As owners of The Animal House, an Augusta doggy day care and pet-boarding center, the Getsons have grown accustomed over the past decade to the barks and meows generated by their four-legged friends.
“You have to love them,” said Lisa Getson, who has owned Labradors, spaniels, Australian shepherds and a Doberman pinscher.
Brian Getson’s experience with animals is a little different. For about nine years, he lived on a 21-acre farm in Edgefield County with livestock including chickens, peacocks, cows and a horse. The full-time engineer at Savannah River Site even sheared sheep for himself
and others as a “side hobby.”
“This little hobby turned into more,” he said.
The couple met at SRS, where Lisa Getson worked as a subcontractor, and married about the time they started the business. They now share a pair of 1-year-old toy poodles and an 8-year-old poodle/Maltese mix.
The Getsons said they saw a need for their type of business after looking for a place to board their pets.
“About 11 years ago we went to go board our dogs and frankly weren’t happy with the choices we had,” Brian Getson said. “Basically, it was confinement of some sort. They were either in cages or crates or runs. We thought there’s got to be a better way.”
After a year of contemplation and research, the pair decided in 2003 to debut their facility in a newly built center at 2917 Riverwest Drive, off River Watch Parkway. The business expanded in 2005 to incorporate an empty storefront next door and grew to 6,500 square feet.
The Animal House started with just two employees and has grown to a staff of 20 groomers, dog handlers, cleaners and office personnel.
Handler and front desk clerk Erica Flakes, 21, said the work environment is a homey one.
“They make you feel like family,” said Flakes, who has worked there for a little more than a year. “It doesn’t feel like work to me.”
Lisa Getson, who worked in day cares for eight years, said the business concept is much like that of a child care center. Dogs are broken into “play groups” based on size and temperament, while cats have their own room with climbing shelves and toys.
The Getsons take in about 50 pets a day throughout the year.
They said it’s important that pets are free to play and socialize at the center. All animals must have up-to-date vaccinations and be spayed or neutered when older than 6 months. Cameras also are set up in each play area to monitor the animals.
“When you get home and you’re tired, so is your pet,” Lisa Getson said.
The Getsons haven’t ruled out franchising but plan to stay in their current spot because of its convenience and easy access to Interstate 20.
“I don’t know that we’re allowed to close,” Brian Getson said jokingly. “Now that we’re here, it’s weird. It almost feels like an obligation.”