New hotel welcomes four-legged guestsby Martin Moylan, Minnesota Public Radio
A new hotel of sorts will open adjacent to the Twin Cites airport this October. Suites will go for only about $25 a night, but you have to be four-legged, fur-bearing or feathered to stay there.
St. Paul, Minn. — A premier pet boarding facility. Open around the clock. With heated floors, tiled stalls, a spa, grooming salon, massage services. TVs to entertain cats. And more.
That's what the Animal Humane Society says it will provide for travelers looking to take good care of the pets they leave behind.
Humane Society President Janelle Dixon said there are about 335,000 Twin Cities households that like to travel, but they have pets that they may not want to take on trips.
"We're heard from many people that they'd like to stay there with their pet, not just leave them behind," Dixon said.
She said the new facility will appeal to people who do not want to leave their animals behind bars, either.
"People want to have a high-end facility where it is not just a small little cage they're staying in," Dixon explained. "There are a variety of sizes of suites with Web cams, heated floors and automated watering dishes."
"We're really trying to look at it, not just from the perspectives of what people want for their pets, but what the pet's experience is going to be while they're staying with us," Dixon added.
The pet hotel will accommodate up to 141 four-footed guests. Stays are expected to cost about $25 a day. Pet owners will be able to park their cars at the center and catch a shuttle to the airport terminals.
The Humane Society was the winner in a bidding contest to run the facility.
The Metropolitan Airports Commission figured that travelers would welcome an on-airport pet boarding center, and last October sought bids from interested groups.
Eric Johnson, the airport's director of commercial management, said more and more airports are adding on-site pet care centers, including Houston, New Orleans and Jacksonville.
"We're just very excited about it. This will be a great facility and nice addition to the airport," said Johnson.
The Humane Society will run the airport boarding center as a for-profit operation. Proceeds will go back to the society to support its programs.
Meanwhile, the airports commission expects to collect about $4 million in rent and concession fees from the society over 15 years.
Out at a dog park near the airport, dog owners raved about the prospect of airport pet care. Julie Maki of Minneapolis likes the convenience of the facility.
"People can just drop off their pets, hop on their flights, and pick them up on their way back. I think it's a wonderful idea," said Maki.
Maki also likes the expected price of $25 a day.
"I've taken him before and it's like $34 a day, so that's reasonable," said Maki.
Brian Rosene of Minneapolis forecasts there will be a lot of people boarding pets at the center, including him. He's got a new puppy in the house.
"I'd imagine it should be quite successful. A lot of people come through here. They should have no problem finding users. I would think not at all," said Rosene.
But not everyone thinks the Humane Society's boarding facility is big whoof.
Ruth Murman, owner of Auntie Ruth's Animal Care and Wellness Centers in Minnetonka, put in a bid to run the airport center. Murman and other bidders didn't think it was fair they had to compete against a nonprofit. The airports commission disagreed.
Murman said it's hard to make money in the pet boarding business, especially since so many people in the business think the way to turn a profit is to go upscale and offer so-called luxury kennels.
"Since 9/11, kennels typically are full about 25 percent of the time now. It's not what it used to be. Everybody saw a luxury kennel and said, 'I want to do that.' A lot of them have gone out of business, but some are just eking along," Murman said.
The Humane Society boarding center will be next to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, on 28th Ave. S., off Highway 62.
- Morning Edition, 03/11/2008, 7:50 a.m.