CITYWIDE — For pet owners who would rather leave their little critters in the comfort of a home rather than a kennel during their work day or when they travel, there is a scarcity of options in Santa Monica.

Local company DogVacay is looking to change all that.

The company allows users to find, schedule and book appointments with a host, who cares for dogs in their own home. Prospective clients can also register for a free account, read reviews on the hosts and make payments all on their website.

Tatiana Masterson plays with her dog Auggie in her Santa Monica home, where she cares for other dogs as a host for the company DogVacay. (Alex Vejar editor@smdp.com)

Tatiana Masterson plays with her dog Auggie in her Santa Monica home, where she cares for other dogs as a host for the company DogVacay. (Alex Vejar editor@smdp.com)

Tatiana Masterson is one of those hosts. In her professional life she works in the music industry doing public relations, managing, tour support, and more. She became interested in the concept of hosting pets in her home after a friend suggested she do that for her own adopted dog, Auggie, when she traveled for work.

“I fell in love with the concept, and I decided to become a host,” she said.

Masterson has been hosting since July of last year. With the extra money she makes from DogVacay she is able to pay for her puppy’s expenses.

“I’m very thankful because Auggie has the company that he needs and I have the company as well in the way that also I have a little bit of extra cash while working from home,” she said. “It’s been a great experience.”

Prospective hosts go through an approval process before being able to work for DogVacay, said founder and “top dog” Aaron Hirschhorn, who started the company in March of last year in his home with his wife Karine after a negative experience with a dog kennel. The process consists of an online application, a phone interview and reference checks.

“These are people’s babies,” Hirschhorn said of the detailed approval process. “I love my dog so much, our customers love [their] dogs so much. Everything we can do to make them feel good is what our business is about.”

Hirschhorn feels that customers get a different experience than they would if they left their dogs at a kennel.

“What we really feel is so incredible is the opportunity to give your dog individual attention in someone’s home, like what they get normally,” he said.

Hosts can also send photo and video updates of the owner’s dogs while they are away, adding to the unique experience that Hirschhorn promotes.

In case of a pet emergency, DogVacay has a 24-hour service that a host can call, as well as a partnership with VCA Animal Hospitals, which provides emergency veterinary care to all of their customers, all paid for by the company, Hirschhorn said.

The company doesn’t only care for dogs. Customers have used the service for cats, rabbits, and even a pig,  Hirschhorn said.

In the time that it has been in business, DogVacay has grown to having 10,000 hosts all across the United States and Canada, Hirschhorn said.

“The real business is the hosts,” he said.

DogVacay’s pricing ranges from $15 to $50 per night, with the norm being under $30, which can be half of what someone would pay for a kennel depending on the quality of the facility and the types of services offered, Hirschhorn said.

According to the trade group American Pet Products Association, it is projected that people will spend $55.53 billion on services and products related to pets, $5.54 billion for grooming and boarding alone.

For more information, to find a host, or to become a host, visit dogvacay.com.

editor@smdp.com