Pet Pavilion, a new facility that has opened in the capital, wants to be the place that caters to all the needs of animal owners in one location.
“What was observed is that Abu Dhabi had very different separated services and depending on owners, they had to go to many different places, when everything could be done at the same place,” general manager Luis Mendoza tells The National. “So for that, we decided to create a pet pavilion.”
The large space, which is currently in its soft-launch phase before opening officially on May 1, is in Mussaffah. It spans 14,000 square metres and features services such as grooming, dog day care and boarding. It has a veterinary clinic and shop selling things such as food, litter and toys. Although the location may be difficult for some pet owners to get to, the facility offers a taxi service for an extra fee to pick up and drop off pets.
Almost everyone who works at Pet Pavilion has completed a fear-free certification, which is a programme from the US that helps veterinary professionals and staff learn to address different levels of fear, anxiety and stress in animals. Mendoza knows that pets don't often enjoy being in cages so there is also a waiting room for cat owners with a cat tree and shelves mounted to the wall for felines to roam.
However, one of the most exciting parts of the facility for Mendoza is the 9x6-metre indoor pool — which no other clinic in Abu Dhabi currently has — that can be used for helping animals that need specialist treatments such as hydrotherapy or physiotherapy.
Mendoza knows first-hand the benefits of such a service as it did wonders for his foster dog Sala, who was taken in from the streets by the rescue group House of Hounds in January. The saluki was found with a badly fractured front leg that was later amputated.
It was decided that Sala should try hydrotherapy with Natasha Lotter, head of the physiotherapy unit at Pet Pavilion, to see how the dog would fare in her rehabilitation. After a month and a half of sessions with Lotter, who created a bespoke therapy programme for the patient, and Sala can now run and play like any other dog, despite being a little more bouncy while doing so.
“She didn't only learn to walk, she learned to get her balance, going upstairs, downstairs like many things that we take for granted in many other dogs,” Mendoza says. “With Sala, everything was a challenge but she overcame everything.”
He credits Lotter for changing the rescue dog’s life, saying that they are lucky to have her. Originally from South Africa, she began her career as a marine biologist and animal trainer before completing postgraduate studies in veterinary physiotherapy in 2010.
“She understands the anatomy of animals, she has prepared herself to treat those animals since the very beginning,” he says. “She's able to use every single device as it is needed, the way it is needed and when it is needed, so we're not going to supply a service that is not needed.”
Pet Pavilion also offers other services such as a day care for dogs, something that has been lacking in Abu Dhabi. The indoor space is next to the swimming pool and has capacity for 15 to 20 canines if pre-introduced. There is also a boarding area with 10 rooms that are 2.5x2 metres and all have CCTV cameras in them so pet owners can watch a live feed of their animals while away.
“The boarding unit is not huge. We have 10 rooms. Some of them can be shared by animals because the rooms are pretty big. But the idea is to be able to offer everything to everyone,” Mendoza says. “We prefer to keep it a bit smaller and personalise it a bit more. There are people in Pet Pavilion 24/7. So if they go for boarding, there's going to be people with their animals, whether they're in their rooms, whether they're in day care, in the clinic, or even in grooming.”
And that's is another service that Mendoza is proud of, as the facility has a fear-free, elite-certified groomer named Michael who has undergone more than 60 hours of training. The room he works in is spacious with plenty of natural light coming from the floor-to-ceiling windows, as well as another that makes it easy for pet owners to watch their animals being groomed.
There are three tables and three baths for animals — one for cats, dogs and rescue animals that may be sick but need grooming. Mendoza says that everything at Pet Pavilion is sanitised with F10, a disinfectant that is safe for use around the animals. The veterinary unit is next to the grooming centre, in case there are any issues. This was purposefully designed as the building is rectangular but all the facilities are laid out in a U shape so it is easier to move from room to room if necessary.
Pet Pavilion wants to help build and connect with the pet community in Abu Dhabi. It recently hosted a fitness with pets day with dog owners and has plans in the future to host adoption days with House of Hounds. Other activities for a later date might include puppy training or first-aid courses such as on heatstroke, which can occur in pets during the summer.
Mendoza is already excited to welcome potential clinics during its soft opening phase. He says the facility has a transparency policy in place so all owners are able to see what is happening with a pet at any time.
"Day care, the swimming pool, we have those glass walls, they're able to see what the what we are doing because we're proud of what we are doing as well.
"We have been preparing the staff, we have been acclimatising the place. Every single thing that was decided, there was a purpose."