Come. Sit. Stay.

Even dogs like neighborhood businesses like Mid-City Animal House

Mid-City Animal House 4001 Toulouse Street // New Orleans
504-373-6640 // // //  @MidCityAnimalHouse

After receiving her MBA at University of New Orleans, Cali Burk got a job in insurance. She quickly decided the corporate world was not a fit for her.

Fortunately, Burk, who still liked the challenges of business and management, quickly found a Plan B.

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“I grew up having dogs all my life,” she continued. “I noticed that there weren’t many doggie day-care facilities around, and none at all in Mid-City.”

That was more than 12 years ago, and while the competition has grown, Burk’s Mid-City Animal House has a full house most of the time. Some of her clients have been with her since she opened.

The business has grown to require a staff of six. The facility, located at 4001 Toulouse Street, is a converted shotgun house in a mixed-use neighborhood.

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“It helps the pets feel like they’re at home,” Burk said, contrasting her smaller location with some of the large pet-sitting operations. “We have three separate gated playrooms, and we divide the dogs by size and temperament. We give them that socializing, that feeling of home.”

Mid-City Animal House offers both boarding and day care, but Burk noted that even the boarding dogs are in the playrooms or outside in the side yard during the day.  She typically has around 25 pooches boarding at any given time and hosts another 15 for day care on a typical weekday. These numbers increase for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, and — this being New Orleans — Jazz Fest.

Burk estimates that around 90% of her clients are from the Mid-City area, as evidenced by the fact that she is completely full during Endymion parade day.

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“I think we have every dog in the neighborhood here that day,” she said with a laugh.

When someone wants to bring a new dog in for boarding, Mid-City first has the animal participate in day care, to ensure that there is a good personality fit. Pups that can’t play nicely with others are asked to find other options.

“We explain to them this is what’s best for your pet,” said Burk. “Another place might have a run for an individual dog. I’m not going to just stick your dog in a kennel for a week.”

Personalities matter for the staff as well.

“Not all people that like dogs like humans,” Burk noted. “Our staff has to be good with both types of customers.”

While fun, working at a doggie day-care center is not typically a long-term career, which means staff turnover is her biggest challenge. College students, including some from the veterinary technician program at Delgado Community College, fill many of the positions. Word of mouth is her primary source of recruitment. Burk also helped start the New Orleans Bulldog Rescue organization, and referrals from within this and similar groups help with hiring.

Burk sees being a locally owned, neighborhood-based business as key to her success.

“Being smaller means we can provide more specialized attention,” she said, “and for many people, their pets are their babies.”


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