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Pet owners could wait months for dog boarding amid staffing shortages

The heightened demand is due to more people getting pets during the pandemic and the sudden increase in travel.

SEATTLE — With more people in western Washington heading back to work and out on vacation, pet boarding facilities are in high demand, forcing some owners to wait months for availability. 

Businesses say the demand is due to more people getting pets during the pandemic and hiring issues. 

"Coming in on a Monday morning, we have more than 160 emails to answer and those are mostly new clients or clients that are ready to go back to work. The ramp-up is happening a lot faster than we're ready for," said Elise Vincentini, CEO of Downtown Dog Lounge. 

Downtown Dog Lounge operates three locations in Seattle and went from 93 to 13 employees during the pandemic.

Vincentini said it's not just rehiring workers but hiring workers that are trained and ready to care for animals. 

It's an issue facing other pet businesses, too. 

Elliot Bay Animal Hospital is a clinic that closed their boarding during the pandemic and said they're not staffed to reopen that part of the business anytime soon.

"Initially, we closed because nobody was traveling. Now the staff isn't there, and we don't want to affect the quality of medicine," said Dr. Debra Nicholson, owner of Elliott Bay Animal Hospital. 

But it's not all bad news for pet owners. 

"Some new staff has come from people in corporate America who left those jobs for passion jobs like pets, so we are slowly getting there, but it's hard," said Vincentini. 

Experts advise pet owners to book boarding before booking vacation and to allow time for the pet evaluation that most facilities require. 

Vincentini said the Downtown Dog Lounge Ballard location is booked through most of September for evaluations alone. 

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