NEW YORK—June and Michelle opened up a pet grooming shop five months ago, and all because their dog, a Pekingese, had previously gotten bad haircuts. First they practiced giving haircuts to their dogs themselves, and later took pet grooming classes at the New York School of Dog Grooming. Walking their now well-groomed pets drew compliments from attentive dog lovers, who became private clients and brought their pooches for grooming at Michelle's Lower East Side apartment. The whole process made both June and Michelle realize it was the way to go. June even quit her corporate IT job to invest in their own shop, and The Poochie Place was opened in the East Village.
The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA), founded in 1958, is a non-profit trade association made up of nearly 850 pet product manufacturers. APPMA estimates that for 2006, $38.4 billion will be spent on pets in the United States, which includes food, vet care, supplies, and grooming and boarding. 63 percent of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 69.1 million homes, and 45 percent of U.S. households own more than one pet. Americans own 90.5 million cats and 73.9 million dogs.
June and Michelle love dogs and understand why people willingly often treat them like their children.
"You grow an attachment to them because they don't ask for much," said Michelle
The APPMA Web site read: "High-end items to spoil companion animals are must-haves for pet owners that spare no expense to please their furry, feathered and finned best friends."
Nonetheless, June and Michelle try not to get carried away with pet love.
"Some people put their pets on too high of a pedestal and in a way it is not good for the pet anymore," said Michelle, who gave an example of pet owners who don't walk their dogs because they think they are too small.
"There is a fine line between loving your pet and giving them the care they need; sometimes people forget they are animals." said Michelle.
A new pet clothing boutique opened nine months ago on Bowery Street. The owner, Sonia, grew up on a shrimp farm in Taiwan and spent her childhood picking up the many unwanted dogs that roamed the streets. During winter, if Sonia saw a stray dog shiver, she dressed it with her t-shirt and tied a knot to make it tight. And so it all started. Sonia called her pet boutique Didi Dog for her Chihuahua of ten years, Didi (literally Chinese for "little brother").
"A lot of people choose not to have children but don't mind having a pet instead, so they are willing to spend a lot of money on a family member," said Sonia.
Sonia tells her customers to buy the clothing only if their pet needs it, but that doesn't always work.
"It's a fashion statement—they want their dogs stylish," said Sonia.
Sonia said that some small dogs need the clothing, depending on the breed. For instance, America is too cold for short-haired Chihuahuas, who are originally from the warm climate of Mexico, and they need the extra layer, she said.
Sonia physically visited every single company she imports her pet clothes from, keeping four of the 10 manufacturers she visited. The clothing comes from Japan, Taiwan and Korea.
Sonia's prices are cheap since she occupies an otherwise unutilized space on the second floor of a restaurant-supply business owned by her husband's family.
"They can buy five or six outfits for a year instead of one," she said.