Is Pooper Scooper Really a Recession-Proof Job?Published September 10, 2010
We've seen the headlines and the images on the evening news. Countless Americans are finding themselves with a severance package in one hand, the contents of their work desk in the other, and their sense of security rapidly flushed down the drain. But have you heard the story about a growing, expanding, and even booming industry in today's times? According to the U.S. Department of Labor's statistics, almost every job in the pet industry is projected to grow "much faster than average" - meaning an increase of 20 percent or more. Veterinarian employment is projected to rise by 33 percent, animal care by 21, animal trainers by 20, non-farm caretakers by 21, and veterinary technicians by a whopping 36 percent from 2008 to 2018. Countless news articles have accepted these legendary numbers as the tell-tale signs of a "recession-proof" job. But where did these jobs come from? Are these numbers even believable? Many assume the success of the pet industry is due to a small group of celebrities who pamper their toy-sized pets. But Charlotte Reed, pet entrepreneur and expert, disagrees. The days of pet luxury are over. Instead, she attributed the boost in the pet market niche to the changing role of pets in their families. "Their dogs are an integral part of the family. [Owners] want to keep them healthy and happy," said Reed. "People want the best for their dogs; they want professionals." Since 62 percent of U.S. households proudly own a pet, according to the 2009 to 2010 National Pet Owners Survey, the market is not just a niche but a whole canyon. Not only are there more consumers, but the consumers are willing to pay big bucks for the well-being of their furry family members. According to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, owners were willing to spend up to $12 billion last year for veterinary bills. That's double the numbers from a decade earlier. Since Reed's start in the pet business 15 years ago, the business has clearly changed from a "hobby lifestyle" to something with a bit more corporate teeth. With an endless supply of dedicated pet owners in the nation, the opportunities in the pet care job market are endless. Even the variety of jobs in the industry have exploded to fit our pets' every need. "It's not just about being a dog trainer or vet tech," said Nancy E. Hassel, founder of Long Island Pet Professionals. Instead, jobs in the pet industry now range from the childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian to the lesser known doggy chauffeur, pooper scooper, pet blogger, and pet clothes designer. "You can see from our many members the spectrum of different pet professionals." And many have already chosen this path of fiscal security like Mike Carmody, owner of a Cozy Pet store in Babylon Village, NY. Carmody switched careers from police officer, home improvements, and then the pet industry, due to the increasing economic instability. "If I didn't start my own Cozy Pet, I would've been done financially," said Carmody. "I just hope the pet business treats me even better." Often, momentous changes, like being laid off from a steady job, have served as an impetus to reinvent oneself and dare to pursue a lifelong dream. Hassel recounted her earlier years, working for a PR firm. However, she was laid off in late 2007 as the company experienced economic troubles. Instead of losing her way, Hassel used this opportunity to make a career out of her passion for pets. Or in the case of Reed, who began as a lawyer on Wall Street, a unique event helped motivate her to consider a career in the pet industry. She calls it "the incident." After a trip to Europe, she returned home a few days earlier than planned. She expected the welcome sight of her fuzzy companions, but instead, she stumbled upon something that she claims "literally changed my life." "I saw my dog walker in my clothes," said Reed. She joked that he looked better in her clothes, but nevertheless, when she heard slews of similar stories about finding dog walkers inviting their boyfriends over to share a shower and other inappropriate behaviors, she decided to supply the world with better, professional dog walkers. Now, she finds herself a happy and successful pet trend expert and even a spokesperson for ARM & HAMMER. From different walks of life, all these pet professionals share at least one thing in common - an intense passion for pets and pet care. But beware - the job isn't all about cooing over adorable pets. It's still a career, and professionals must remain on top of pet trends by reading books, attending dog shows, studying health initiatives, and much more. Reed claims that in her classes, people often sign up with the misconception that if you're a "animal person" or "pet lover," you're automatically a great fit for the pet industry. "The dog is not your client," said Reed. "Ultimately you have to interact with the owner... They're paying you; they're entrusting you. You can't be so pet-centric." Learn more about getting a career in the successful pet industry with Reed's Pet Pro classes. Maybe one day, you could join Rick Caran, owner of a celebrity Yorkie named Jilli, in sharing your very own success story. "There are options for people who are unemployed," says Reed. "So why not consider it?"
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