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At your pet’s service

Shops and clinics catering to furry friends are mushrooming in our neighbourhood
Shih Tzus get groomed at Pink Paws
Shih Tzus get groomed at Pink Paws
(The Telegraph picture)

Brinda Sarkar   |   Published 07.11.19, 07:35 PM

At least seven new pet shops and clinics have opened in our neighbourhood over the past year or so, taking the total to over 20. But is demand really that high or are the shops eating out of one another’s market?

Most of the centres offer pet food, leashes and the like — this is an obvious overlap — but in a bid to differentiate themselves, many are picking an area of specialisation.

Cab it to clinic

Pet Mall & Murphy Veterinary Clinic, that opened behind GD Market in June, offers possibly the first indoor patient facility for pets in the township.

“Two years ago, our Golden Retriever Murphy fell sick and we rushed him to the doctor. He needed hospitalisation but the facility wasn’t available anywhere,” says co-owner of the centre, Sayanta Bhattacharya.

They have beds and cages with oxygen, saline facilities etc and can house up to seven dogs and cats. They have an operation theatre with a surgeon, besides a vet for consultation. They have CCTVs too, to watch over the patients and inmates who stay at their creche. “And our pet shop with food and medicine stays open 24 hours a day,” Bhattacharya says.

Again Cats n Dogs, opposite the SDO Bhavan in CJ Block, is possibly Salt Lake’s first pet pathological lab. “We offer free blood collection in Salt Lake, Lake Town and Kestopur and in emergency cases, if the nature of the test allows, provide results in an hour,” says Arijit Mukherjee, a partner. Before this, pet parents would have to depend on labs in Baguiati, Lake Town or even Kasba.

The lab has a semi-auto analyser for blood tests, incubators for stool and urine tests and Boyles Apparatus to provide anaesthesia in a much safer way than is otherwise available, adds partner Seema Taneja.

The government has also stepped into the pet services sector and in February New Town Kolkata Development Authority (NKDA) launched a clinic, a dog creche and a 24-hour pet burial ground.

An NGO, Scud Society of Social Communication, was running a pet burial ground behind Sector V but shut it in May, hoping to relocate elsewhere in Salt Lake. Till then, the burial ground at New Town’s Pet Dog Creche And Clinic has been a great help to bereaved pet owners.

“Since opening in February we have had burials of 22 dogs and two cats,” says Suman Roy, livestock development assistant of the NKDA-run facility.

“We have 11 rooms and they have been almost booked to capacity all though the summer and Puja vacations too,” the NKDA official said.

Looking good

Pink Paws of AC Block positions itself as the grooming leader in the business. “Our head groomer has 25 years of experience but we still sent him to Bangkok for a two month diploma course,” says Purna Bhattacharjee, who runs the store.

“He called us after the first day of class and said groomers in India know nothing! They spent three days just teaching him how to hold the scissors properly.”

Their hydraulic grooming tables allow height adjustment and glow from within to provide lights from the bottom. They have an ‘O3 spa’ set-up, connected to a jacuzzi or bubble bath, that provides everything from body massage and cleaning to exercise and beauty treatment.

They offer local as well as imported shampoos and conditioners and their combs, scissors, hair dryers and nail file machines are state-of-the-art. “Dogs’ coats are more sensitive than human hair so we use special hair straighteners with steam technology,” says Bhattacharjee.

Learning manners

Once your dog looks his best, there is also a way to ensure he is on his best behaviour.

Janopriyo Creche in Baguiati specialises in dog training. It is being run by Kamal Ghosh who has about 40 years of experience in the field.

“In the initial years, I had five to 10 (canine) students but demand has shot up so much over the last three or four years that I now employ 10 to 12 trainers and each of them has 10 to 12 students,” says Ghosh. “We were getting overwhelmed so we had to open a store.”

Given the fast lives people lead these days, the centre also sends staff over for “maintenance” of the dogs. This includes walking, bathing etc.

Cats n Dogs has started a pet ambulance and pet taxi service. “It is difficult for people without cars to take their pets to vets, relatives’ houses or even on holidays to Digha and Mandarmani. Most taxis and app cabs refuse pets,” says Mukherjee.

The taxi and ambulance charges are Rs 15 per km or Rs 150, whichever is higher and services are available from 10am to 5am. For small pets it’s a Swift Dzire taxi and for large dogs it’s Innova. The ambulance is a Maruti van.

Nawab Dastan in FD Block stands out with its pet swimming pool and Deb’s Pet Care in Chinar Park for its pet bakery. “I bake birthday cakes for dogs myself,” says owner Ronyth Deb. “I add rice flour instead of regular flour, honey instead of sugar, peanut butter instead of butter.” A pound costs Rs 900 and is garnished with bone-shaped biscuits.

Then & now

If you wanted to consult a vet in Salt Lake 25 years ago, you would probably have had to crouch under the stairs of a medicine shop where the vet had been spared a corner. “This is how it was when we started the township’s first pet shop 22 years ago,” says Pankaj Banerjee of Falguni Market’s Pets Planet.

Today the pet population has risen and Ghosh, the veteran trainer, opines that people keep pets for four main reasons — “to guard homes, to win shows, to breed and because their friends have dogs”.

Salt Lake residents have both the purchasing power and wish to give the pets their best. At Pink Paws, the products are arranged as per their prices and the staff says that many customers head straight to the highest quality brands, regardless of the price.

Demand is also fuelled by the dog show season. “Like how poor students study only the night before exams, breeders switch to packaged food between September and February hoping to ready their dogs for winter shows,” says Bhattacharjee. “Last winter we sold six combs that cost about Rs 10,000 each, while the rest of the year we sold two.”

Rise in competition

Most shops are cognizant of one another, even requesting not to publish prices of their services in a bid to maintain the competitive edge. Some said other shops try to send over employees disguised as customers to find out their details.

Vet Subir Bhattacharya, who sits at Falguni Market, says that over the last two decades he has seen pet shops come with the spring and go with the winter, as they lack commitment.

Tarun Gupta, of BD Block’s Animel Planet, says most entrants in this market are investors and not pet-lovers. “They pack up the minute they see they are not getting their return on investment.”

Alice & Elvis Pets in BB Block says they have a problem retaining vets as the latter are usually more into minting money than offering service. “We do not charge for the treatment of street dogs but our vets refuse, saying they will miss out on their commission,” says partner Sahib Singh.

“Patients are fleeced by other pet shops to such an extent that they they doubt our credentials when we offer them reasonable rates,” says Singh’s partner Anju Mitra. “Patients ask why we take longer than other shops in grooming but that’s because others are in a hurry to finish up and squeeze in one more customer. But if a dog falls asleep on my lap during grooming, I don’t have the heart to wake him up just so I can trim his hair.”

A pet centre has opened at about a minute’s walk from Alice & Elvis Pets. Another one has come up less than a five-minute walk away.

Animel Planet completed 10 years in 2019 and Gupta says everyone who has now started a pet shop in Salt Lake has once been their customer. “Our shop was the first with an AC, TV, music… we became the benchmark of pet shops. Some of the new centres — that provide medical facilities — are not even our competitors but supporters. Either way we hope healthy competition prevails and the pets benefit.”

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