Dogs and cats are more than simply pets, they’re members of the family. Pet parents want the best for their four-legged family members, but the way pet care is administered has remained largely unchanged since the 1960s. Bellevue-based Wagly has launched a new concept in an effort to change that.
Wagly cofounders Shane Kelly, CEO, and Peter Brown, chief medical officer, have a combined 60-plus years of experience in the pet industry. Brown is a veterinarian, who cofounded Chuckanut Valley Veterinary Clinic in 1991. Kelly has been a major player previously in two pet-focused businesses; Pet’s Choice, a chain of veterinary clinics based in Bellevue and Best Friends Acquisition, the parent company of Best Friends Pet Care. Both are nationally known pet-care service centers and veterinary hospitals.
So it comes as no surprise that the pair of animal lovers, and pet parents, had developed a similar vision of what pet car could become.
One key element of Wagly’s new campus is that all pet-care services are under one roof, from the grooming to the day-care to veterinary medicine and boarding. Pet records are kept together, so if there’s an issue during a session of day camp, the vet knows about it. If the groomer sees a troubling spot on the dog or cat’s skin, a vet is near by to check it out.
“We’re being really unique with our whole focus on what’s best for the dog or cat, whether that means having groomers be trained on identifying skin disease or whether boarded animals are supervised by staff trained to identify disease or sickness,” Brown said. “If they do get sick, we have a full hospital here to take care of them. The whole focus is on what’s best for the pet.”
Recently, a dog that was boarded for the weekend came in very stressed and nervous, which is to be expected, Brown said. But the vet on duty was able to call the pet parent and recommend a treatment to help ease the dog’s stress. The next day, the dog was able to play and exercise with the other dogs, and sleep the second night with no problems.
Wagly opened its new Lake Hills campus on July 1, just in time for the long holiday weekend. While many pet boarding facilities opt to start with a handful of overnight pets and slowly build a client base, that wasn’t Wagly’s approach. About 50 pets stayed the long weekend, on top of grooming and vet appointments.
“Usually you open a little slower, but we dove in and the staff did really well,” Brown said. “And the reaction from the pet parents has been very positive.”
Kelly said they anticipate opening seven Wagly campuses by the end of this year. Locally, the company will open a campus at the Sammamish Town Center and two more in the Seattle market when they find the right piece of real estate.
“We know exactly where to put these things,” Kelly said. “With all the years we have in the industry, we know exactly who our demographic is, exactly where they live, and what percentage we’ll catch in a 10-minute drive time. We know exactly where they live and the number of cars that go by the street. We know all of it.”
Another tick on the upside of having years of experience is the ability to get funding. With Brown’s more than 20 years as a veterinarian and Kelly’s multiple startup companies, Wagly was able to secure “tens of millions of dollars” from New York-based private equity firm Invus Group. “Peter and I were very fortunate because of our backgrounds and reputations. We both have been in and out of the industry forever, that we were able to get a very strong private equity partner from start-up.”
Kelly said the company has made a significant investment in technology, including an app that will offer pet parents an Uber-like experience in calling a Wagly van to pick up or deliver the pet from their home or office. Kelly said he’s been able to put together a sort of “dream team” to execute Wagly’s vision, including former Trupanion tech guru Craig Susen as chief technology officer and REI marketing leader Angela Owen as chief commercial officer.