@thekitchentable with the K9 Wellness Centre

The number of dogs in Jersey is on the up, in the last six years the canine population of the Island has risen 22% with 8,457 dog licences being issued this year. Looking after the welfare of our furry family members isn’t just the territory of vets. One Islander saw a business opportunity in providing a much needed service for poorly pooches. Gwyn Garfield-Bennett went to meet Lucy Falle.

Lucy Falle returned to Jersey after studying animal behavioural science and working with animals in the UK. When she got back to the Island she started running a dog walking business from home, but it wasn’t long before she decided to move her business on a big step. In the UK her dog had needed treatment and she’d been able to take him to a hydrotherapy pool, but there wasn’t a facility like it in the Channel Islands, so she set about building one.

‘It was very tough,’ says Lucy, ‘the whole process took eighteen months from when I said this is what I am going to do to actually getting open. Jersey Business helped me with the process, with the planning applications, but financially I put it all up.’

The K9 Wellness Centre is based in the car park at the Amaizin Adventure park. Lucy says she has been supported by owners Carlton and Kristina Le Feuvre, but finding the location initially was tough. ‘The biggest struggle was finding the property, we looked at lots of buildings that either planning wouldn’t allow or were not big enough or not suitable, or to get the equipment in we would have to take the roof off. It was a painful process.’

Luckily, Lucy’s partner is a builder and he and his team helped her by installing everything, working seven days a week for five weeks. ‘Every bit of equipment has come from the UK. We imported everything. He came with me to the UK and we went and visited lots of centres so we could see what needed to be done and what we could achieve with what we had and what we could get.’

‘It was very tough. The hardest part was getting it all here. Things came down with missing parts and we didn’t have things on island so had to wait for things. It was February when we were doing it all so it was freezing in here.’

So what gave Lucy the determination to keep on going? ‘From a young age my dad ran his own business and always encouraged us if that’s what you want to do he would support us. My parents have been a massive support through the whole thing.’

The K9 Wellness Centre started with the pool and now also has a water treadmill as well as a dry treatment area for dogs that are nervous of the water. Lucy and her team treat everything from post-operative injuries, to spinal cases, arthritis and simple fitness or weight loss. They treat on average eight to twelve dogs a day, six days a week – and they’ve even treated cats.

Two years on from opening, the centre is well established:  ‘It’s grown and grown,’ says Lucy, ‘We’ve got a laser therapy machine and we’re growing with staff, so soon we’ll have three of us working as hydrotherapists within the business. We also work with a chiropractor and we work with all three vet practices on the island and the JSPCA. We are able to offer a bespoke service for every dog and its needs.’

Lucy still runs the dog walking and dog sitting service, although now she employs people to  walk the dogs, and she’s developed a shop which she hadn’t initially anticipated: ‘We bring in a lot of things that people can’t get from elsewhere, like help-me-up harnesses and aids to help with dogs that have been injured. A lot of spinal cases need harnesses to get them through the recovery process that before you couldn’t’ get on island. We’re looking into a range of braces and supports and paw covers because if they cut their paws you need it straight away, not wait to order it online. So we are  just trying to get in everything that they need should something unfortunately happen.’

With the business now a success, what advice would Lucy give to anyone else thinking about starting their own?

You can read the full feature in the November issue of Business Brief