Petropolis: Empowered Pet Care
By Kathy Hosler
Photos provided by Petropolis
If you were in one of the 114,000 cars that drive past Petropolis every day, you would see happy dogs frolicking in 33,000 sq. ft. of play yards, splashing in the sparkling streams that flow from the towering waterfall, climbing challenging boulders and playing on the trampoline. Every pet there is having the “best day ever” in the ultimate play area specifically designed for their fun and safety.
“After spending 45 years in the pet care industry, I have witnessed a lot of change,” says Dr. Paul Schifano, co-owner of Petropolis, which is located in Chesterfield, Missouri and now has a new location in St. Charles.
“Nothing has had more impact on Petropolis than advances in the science of animal behavior. We have made it our mission to develop systems that minimize fear and stress in the pets we care for, while we empower them,” he shares.
Paul Schifano has been caring for pets since 1976. His mother owned a kennel called Silver Maple Farms and Paul became its manager when he was just 16. All throughout high school, college and veterinary school, Paul continued to manage the kennel.
He graduated veterinary school in 1984, and in 1988, he opened the first Petropolis in Chesterfield, Missouri. Built from the ground up, it offered boarding, grooming, daycare, training, a pet store and a veterinary hospital all under one roof. Fast forward to 2020, and Petropolis opened a second facility in St. Charles, Missouri. This location has made it possible to put into place the environment and systems that Paul had developed over several decades.
“It has been my dream to take all we have learned and use that knowledge to create the next generation of Petropolis,” says Paul emphatically.
To help Paul realize the dream, his sons Michael and Joseph are part of a new generation of Schifanos that are leading the mission to empower Petropolis pets. Michael Schifano now oversees all Petropolis operations. Joseph and Jenny Schifano run The Academy of Pet Careers, the affiliated career school, which is expanding concepts of Pet Empowerment in all their curriculum. The school is located within the walls of the facility.
“At no cost to them, our staff members can receive their Fear Free Certification,” says Michael.
“Our Academy brings in lots of speakers and our instructors are always working with the Petropolis staff sharing Pet Empowerment concepts,” Joseph shares.
“Staff members can also take advanced training through the Pet Empowerment Program,” adds Jenny. “And, there are a number of other courses we offer—veterinary assistant, dog training, groomer training, animal behavior, and more.”
To implement their empowered pet care system, everything at Petropolis has been designed to reduce fear and stress, and keep pets safe. Whether the pet is there for boarding, daycare, training or grooming, force is always the last choice.
Not every dog is accepted by the facility, however. Each lodging and daycare guest is evaluated to determine their level of fear and stress related to the services they are to receive. When a dog is determined to be a good fit, options for their care and the services they might benefit from are discussed with the pet owner.
“We explain to clients that lodging, daycare, training, and grooming provide opportunities to empower pets,” Paul shares. “Our team is educated about the harm that comes from aversive techniques in pet handling. Instead, we focus on positive reinforcement as a tool that can prevent and replace fear and stress, resulting in a more confident and happy pet.”
Petropolis St. Charles sits on six acres. A spacious 33,600 sq. ft. building gave Petropolis the ability to strategically design their facility to minimize stress and maximize a pet’s enjoyment. And that begins the moment a pet and their owner enter the facility. There are two private check-in areas in the lobby that enable pets to enter in a low-stress manner.
“Noise is a big stressor for dogs and cats,” says Michael. “Our facility was designed to dissipate the noise when barking occurs. The lodging is divided into nine main sections with demising walls built tightly up to the roof decking to minimize noise transfer between the sections.”
“Having numerous lodging sections gives us the flexibility to find the most enriching environment for each guest,” Paul adds. “Spending long periods in small spaces can be stressful for dogs. That’s one reason our smallest rooms are a spacious 30 sq. ft. and the larger ones are a whopping 120 sq. ft. All of the suites have solid storefront doors to further minimize noise transfer.”
Some of the additional features that make Petropolis so unique include their grooming salon that is designed with a private bay for each stylist, and a separate drying room to minimize noise, stress and distraction of the dogs. And, their cat hotel which is located on the second story to keep it separate from the dogs. The cat condos are a spacious seven feet tall and all the rooms have a built-in exhaust system which keeps a negative air pressure in each room. This prevents the exit of odors into the cattery and also minimizes the spread of airborne pathogens.
The sanitation and air quality systems were chosen to increase efficiency and to help prevent problems within the building. They have a wet/dry cleaning system throughout their facility which allows them to quickly suck up all moisture. This reduces humidity that can spread airborne pathogens and odors.
Petropolis’s heating and ventilation system has ionizing air cleaners built in. The building has two separate quarantine sections with additional UV disinfection technology. If they suspect any of the pets to have a contagion, they can be quickly separated from the other pets.
It has been proven that exercise is a great stress reliever. When they designed the outdoor play areas, the Schifano family went all out to create a beautiful, fun and safe environment that the pets and their owners would love.
“We made the decision to invest a lot of money into our play areas that are visible to the public,” says Paul. “In our four large outdoor play yards, we created zones with a lot of different textures and play experiences the dogs can have. The streams and water features, hills, tunnel, and trampoline all offer unique opportunities for the pups to enjoy themselves. We also have 12,000 sq. ft. of canopy that provides lots of shade and plenty of space to play, even during inclement weather.”
“To further reduce stress levels, we have dozens of entry points—not just one or two,” adds Michael. “There are private play yards for dogs that don’t do well with others, and our numerous resting pens are a quick and easy solution to separate dogs who need a break from group play.”
These are just a few of the innovations that the Schifano family have implemented for the guests of Petropolis. It’s no wonder that the pet owners are eagerly embracing Pet Empowerment and the positive changes it makes in their pets’ lives.
“To integrate Pet Empowerment into a pet center requires a commitment from the top down. It requires a lot of time and constant education of the staff and the pet owners. Adding Pet Empowerment will increase costs to your business. But, in our experience, it has helped our business grow dramatically and has far offset the cost,” concludes Paul.
The Schifano family made it their mission to empower the pets in their care and to minimize their fear and stress. Mission accomplished, Petropolis!