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Starting a Pet Shop Business

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Starting a Pet Shop Business

Published: October 28, 2010 Updated: August 28, 2015

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 plan.


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 need?

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 (APHIS).

    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 regulations: Although 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 Guide 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 shop?

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 sell?

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


Remember, 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 on 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 resources 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.


This is a great article! However, most of the links no longer work.
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.
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.
Anyone thinking about opening up a pet store should first think about the 4,000,000 - 6,000,000 animals that are euthanized in the US each year.  On the low side that's 10,959 animals put to death each DAY.  After Missouri won on Prop B last night to crack down on puppy mills, which is where a lot of pet stores get their dogs and cats, my new motto is, 'Don't breed or buy while shelter animals die.'

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