Comprehensive Pet Complex to Open in Potrero Hill

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Wagly – a year old startup co-founded by Shane Kelly – will open its newest facility at 1400 17th Street this summer. Starting from its flagship location in Bellevue, Washington, the company is launching outlets in Seattle, San Jose, and Orange County, in addition to San Francisco, offering daycare, grooming, boarding, and veterinary services all under one roof, as well as access to a remote adventure location.

With more than 30 years’ experience working in the animal care industry, Kelly wanted to offer complete pet services at his outlets The 16,000 square foot Potrero Hill facility will accommodate upwards of 800 pets simultaneously, and include a curbside pickup and drop-off area. The original vision included a rooftop outdoor play area, an idea that was rejected by the San Francisco Planning Department. Instead, the company will utilize a 100-acre ranch near Half Moon Bay to offer two and a half-hour walks for Wagly’s canine clients.  Pick-up and drop-off van service will be available to many San Francisco neighborhoods. In addition, Wagly’s staff will provide dog walking services at clients’ homes in Potrero Hill and the surrounding area.

Though dogs makeup roughly 80 percent of Wagly’s market, it offers care to all animals, including cats, reptiles, hamsters, and birds. Animals that’re too large to be treated onsite, such as horses, can access care through veterinary home visits. Though Wagly’s five full-time vets won’t be exotic animal specialists, they’ll be able to treat any animal considered a pet.

According to Rob Pearson, Wagly’s vice president of marketing, the company’s philosophy is to always do what’s best for the pet.  “We’re spending millions of dollars to do this right,” he said. Pearson, one of the first employees to be hired, believes that few veterinarians focus on pets’ comprehensive health, a main goal of the company. Wagly veterinarians start each appointment by asking clients if their pet is happy, then address the animal’s physical and mental health needs. Free vet assessments will be offered to patrons, as well as healthy pet plans, which cover all pet healthcare needs for less than $40 a month.

Wagly’s chief medical officer, Peter Brown, worked as a vet for 25 years, owned an animal hospital for a decade of that time, and has spoken internationally about the profession. Brown believes that veterinary services haven’t evolved at the same rate as the deepening of relationships that many humans have with their pets. He hopes that providing animal care services under one roof will be more convenient for people to take their pets to the vet when they need attention.

“Our standards are the highest for care. We’re going to provide extended hours, pickup from home, whatever it takes,” Brown emphasized. “Health goes beyond physical needs. We look at the emotional wellbeing of pets. There are a lot of things that influence the happiness of pets, so we’re going to make sure our pets are happy, whether it’s giving a dog a job to do or making sure they have a daily hike.”

Though Brown is based in Washington, he’ll be visiting the new facility frequently to lead staff training programs. His goal is for all employees to be able to speak confidently about any of Wagly’s services, and be well versed in pet health issues. For example, groomers will be taught to identify common skin diseases; if a client brings their pet in for a routine bath, a potential skin problem can be caught early. A 24 hours a day facility, overnight staff will be trained to handle a myriad of issues that may arise.

Newly hired staff members will begin with online training modules, followed by three weeks of classroom and facility education. To enable employees to move up the company ladder, specific learning objectives will be given periodically as part of an ongoing preparation program, which will extend to veterinary professionals, who’ll focus on gaining knowledge in animal behavior, not always part of standard veterinary training.

Pearson and Brown are cognizant of the City’s traffic congestion challenges, and are working to create flexible work schedules so that their staff can avoid rush hour commutes, in addition to offering some designated staff parking spots. To create a healthier environment for dogs, staff, and neighbors, materials throughout the facility are geared towards safety and noise reduction, including extra insulation, dropped ceilings with fabric, double exterior wall barriers, rubber floors, and sealed doors. According to Pearson, these design features have been effective at lowering noise to a low murmur during daytime hours at the Bellevue location.

The majority of employees will be full-time, with benefits packages that include medical, dental, vision, and paid time off. To fully understand clients’ experience, Wagly employees are expected to have pets of their own, with the added perk of discounted pet care.

According to Brown, Wagly is unique in the way it compensates its vets. “The majority of veterinarians work on commission,” he said. “All our docs are going to be salaried instead of on commission, so that they can focus on best practices. It’s more attractive for docs.”

All Wagly locations will operate under the same philosophy and feature similarly designed facilities. Company leaders are focused on efforts to expand in Washington and California, but hope to be nationwide in three to five years, with locations in Chicago and states such as Texas and Florida. Pearson thinks that the Hill facility is promising due to its proximity to major driving routes.

“We chose to go into this particular location to help provide care,” Pearson said. “The community is on the rise and we want to contribute in the right way. We want to be an active part of the community.”