Pets have suddenly become a $70-billion industry in recent years, and entrepreneurs who want a piece of that action have a very solid list of options to examine among the 10 best pet franchises of 2018.
According to the American Pet Products Association, 65% of all U.S. households have at least one pet, which translates into nearly 80 million homes. In 2008, the pet industry was only worth $43 billion, which means growth has been strong (to the tune of 6.5% year-over-year) even during the Great Recession.
Even when times are tough, consumers don’t tend to cut back on spending related to pets in the same way they don’t cut back on spending money for their children. In other words, people really love their pets. One national survey noted that 63% of pet owners say “I love you” at least once a day to their pets, and 83% call themselves their pet’s mom or dad.
Another sign of the pet industry’s strength is that all but two of the companies on this list have secured spots on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list, and the fastest growing segment of the industry is made up of companies offering specialty pet services.
Here are our picks for the top 10 pet franchises of 2018:
1. Pet Supplies Plus
Pet Supplies Plus carries a full range of pet supplies including food and items to support dogs, cats, birds, fish, reptiles, and small animals such as rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, ferrets, hedgehogs, mice, and rats. Each location also offers self-serve pet washing stations or professional dog grooming services, including bathing, brushing, dental care, ear care, nail clipping, and flea treatments. The chain is highly supportive of pet adoption and locations regularly host adoption events.
This chain has climbed to the #32 spot on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list.
Founded in 1988 by Jack Berry and Harry Shallop in Redford, Mich. and franchising since 1990, the number of locations has nearly doubled over the past nine years from 225 in 2008 to the current total of 408, of which 210 are company-owned.
2. Wild Birds Unlimited
Wild Birds Unlimited is a chain of retail stores focused entirely on bird-feeding and bird-watching supplies, including a range of bird foods, bird feeders, bird houses, bird baths, binoculars, and books.
The chain currently ranks #218 on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list.
Founded in 1981 by Jim Carpenter in Indiana and franchising since 1983, the number of locations has expanded slightly in the last nine years from 286 in 2008 to the current total of 316, of which 18 are located outside the U.S.
3. Aussie Pet Mobile
Aussie Pet Mobile is a unique pet grooming service that is delivered to pet owners and their dogs and cats in a specialty van adapted for this purpose. Each of the company’s mobile pet grooming vehicles is custom-designed and includes air conditioning, heat, electricity, and a water supply, none of which need outside hookups. The interior of each van has plenty of room for the pets and the groomers to get comfortable; the services are rendered through cage-free, one-on-one attention.
Aussie Pet Mobile currently holds spot #359 on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list.
Founded in 1996 in Australia, the company moved to the U.S. in 1999 and began franchising throughout North America. The number of locations has declined over the past nine years from 272 in 2008 to the current total of 245, of which three are located outside the U.S.
Petland is a chain of stores that sells both pets and pet-related products. The pets vary by location but can include fish, birds, cats, dogs, small animals, and reptiles. The company provides employees with ongoing staff training programs and in-store animal husbandry systems. The chain also supports community service programs that place homeless pets and reduce pet overpopulation.
This chain currently ranks #209 on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list.
Founded in 1967 and franchising since 1971, the number of locations has declined slightly over the past nine years from 192 in 2008 to the current total of 172, of which 13 are company-owned and 92 are located outside the U.S.
5. Camp Bow Wow
Camp Bow Wow provides dog daycare, overnight boarding, training, grooming, in-home pet care, dog walking, and pet waste removal services (offerings may vary by location). Its daycare and boarding services include both indoor and outdoor play yards with live webcams so owners can check in on their pets from a computer or mobile device.
This chain currently ranks #146 on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list.
Founded in 2000 by Heidi Ganahi in Denver, Colo. and franchising since 2003, the number of locations has grown steadily over the past nine years from 80 in 2008 to the current total of 143, of which nine are company-owned and one is located outside the U.S.
6. Fetch! Pet Care
Fetch! Pet Care offers safe, reliable, professional dog walking and pet sitting services to busy or traveling pet owners. The company’s Pet Care Coordinators relieve the stress of finding good pet care by personally matching pet owners with a pet sitter who best meets the individual pet’s needs. The company believes the least amount of stress is put on pets by in-home pet sitting rather than kennels or other boarding facilities.
All pet sitters are background checked, insured, and come highly recommended. Services include dog walking, pet sitting, a special puppy program, group off-leash exercise, overnight care, and specialty services.
Founded in 2002 and franchising since 2004, the number of locations has declined over the past eight years from a high of 210 in 2009 to the current total of 87, of which eight are company-owned.
Dogtopia provides dog daycare, boarding, grooming, and spa services for busy dog owners who need support. Daycare and boarding services focus on training, exercise, and socialization. Multiple playrooms allow for separating dogs by size and temperament and feature compressed rubber flooring that is better for long-term joint health and easier to sanitize than other flooring types. Webcams are used so pet owners can see how the day is going for their pets. All caregivers have extensive experience and training for all breeds.
This chain currently ranks #205 on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list.
Founded in 2002 and franchising since 2005, the number of locations has expanded over the past nine years from 16 in 2008 to the current total of 50, of which five are company-owned and six are located outside the U.S.
8. EarthWise Pet Supply
EarthWise Pet Supply stores sell pet food and supplies, and some locations also offer services such as pet grooming and pet self-washing. For pet foods, the company believes the right nutrition for pets is based as closely as possible on the natural dietary habits of their ancestors. For pet supplies, the company focuses on greener, recyclable products. The company is also passionate about animal rescue and supporting the groups who help find forever homes for furry friends.
The small chain ranks #377 on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list.
Founded in 1977 in Huntington Beach, Calif. and franchising since 2008, the number of locations has grown slowly but steadily to the current total of 45.
9. Central Bark Doggy Day Care
Central Bark Doggy Day Care provides pet owners with a clean, healthy, fun, and nurturing environment to serve as their dog’s home-away-from-home. Their focus on exercise, socialization, and training results in dogs who are happier, healthier, and better-behaved than they would otherwise be had they been boarded in kennels or left alone at home.
Founded in 1997 by Jackie Jordan as Doggy Daycare in Wisconsin, her business merged with Chris Gaba’s Florida-based Central Bark Dog Day Care in 2003 to become Central Bark Doggy Day Care. Franchising began in 2004 and the number of locations has declined slightly from 28 in 2009 to the current total of 26 spread across seven states, with 16 of them in Wisconsin. Only one location is company-owned.
10. Wag ‘N Wash Natural Food & Bakery
Wag ‘N Wash Natural Food & Bakery is a place where pet owners can bring their cats and dogs to “wash ’em, feed ’em and spoil ’em” all in one place. Each location offers self-service dog washing, professional pet grooming and nail trimming services. Also available are a wide range of healthy pet food brands along with homemade treats and deli items. The chain also carries a selection of unique toys for playtime and training. Customers enjoy volume shopping rewards, coupons, free food programs, and other in-house promotions.
This chain currently ranks #465 on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list.
Founded in 1999 and franchising since 2006, the number of locations has grown to 14, of which five are company-owned.