A Staffordshire kennels and cattery owner says her industry has been a “forgotten sector” during the Covid-19 pandemic, despite losing almost all bookings during the pandemic.
Jacqueline Montegrino, the owner of Quintessential Quarters, spoke out after being told by Stafford Borough Council that it had been refused a Closed Business Lockdown Payment. The council said that “in order to qualify for a Closed Business Lockdown Payment a business must be mandated to close under national lockdown restrictions.”
The email received by Jacqueline added: “As pet boarding businesses are not mandated to close, your business is not entitled to any further Additional Restrictions Grant or Local Restrictions Support Grant, nor are you entitled to a Closed Businesses Lockdown Payment.”
But kennels and catteries rely on owners leaving their pets while on holiday or at work, so have all fallen foul of the pandemic. Save for a period in late autumn, when Jacqueline was able to take a handful of bookings and bring staff into work, Quintessential Quarters has been closed.
Jacqueline said: “Bookings melted away when the first lockdown was announced in late March, 2020, and I had to furlough my team. Restrictions were loosened for a while, but by December Staffordshire was in “Tier Four” and the new national lockdown followed on from that.
“There’s currently hardly any way that anyone can travel without breaking the law and that effectively closes our sector down. We also have a pet grooming business at Quintessential Quarters and that is not allowed to operate as it is considered non-essential.
“While clearly not Stafford Borough Council’s fault, it seems unfair that the animal boarding sector falls foul of this extremely inflexible legislation.”
Jacqueline said the next business peak after Christmas would generally be the Easter holidays, but it is unlikely that the travel sector will be freed up by then.
Yet all kennels and catteries tend to have large premises and outdoor areas, so maintenance and upkeep costs remain constant while customers are non-existent.
The vaccine is a beacon of hope for Jacqueline who had to furlough her staff twice in 2020 and currently has a skeleton team keeping Quintessential Quarters ticking over.
With a picturesque farmhouse setting, at Cotes Heath, near Eccleshall, Jacqueline has built a popular business over 16-years of trading. Standards of care are high and much investment has been made to provide high quality kennels and catteries and a large outdoor exercise area.
Along with dog kennels and a cattery, Quintessential Quarters has an award winning pet grooming service and Quintessential Wedding Day Dogs which provides a chaperone service so that the bride and groom can have their beloved pets at their big day, without the headaches of having to look after them.
Quintessential Quarters also invests heavily in staff training, providing careers for students who have studied animal care at Reaseheath College and is hoping to take on a trainee in 2021 under the Government Kickstart programme.
Added Jacqueline: “The dog and cat boarding sector isn’t looking for special treatment but while we’ve been able to gain loans, which have to be paid back, the sector appears to have been frozen out of the government support schemes.”
To find out more about Quintessential Quarters visit www.qqltd.co.uk.
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