Tails of the City

Philly christens its first official pet hotel.

By Cassidy Hartmann
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Feb. 1, 2006

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Having a ball: Jenee Mazzu thinks her nonhuman clients deserve human treatment.

Though guests at a brand-new riverfront hotel are being offered dinner options of fresh salmon and filet mignon, their owners are also welcome to bring in cans of Alpo instead. In a beautifully redone, previously vacant unit on Water Street in Old City, Jenee Mazzu, 23, and her husband AJ, 30, have opened Philadelphia's first luxury pet hotel.

The "hotel" portion of the business, which is built to house eight dogs and seven cats, consists of a series of plush miniature rooms, each uniquely decorated and labeled with quaint Philly names like "Rittenhouse Square," "Betsy Ross" and "LOVE Park." Televisions equipped with DVD players are mounted on the wall of each room "for stimulation."

The cat rooms consist of three shelflike stories: a top-level bed, an eating area and a lower level for the litter box. Visitors are permitted to bring one toy to occupy their pet during its stay.

As part of the hotel package, animals receive one to two feedings a day, unlimited spring water and 24-hour on-site care. At Mazzu's Canine and Feline Hotel, the owners say luxury and love are the top two concerns.

"I know people who won't travel because they won't put their pets in a kennel," says Jenee Mazzu as she walks from room to room followed by her lumbering dog Sienna. "People are having children later in life. They're treating animals like children. Would you put your child in a cage?"

The rooms at Mazzu's certainly don't feel like cages. Carpeting and colorful bedspreads cast a homey milieu, but they're still around cage- or kennel-sized. At $80 to $100 a night, canine rooms range from 3.5 by 7.5 feet for small dogs to 4.5 by 7.5 feet for larger breeds. Feline rooms are $60, 2 by 2.5 feet in area and 6 feet tall. There are also slightly larger rooms for multiple cat and dog families, priced at $90 and $125 a night.

"A lot of people are like, 'Oh, it's just a dog, it's just a cat,'" says Mazzu, who's worked in shelters since childhood. "But I'd look at the conditions they were in-just a cage-and think, 'I'd hate to be in that.' If my dog can feel happy, feel sad and feel scared, then she definitely has to know the difference between a very warm and cozy environment vs. a kennel."

The Mazzus say their clients agree. Before opening the hotel, the couple-both self-proclaimed animal lovers with five pets of their own-ran a dog-walking and -grooming business out of the basement of their Center City apartment. When they reached a 50-person client base, Jenee decided it was time to expand.

After choosing a location and enduring months of zoning meetings, construction and decorating, the Mazzus opened their doors on Monday. Jenee says their clients have remained loyal.

Let sleeping dogs lie: One can't help wondering how long these canine quarters
"They haven't had their dogs groomed, some of them, in three and a half months because of the transitioning, but they've all stuck with me," says Jenee, who expects her clientele to take advantage of the new hotel service. "The demand is huge. I can tell just from our current clients and business associates and also prospective clients that we've talked to. When we tell them the idea they're just like, 'Finally, finally.'"

Mazzu's hotel services include three walks a day and "unlimited human affection." For particularly active dogs, field trips will be available to nearby dog parks for extra exercise. Regular dog-walking services will also be available weekdays at a rate of $18 per 40-minute jaunt. "There are people who strictly use us only for dog-walking. And some just for grooming," says Mazzu. "And then it's all incorporated in one with the hotel for the person who wants to use all three."

At Mazzu's, pampering pet-owners can choose from a wide variety of spa services including dematting, pedicures and pumice stone treatments, performed in a candlelit chamber fit for humans. The only giveaways are the high-walled tub and jar of dog biscuits on the counter.

Mazzu thinks the special care they provide will set the business apart from other kennels and make them popular with doting dog owners. She and her husband hope to open other pet hotels and an animal sanctuary in the future.

"We want to deal in quality and not quantity," says Mazzu. "I've researched places that call themselves dog hotels or dog spas, and they're nicer than your normal grooming shop or boarding place, but they still haven't fully grasped it. I feel that's what we've done."

Cassidy Hartmann (chartmann@philadelphiaweekly.com) also wrote this week's cover story on p. 20.

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