In San Francisco It Causes You More Money to Put Your Dog in Daycare then It Does to Put Your Child in Daycare

Doggy Style’s luxurious facility in San Francisco has prompted a backlash. Photograph: Courtesy Cameron Silva

Doggy Style, whose top-tier membership requires $7,500 fee, sparks backlash amid housing crisis

When signage for Doggy Style began popping up in San Francisco’s Noe Valley neighborhood last month, it was accompanied with the usual grumbling and eye-rolling about the city’s nouveau riche.

After all, a private members-only doggy daycare offering an “innovative dog experience” for up to $1,500 a month in a city in the midst of a humanitarian crisis over homelessness smacks of a well-groomed French bulldog yipping: “Let them eat kibble.”

Noe Valley SF, a hyperlocal blog, decried the Doggy Style co-owner Rachel Swann for “bringing ridicule” to the neighborhood, while comments on an SFGate article about the business ranged from scoffing at “people with too much time and money” to the vaguely threatening: “When the Bolsheviks are looking for the first people to shoot, club members will be at the top of the list.”

While critics were quick to lambast Doggy Style’s prices as exorbitant, its pricing is actually in line with other doggy daycare in San Francisco. High-end daytime dog care is a thriving and competitive market in a city fueled by tech wealth and disposable income.

When Doggy Style launches this month, it will be one of at least a dozen businesses that specifically offer “playcare” during work hours within the city’s 47 square miles.

Mr Muggles, located in the Mission District, offers monthly passes for unlimited daycare, Monday through Friday, for $600. A half-mile north, a monthly unlimited membership costs $630 at Wag Hotel, but with an added monthly valet service, the price can go up to $929 a month. At Tefani and So Dogcare in the South of Market neighborhood, an unlimited monthly pass costs $849, while at Bark Avenue Doggy Daycare in Mission Bay, a rate of $80 a day can bring costs up to $1,600 a month.

And at those prices, Fido is not just getting left outside in a doghouse. Some daycares have webcams set up for their owners to check in on their pups. Others provide daily photos and report cards, as well as neighborhood group walks on top of all-day play. K9 Playtime, located in the South of Market and South Beach neighborhoods, has “waterfalls and ponds” installed in its doggy play areas “with re-circulating filtered drinking water so your dog is well hydrated throughout their day with fresh, clean water”.

San Francisco, a city named for St Francis, the patron saint of animals, has always been a dog-friendly city, with its vast outdoor spaces and temperate weather. It’s also a city that works hard – a 2018 analysis by the personal finance website WalletHub that looked at average workweek hours, employment rate, and share of workers leaving vacation time unused rated San Francisco the hardest-working city in the US.

Bay Area professionals such as Swann and her co-founder Cameron Silva – Swann is the managing director of the real estate brokerage the Agency, and Silva is the founder and CEO of the San Francisco-based real-estate investing firm Chateau De Noir Holdings – often find themselves having to juggle the “workaholic mentality” and their beloved pets.

Cameron Silva: ‘People don’t realize how expensive it is to have a dog in this city.’ Photograph: Courtesy Cameron Silva

“We just struggled for years to balance the work life and the dog lifestyle,” Silva said.

The high cost of dog care was another of the reasons motivating Silva and Swann to open Doggy Style, they say. Between the two of them, they have seven dogs.

“I was previously paying $75 to $85 a day,” Silva said. “People don’t realize how expensive it is to have a dog in this city.”

At Doggy Style, the company offers basic membership packages starting at $250 a month, but top-tier membership – also known as “The Dog Wears Prada” option – is on the pricier end of dog care and requires a one-time initiation fee of $7,500. Then, for $1,500 a month, members get lavish perks such as a hand-painted mural of their dogs on the Doggy Style “Wall of Fame”, a doggy pickup and drop-off concierge service, and a private doggy birthday party for 12 pups and their humans.

While the club provides a space for dogs, it also provides a space for the owners – they can get a coffee from a club barista and do work using the complimentary club wifi as their dogs romp around with the other dogs in the private indoor/outdoor “No Bark Park”.

Silva noted that much of the social and community aspect of the club will be focused on furthering the causes of local not-for-profit organizations such as Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, where Swann found three of her four dogs.

“People are saying: ‘Oh, well you should be spending your money on kids or charity,’” Silva said. “Well, we are. You’re always going to have your haters. We just freaking love our dogs. So why not?”

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SOURCE:The Guardian, by Vivian Ho