Kennels boss speaks of heartbreak as pandemic leaves few animals to care for

The boss of a busy kennels and cattery said her business may be forced to close given the impact of travel restrictions on the number of animals needing overnight care.

The business has lost 95 per cent of its income, and has had to lay off 12 staff. Picture: Eran Yehudai.
The business has lost 95 per cent of its income, and has had to lay off 12 staff. Picture: Eran Yehudai.

Fiona Yehudai and husband Eran run Crowbank Kennels and Cattery on the outskirts of Cumbernauld.

She said trade has dried up due to tight restrictions on people travelling, and while she and other businesses in the industry were given a £10,000 small business grant in the spring, “since then, we've had absolutely no help whatsoever”.

The businesswoman hasn’t been able to pay her mortgage since March, with the business having lost 95 per cent of its income, and has had to lay off 12 staff. “I was heartbroken to let them go, they were heartbroken to go,” she said.

Fiona Yehudai says the current situation is 'extraordinarily stressful and frustrating'. Picture: Crowbank Kennels and Cattery.

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Ms Yehudai said current circumstances were “extraordinarily” stressful and frustrating.

She added: “I don’t really sleep any more and I’m stressed all the time.”

The businesswoman has launched a petition calling for more government support for the sector with more than 13,000 signatures gathered so far.

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Crowbank at full capacity can accommodate 65 dogs and 26 cats, but it currently has no custom.

Ms Yehudai said: "We might not be here next year to serve our customers. And I think that's heartbreaking.

"It looks as though there’s really no hope for us – either personally or as an industry – because it appears travel restrictions are going to go on for months to come – and that's an impossible situation.

"We're completely tied to people being able to travel and their ability to travel is tied to the availability of [pet] care… we're part of the community, we serve our local community."

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Lockdown has seen a huge jump in pet ownership – with Ms Yehudai adding that these new pets will need looking after when holidays resume.

But without support, well-trained, well-run, licenced facilities “just won't be there for people anymore,” Ms Yehudai added.

She and her husband invested a six-figure sum to launch the business. It requires work 24 hours a day and treats include a full turkey Christmas dinner to the dogs in its care with cats served a side of salmon.

Ms Yehudai added that the industry is largely made up of family firms, and is not highly paid, with many bosses now having to turn to Universal Credit just to cover the basics.

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She would like to see the industry face the same kind of support enjoyed by the hospitality sector.

Ms Yehudai said: “This isn't just about me. This is about all the other people I know that are desperately struggling and frightened about whether they're going to be able to continue not just in business – but whether they'll be able to keep their homes.

“Pets ads enormous value to people's lives. They give tremendous emotional support, and I think we all need a little emotional support at this point.”

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