Nearly one year and $2.3 million later, Star Barks Inn has officially opened in Braselton.
Despite the pandemic, Michael Kane — owner of the 12,500-square-foot boarding, grooming and day care facility for dogs — said he felt like Saturday, May 30 was the ideal time.
“The main fear that kept going through my brain was that nobody is traveling, and nobody needs to board dogs,” he said. “Everyone is working from home, so nobody needs day care. I’ve been pleasantly mistaken.”
Before opening to the public, Star Barks Inn spent around a month introducing dogs to its facility.
To his surprise, Kane said he discovered that the area’s pet owners had a “pent up demand for doggy day care.” He received boarding and day care requests, and ended up serving more than 140 dogs.
If it wasn’t for the rain slowing down the facility’s construction over the past year, Kane said he would’ve opened Star Barks Inn before the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason,” he said. “I’ve explained to the staff that the pandemic is a gift of time. It allowed us to really go through policies, procedures and flow.”
The business has 16 people on staff, including a full-time manager, Maddie Burrell, who has a bachelor’s in animal science and background in animal caretaking.
The facility can hold up to 200 dogs at a time, and offers day care kennels which include individual access to an outdoor shaded space covered in synthetic turf.
Those wanting to keep their dog overnight can opt for one of the boarding luxury suites which can include a TV, toddler bed, viewing window and access to a private outdoor AstroTurf run.
Star Barks Inn additionally accommodates cats with “The Whispurr Room,” which provides a stress-free overnight area either around other felines or in their own space.
Day care is $18 for a half day and $28 for a full day. Boarding for cats and dogs ranges from $29 to $79 per day.
To limit the spread of COVID-19, Kane said pet owners are encouraged to pull up near the facility’s entrance and allow a staff member to retrieve the dog from the vehicle.
He said the employees clean surfaces with a surgical grade disinfectant, which required veterinarian permission to use. Kane also installed ultraviolet lights on every air conditioning duct, which are designed to kill bacteria and viruses.
Dogs who first enter the day care program undergo an introduction process with other canines. Kane said the play groups never exceed 18 dogs.
“Day care for dogs is not a luxury, it’s a necessity because they are pack animals, they like and need to be in a pack environment,” Kane said. “They need socialization and exercise.”
One of the staff members will monitor the canine and bring in one dog at a time to see how they interact.
At the end of the day, Kane said the staff will provide the dog’s owner with a “video report card,” which includes photos and video of how their pet responded to other canines. Depending on their observations, the employee may recommend that the dog comes in less often or more often than others.
“There are some dogs that need day care, but it’s going to take them a while because they haven’t been in that social environment,” Kane said. “We don’t want to stress them out.”
Star Barks Inn is equipped with cameras around the facility, so pet owners can monitor their dogs from home. Kane said these devices not only let customers know how their animals are being cared for, but remind employees that they’re being watched and held to certain standards.
“Giving them a look inside their pet’s day is so important,” Burrell said. “The first day that you drop your dog off at day care is like dropping your kids off for some people.”
For more information about Star Barks Inn, visit starbarksinn.com or call 678-667-7297. The facility is located at 2311 Sparta Way in Braselton behind the Kroger shopping center. Its hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.