Interspecies family

People are treating pets like children

David Metcalfe holding two cats on Canada Day.

Photo by Carrie Unger

Services available for pets, and the rhetoric around them, have been changing in Winnipeg in recent years.

The emerging spas, retreats and daycares catering to our furry friends caught the eye of Showtime Productions Inc.’s show manager Sherri Rheubottom, who decided to start the Winnipeg Pet Show.

“I’ve always been passionate about animals and pets, so (I) basically came up with the idea to do the show, because people are obsessed with their pets,” she says.

Last year, the company started running the Pet Show alongside its annual Wonderful Wedding Show and Winnipeg Baby & Kids Show.

“They’ve become such a huge, important part of the family,” Rheubottom says about pets.

She’s noticed that in recent years, people have begun to treat their animals more like children. It’s common to see them in family photos and at weddings.

She says Showtime Productions’ Bark in the Park proved that people want to bring their pets out with them when it filled Shaw Park with human and canine spectators for a Goldeyes game.

“People are spending as much, if not a touch more, on their pets than on their children,” Rheubottom says.

Her hypothesis is that people are having human children later, so they start their family off with a non-human child, sort of as a trial.

Happy Tails Pet Spa co-owner Celeste Bennett thinks it has more to do with increased work hours. With people spending more time at their jobs, they need additional help caring for their animals.

She says their business has accumulated 3,000 clients since opening in June of this year.

“It helps people have more freedom when they have pets,” Bennett says.

Someone doesn’t have to worry about letting their dog out to pee between work and a Bomber game if he’s at a doggie daycare, she says. Places like Happy Tails also make it easier for people to go on trips without their pets.

Rheubottom points out that places like this have been around for a while, just not in their current state.

“They’re not just kennels anymore. We don’t use that word anymore,” she says.

The hotels are fancier, with couches and beds for animals to lounge on.

“You even see on social media people love dressing up their pets,” Rheubottom says.

That’s why they decided to host a fashion show at the Pet Show this year, much like the one at the Wonderful Wedding Show, she says.

Animals will be dressed in Halloween costumes and will then strut down the runway.

She says the whole weekend will be a one-stop petapalooza, and she expects a great turnout, much like last year.

The Winnipeg Pet Show takes place from Oct. 15 to 16 at the RBC Convention Centre. Tickets are $12 and will be available at the door.

Published in Volume 71, Number 5 of The Uniter (October 6, 2016)

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