Owning a pet is fun, but not ideal for everyone. So what if you could have the benefits of a dog—without really owning it?
Puppy Paradise offers that scenario to would-be pet lovers. For a nominal fee, you can pay for a pooch play date as a way to welcome a four-legged friend into your home. The privilege comes without burning a hole in your pockets.
"People have negative ideas about renting dogs and abusing animals to anyone who pays a dollar," says David Dietz, Puppy Paradise's owner, in an interview with CNBC.
Dietz has been in the pet business for 45 years, and started puppy parties 12 years ago. At the time, a family asked to borrow a pet for a sick child who was unable to keep a dog in the house.
The puppy business has jumped to popularity in the past two years, creating new pet rental categories. Dietz's other pet rental options include Puppy Hospital Therapy, Student Stress Relief Parties and a Pet Adoption café.
Health experts like Mayo Clinic cite the healing benefits to humans of pet ownership, with benefits including alleviating stress, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, among other perks.
With that in mind, Dietz is selective about the dogs his company uses.
"We choose the puppies that are the most suitable to want to be touched and run around," Says Dietz. "These parties are very good socialization for the puppies to be touched and interact with people in a safe way. Forcing soft warm cuddly puppies to stay in a cage is actually more harmful like a punishment because they become shyer."
A standard puppy party package includes four dogs for an hour, with rates starting at $175. Additional individual puppies are $35. Puppies between two and three months old, which Dietz considers as "young teenagers" are provided for parties—but aren't sold at the parties.
If a party attendee wants to adopt or purchase a dog, Dietz and the pet-store staff play match makers. The goal is to ensure pets find owners who are totally committed for a lifetime.
"At a party, we don't know if you'll make good parent or have a loving home," he says. "After a party, you are asked to come to the store for an interview."
Dietz says no puppy mills are involved, with his business and he will even buy back pets if needed or offered. Most of his puppies come from Long Island, Connecticut and Florida from private breeders who are registered and certified by local and federal agencies.
Perks of pet ownership are among some of the factors feeding pet industry's growth over the past decade. The American Pet Products Association estimates that Americans spent a record $58 billion in 2014, and are on pace to eclipse that record in 2015.
Owners use that money to lavish attention on the more than 150 million pets owned domestically, according to estimates from The Humane Society, which reports at least 62 percent of the U.S. population in 2012 owned at least one animal.
However, pet ownership rates have begun drop among Baby Boomers in the last five years, largely for economic and lifestyle reasons. That has opened the door for a new generation of pet owners, including Millenials.
The new crop of animal lovers have helped keep the pet industry growing at a healthy clip. Just like their human counterparts, pets are now feasting on organic foods and healthier treats. Dietz welcomes the trend, but adds that animal ownership is about more than just dollar figures.
"It's not even about the money," Dietz said. "Are you willing to put in the time to watch the babies grow on a daily basis? This is the investment of owning a pet."
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