Revised and updated November 8, 2019.
People love their pets, as indicated by pet care spending in 2018 reaching an all-time high of $72.56 billion, a 4% increase over the $69.51 billion spent on pets in 2017. Savvy entrepreneurs can buy into a lucrative proven business model with any one of these 13 best pet franchises of 2020.
The 2019-2020 National Pet Owners survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association revealed that 67% of all US households (84.9 million) have at least one pet. Millennials are now the biggest segment of the population of pet owners, and they are apparently willing to pay more for premium food, care services, and other pet products.
Looking back to before the Great Recession, the pet industry was worth a mere $43 billion in 2008, showing how year-over-year growth has been strong even in spite of the economic downturn. Survey research has revealed that pet owners are happier, less lonely, and have higher self-esteem than people who don’t have pets.
The fastest-growing trends in the pet industry include all natural and holistic pet foods, specialty pet services (upscale grooming, training, spa-type services, pet sitting, etc.), mobile grooming that goes to pets where they live, and pet-friendly travel. Here are the top 13 pet franchises of 2020:
Husse is a Swedish company that makes high-quality, premium pet foods for cats and dogs, cat litter, and a variety of accessories. Its special franchising twist is that it delivers pet food to people’s homes free of charge in Husse-branded vans. Husse was the first company to be approved by the USDA to export its pet food to the US market.
Founded by Tom Eliasson in 1987 and franchising since 2002, the number of locations currently stands at 540 (up by 20 from the previous year’s total), only one of which is company-owned and 530 of which are located outside the US.
2. Pet Supplies Plus
Pet Supplies Plus recently had to recall all of its pig-ear dog treats sold in bulk in open bins because some were found to be contaminated with salmonella bacteria. In July 2019, 90+ people in 27 states had salmonella poisoning the CDC linked to the treats – and dogs can be poisoned as well. Luckily, no one died. The chain carries a full range of supplies for all kinds of pets, and services such as pet washing, grooming, dental care, flea treatment, nail clipping, and ear care. The company is now owned by private equity firm Sentinel Capital Partners.
Founded in 1987 by Jack Berry and Harry Shallop in Redford, Michigan and franchising since 1990, the number of locations has nearly doubled over the past nine years from 233 in 2009 to the current total of 459 (and increase of 17 from the previous year’s total of 442), of which 219 are company-owned and all are located in the US.
3. Wild Birds Unlimited
Wild Birds Unlimited isn’t one those pet chains that serve any and all pets. It has one and only one focus: birds. But as the name indicates, it’s not about birds as pets. This is a chain that sells bird-feeding and bird-watching supplies (bird food, feeders, birdhouses, binoculars, bird baths, field guides and other books about birds). In short, it’s the perfect store for any bird nerd. To keep up with the times, the chain has been rolling out online shopping for each store that mimics the in-store experience as closely as possible for each location, along with a new company-wide point-of-sale system.
Founded in 1981 by Jim Carpenter in Carmel, Indiana and franchising since 1983, the number of locations has expanded in recent years from 274 in 2009 to the current total of 341 (an increase of nine from the previous year’s total of 332), none of which are company-owned and 19 of which are located outside the US.
4. Aussie Pet Mobile
Aussie Pet Mobile brings their grooming services to the places where pets live and delivers them in their specialty vans outfitted with air conditioning, heat, electricity, and a water supply, none of which need outside hookups. There is plenty of room in the van even for larger dogs.
Founded in 1996 in Australia, the company moved to the US in 1999 and began franchising throughout North America. The number of locations has been growing steadily in recent years from 205 in 2013 to the current total of 279 (an increase of 11 from the previous year’s total of 268), none of which are company-owned and one of which is located outside the US.
Petland sells all kinds of pets (selection depends on location) and a wide variety of pet-related products. The company has been the object of much debate and protests from animal advocates, who accuse the chain of sourcing dogs from “puppy mills” that don’t provide adequate care. The chain itself has been accused of not treating animals well when in their care, and many customers have complained about buying pets that turn out to be sick.
Founded in 1967 and franchising since 1971, the number of locations declined from 186 in 2009 to a low of 130 in 2014 but has since rebounded to the current total of 232 (an increase of 31 from the previous year’s total of 191), of which 16 are company-owned and 148 are located outside the US.
6. Camp Bow Wow
Camp Bow Wow doesn’t sell franchises to just anyone – you’ve got to be a demonstrated dog lover to join the company as a franchisee. This chain supports dog owners with doggy daycare, overnight boarding, training, grooming, in-home pet care, dog walking, and pet waste removal services (the exact array of services will vary by location). Strategically-placed webcams in the outdoor play yards allow pet owners to check on their furry friends remotely.
Founded by Heidi Ganahi in Denver, Colorado in 2000 and franchising since 2003, the number of locations has grown steadily in recent years from 100 in 2009 to the current total of 169 (an increase of 13 from the previous year’s total of 156), of which 11 are company-owned and one is located outside the US.
7. Sit Means Sit Dog Training
Sit Means Sit Dog Training helps pet owners train their puppies and dogs, whether it’s for having an obedient pet, hunting dog, service dog, or K-9 unit dog. Many locations also offer boarding services and sell a variety of dog-related products, including collars. The company founder started making dog-training videos on a daily basis that after a few years were getting millions of views every month, serving as the company’s main draw around the world.
Founded by Fred Hassen in Los Angeles, California in 2006 and franchising since 2009, the number of locations has steadily climbed to the current total of 137, none of which are company-owned and all of which are located in the US.
8. Pet Wants
Pet Wants is a chain that capitalizes on pet owners wanting the very best for their four-legged friends. The company produces and delivers fresh, custom-made, highly-nutritious pet food made in small batches without the use of any corn, wheat, soy, fillers, sugar, dyes, or animal by-products. Franchisees can choose either a retail store model or a mobile model, with pet food delivery being a major feature of each approach.
Founded by Michele Hobbs and Amanda Broughton in 2010 and franchising since 2015, the number of locations currently stands at 124, none of which are company-owned and all of which are located in the US.
Dogtopia has been getting a lot of press coverage lately. The company has a whole program centered around giving employment opportunities to adults with autism. The chain has also started pursuing a new target audience by establishing doggy daycare and spa locations exclusively for corporate customers, just like an employer might have on-site childcare. When in their care, dogs are separated into groups by size for play, socialization, and training. Webcams let owners check on their pets as well.
Founded by Amy Nichols in 2002 and franchising since 2005, the number of locations has expanded rapidly in recent years from 18 in 2009 to the current total of 105 (an increase of 30 from the previous year’s total of 75), of which 10 are company-owned and 12 are located outside the US.
10. Fetch! Pet Care
Fetch! Pet Care helps match up the right pet sitter to each customer for dog walking, pet sitting, a special puppy program, group off-leash exercise, overnight care, and specialty services when pet owners are away from home. The chain’s Pet Care Coordinators tap into their pool of service providers who are all background checked, insured, and come highly recommended. The company philosophy is that pets are always better off being able to stay at home instead of shuttled off to someplace else when owners are away.
Founded by Paul Mann in Berkeley, California in 2002 and franchising since 2004, the number of locations has declined in recent years from 210 in 2009 to the current total of 72, of which two are company-owned and all are located in the US.
11. EarthWise Pet Supply
EarthWise Pet Supply is a chain of retail stores where pet owners can find pet food and supplies of all kinds, along with DIY pet-washing stations and grooming services at select locations. The company’s approach to pet food is to mimic as closely as possible the natural diets the animals would eat in the wild. It also focuses on greener options in its pet supplies, featuring many items made from recycled materials.
Founded by the Seitz family in 1977 in Huntington Beach, California and franchising since 2008, the number of locations has grown slowly but steadily to the current total of 58 (an increase of 7 from the previous year’s total of 51), of which three are company-owned and all are located in the US.
12. Central Bark
Central Bark was founded in 1997 by Jackie Jordan as Doggy Daycare in Wisconsin. Then in 2003, her business merged with Chris Gaba’s Florida-based Central Bark Dog Day Care to become Central Bark Doggy Day Care. More recently, the company has rebranded itself with a new logo and name, now calling itself Central Bark. The chain serves as a home-away-from-home for dogs when owners don’t want to leave their beloved pet home alone all day long. This doggy daycare focuses on exercise, socialization, and training to keep dogs happy and healthy.
Franchising began in 2004 and the number of locations has declined slightly from 28 in 2009 to the current total of 26 (up by one from the previous year’s total) spread across seven states, with 16 of them in Wisconsin. Only one location is company-owned.
13. Wag ‘N Wash Natural Pet Food and Grooming
Wag ‘N Wash Natural Pet Food and Grooming is like a spa and buffet in one convenient location. Dog and cat lovers can bring their furry friends in for DIY bathing, professional grooming, and a wide range homemade treats and deli items, along with a selection of healthy pet food brands and unique toys for training and play. Loyal customers enjoy volume shopping rewards, coupons, free food programs, and other in-house promotions.
Founded by Jef Strauss and Dan Remus in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1999 and franchising since 2006, the number of locations has grown to 19 in eight different states, of which five are company-owned and all are located in the US.
An Important Note About Our Methodology
The franchises on this list were ranked according to the number of units in the franchise system. If you are a prospective franchisee searching for franchise opportunities that meet or exceed certain performance benchmarks for sales, profits, and return on investment, please check out this list of America’s Most Lucrative Franchises.