeted us with his pet who inspired the business, Rocky.
There are also leashes nearby so dog-owners on staff can take their pets for walks. Everyone is allowed to bring their dogs to work, and many do.
Where there aren't live dogs, there are stuffed animals. These two were scattered outside the kitchen.
Now let's get to the puppies. Maggie belongs to DogVacay's Community Accounts Manager, Nicole Ellis. She can do lots of tricks, including skateboard.
Riley sits near the front door on her owner's lap. Her owner, Erika Kavanagh-Stein, is DogVacay's Executive Assistant and Office Manager.
Through the doorway you'll find DogVacay's 24/7 customer and pet service team. From left to right: Andrew Gibson, Mark Rapoza, Steven Lewis with his dog Poppy, Adria Ann Hash, Jeff Bishop, Kelsey Claire, Sabrina Kesler and Erin Shaw.
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