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Starting a Pet Shop Business

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Starting a Pet Shop Business

Published: October 28, 2010

Thinking about opening a pet store? According to the Human Society, 39%
of US households own at least one dog and 33% own at least one cat, so you
might be onto something. But where do
you begin? The following questions and answers may help you decide whether to
take the plunge and open your own pet shop.

How do I know if ;m ready to open my
own pet shop?

One of the best ways to understand what it takes to open your own pet shop
is to spend time working or volunteering in one. Check out a local shop in your
neighborhood to familiarize yourself with the job and all it entails, like
caring for animals and customer service. Even if you plan to hire additional
staff to support store tasks, it will be invaluable for you to experience each
position as you plan to launch your own pet shop.

A love for pets may be driving your passion to launch the store, but
careful attention to regulatory issues and business operations are necessary
for success.

How do I get started?
Successfully starting a new business
requires extensive planning and preparation, so begin crafting a business plan
as your first step. Visit Business.gov for free resources, tips, and templates
for writing a business

Once you narrow in on your concept, yo-ll begin to follow the same
basics steps that any business, regardless of industry, does to legally
operate. Read the 10
Steps to Starting Up
to better understand and navigate the key
planning, financial and legal decisions involved in starting a business,
including how to pay federal and state taxes, register a business name, market your
business, and choose a business structure.

Next, you will need to focus on the industry-specific requirements for
pet shop owners. The following questions
walk you through some of the key regulatory and practical business issues you
will need to address in your planning.

What type of licensing or permits do I

In addition to the general business
licensing requirements
that apply to all businesses, you will need to be aware
of industry-specific rules and regulations that apply to sale of animals.

  • Federal regulations: The underlying basis for animal welfare laws in
    the U.S.
    is the Animal
    Welfare Act
    (AWA), which requires the humane care and treatment of
    certain animals sold as pets at the wholesale level, transported in
    commerce, and used in research or exhibits. Individuals working under
    these circumstances must be licensed or registered by the U.S. Department
    of Agricultur-s (USDA) Animal and
    Plant Health Inspection Service

    Although most retail pet shops are exempt from regulations established in the
    Animal Welfare Act, APHIS inspects the wholesale dealers that supply pet
    shops. APHIS also regulates
    specific business activities that pertain to the sale of animals,
    including pet wholesalers, pet breeders, laboratory animal dealers and
    breeders, animal brokers, exotic animal dealers, and wild animal
    dealers. According to APHIS, any
    person participating in regulated business activities, must have a valid Class
    A (breeder), Class B (broker), or Class C (exhibitor) license

    If you are unsure if your business activities fall under federal
    regulations, you can visit the APHIS website to obtain a license
    and registration kit
    . Based on
    the information you supply, the APHIS will decide whether your business
    should be licensed, registered, or both.

  • State and local
    the Animal Welfare Act protects many animals involved in the commercial
    pet trade, it does not cover all animals in all situations. Animals sold
    in pet stores, owned by individuals, or housed in shelters and pounds are
    generally not covered by the Act. However, most state and local
    governments have animal protection laws and these laws will typically
    apply to retail sellers. Keep in mind that the regulations
    pertaining to the sale of animals vary from state to state and may change
    over time. To understand your
    requirements and responsibilities, check with your Regional
    Animal Care Office
  • Other requirements: You may also have to comply with state or federal
    standards for the handling, care, and transportation of particular animals. If your business activities are
    regulated under the Animal Welfare Act, you can read more about your
    requirements in the Act. If your business activities are not
    regulated by the AWA, contact your Regional
    Animal Care Office
    for the rules in your area.

How do I
decide where to open my pet shop?

Selecting the right location involves basic considerations like
proximity to customers, ease of access, and leasing and zoning restrictions. It
is also important to remember pet shops can give off lots of noise and
potential odors, so consider the pros and cons of setting up in an independent
space versus a shopping mall.

Visit Business.go's Location and Zoning
to understand the basic legal and regulatory issues yo'll encounter
when selecting a business location. You can also visit your state
economic development agency
for assistance on locating commercial office
space and property. The'll also help you understand the financial incentives
and tax credits offered by your local government.

Do I need to have insurance for my pet

Starting a pet shop can become a significant investment; by purchasing
business insurance you are protecting your investment by minimizing the
financial risks associated with unexpected events. Unless you are an employer,
business insurance is generally not required by law, however, it is common
practice to purchase enough insurance to cover your assets and general
liability. Additionally, your state may require insurance of specific business
activities. For more information, read Business.go's guide to buying business insurance.

How do I decide what type of animals to

The location and size of your store will greatly impact the type of
animals yo're able to sell. Consider
doing some market
to determine if niche breeds or certain types of animals are more
desirable in your area.

you must be licensed as a dealer if you plan to sell wild or exotic animals, or
if you sell regulated animals to other retailers, research institutions,
exhibitors, or other animal dealers. It could alienate customers if your shop
does business with inhumane or socially irresponsible breeders, puppy
mills, wholesalers, etc. Since the laws
vary based on location, it is important to research your suppliers to ensure
they are properly licensed by APHIS.

How much financing do I need?

This depends on heavily on operating costs like employees, rent, and
supplies to care for the pets like cages, food, and necessary medical care. To
make estimating your start-up costs easier, read How
Much Money Do I Need?' A Guide to Estimate Your Startup Expenses
Business.gov. As the article highlights, you will need to consider both the initial
one-time costs and as well as the monthly on-going costs. You can also utilize
some of the following resources to help you navigate store finance planning:

Further Assistance
Starting a business can be an
exciting and challenging adventure. Visit Business.gov for additional training tools and
to help you along your way. You can also join the online Community where
entrepreneurs, small business owners, and industry professionals, and
government experts come together to discuss business issues and questions.

About the Author:

Sarah Millican
I'm a digital strategy consultant with ENC Strategy (www.encstrategy.com) and work full-time to support the Small Business Administration in growing and developing this online community to the best that it can be.


We have found over the years that the essential ingredient is people. Hire only those that absolutely LOVE animals. The cornerstone is when your staff is entirely made up of true animal lovers.
hi friends
Nice to see here, dear friend
Great Post . This article should encourage people to open "pet stores" to sell supplies and dog food and cat food. Not live animals!
I'd lean more towards a value added business, such as a pet grooming business. With just a pet store, you're going to be competing with PetCo and what not. With a pet grooming business, you can market the personal care and attention you can give the pets, which a lot of people will pay for. Just my two cents.
I agree with below comments. This article should encourage people to open "pet stores" to sell supplies and dog food and cat food. Not live animals!
I think this is great information. I wish I had read this article when I started my online Dog Clothing and Supply Store:  It has not been easy, but it is something I really enjoy. I rescued a Stud Breeder Dog that had been dropped off at the humane society and nursed him back to health (he was treated really poorly). I started sewing and making him dog clothing and friends told me to start selling the clothing... so, I opened my eCommerce site. No sales yet, but I still need to give it more time... or so I'm told! Best of luck to all, and thanks again to SBA for posting this.This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you.    
The govt needs to get rid of this posting. Pet stores get their dogs from puppy mills. This must stop. This posting is completely irresponsible.
brendac, I understand your concern. I have always said not to purchase a dog from a pet store for exactly that reason. I do however want to open a pet shop. Myself and my daughter are thinking about opening a shop where shelters around the area can bring the dogs in for adoption days, two days a week for dogs and one day a week for cats. This will give us what we have always wanted, to help animals get adopted. We will have items that people will need when owning a dog/cat ie. toys, bowls, travel kennels, etc. This will allow anybody that is trying to adopt to make sure they have everything they need. We would like to have reptiles and fish as well to round out the store. Just an FYI not every pet store owner is just out for the money. Some of us have a good hart to.
This is a great article! One important fact that should be included is: you should love animals! Getting into this business just for the money is the wrong reason! @Dermott you make a good point, but I think this advice is broader than just the sales of dogs and cats, etc. It's meant to cover groomers, boarders, walkers, sitters, etc.


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