Hong Kong Pet Parents Pamper Pets and Fight Abuse
Here's more good news on the Asian pet front! Big barks for these pet parents fighting against abuse!
Thanks to AFP for this article.
Pet-mad Hong Kong fertile ground for pooch pampering services
HONG KONG (AFP) The latest bakery to open in one of Hong Kong's prime residential areas, Happy Valley, is perfectly positioned to catch passing trade.
The gleaming counter displays mouth-watering pastries, cookies and cakes as the smell of food lovingly prepared by resident chef David wafts from the giant ovens into the street.
But the target customers of this particular bakery, even the biggest, cannot always see the goodies on the shelves -- although their barking indicates they can definitely smell them.
Three Dog Bakery is the latest effort to provide a further level of pampering for Hong Kong's four-legged friends in this pet-mad city.
Most of Hong Kong's seven million people live in tiny cramped apartments and dogs are banned from many city parks but nevertheless the animals have become a must-have accessory and are treated accordingly.
"People consider their dogs as an extra member of the family," said Brent Earles, general manager of Three Dog Bakery, which is an international franchise based in the United States.
"If your dog is your companion or surrogate child there are people who will go and spend a lot of money on their dogs."
The range of options is endless. Around Hong Kong dogs are dressed in elaborate costumes, expensive collars and even pushed around in strollers if walking gets a bit too much for them.
Every week, TV programmes show elaborate and expensive ways to spoil dogs -- and this is where Three Dog Bakery comes in with its extensive range of exclusive items ranging from 350-US-dollar blankets to fluffy toys shaped like expensive shoes and embossed with the names "Jimmy Chew" and "Vera Wag".
"I have to laugh sometimes -- they are ridiculous items for pets. There is a certain whimsy about the whole thing, but we do it for the love of animals," said Earles.
Owners of the new Three Dogs Bakery are hoping to repeat in Hong Kong the phenomenal success of their outlets in Japan.
The chain now has eight stores in Japan, having opened its first eight years ago, and Japanese dog owners and their pets regularly queue outside them.
Clement Lo, who runs Hong Kong's Three Dog Bakery, expects to have a similar impact here. He is opening a second store in the territory at the same time and believes the city's 200,000 registered "loved ones" will create enough of a market for five.
He says he has already been approached by a city restaurant to provide special dog dinners and one of casino billionaire Stanley Ho's relatives has visited the new store with an eye to setting up a franchise in the nearby gambling centre of Macau.
Peter de Krassel, a director of the Pets Central chain in the city, says the demand for pet-pampering has rocketed in recent years.
"The number of dogs registered has doubled over the past five years," said de Krassel, who says he wants to list his company in London in 2009.
"You have a lot of young professional couples who are choosing to have pets instead of children and you have a lot of empty-nesters," he added.
He says the potential market in Hong Kong and mainland China is huge, and he is looking to expand into Shenzhen, Beijing and Shanghai -- despite the fact that dog meat is still eaten many parts of China.
De Krassel said some high-earning pet owners in China regularly fly their pets to the United States for medical treatment.
And in Hong Kong, the growing number of pet owners appear to constitute a powerful lobby group, with politicians taking on their concerns. Chairman of the city's Democratic Party and dog owner Albert Ho joined a recent protest to demand tougher action on animal abuse.
But the rapid expansion of the market here has created some tensions. De Krassel was recently forced to shut down his Pet Parents' Caf by health inspectors following a complaint that it breached regulations by having dogs in the vicinity of food for humans. He is appealing the closure.
Despite, and perhaps because of, the pet boon, Hong Kong does suffer a large number of pet abuse cases.