THIS week’s trader of the week goes to a Darlington pet care service that strives to meet the needs of staff and clients.

Petpals Darlington and Yarm, owned by David and Sallyann Gray, provides mobile pet care, for animals ranging from dogs and cats to small pets, with services including pet sitting, dog walking, and pet taxi service.

Mr Gray said: “My wife started the business in 2006 and then I joined her in 2007, because care services as a concept didn’t exist, so it seemed an ideal opportunity to try something new.

“The business has always grown year on year, and between us we’ve grown the Darlington base into the largest franchise within the Petpals network and one of the largest pet services in the UK."

The business also reached the finals of the Pet Industry Federation awards.

On being nominated, Mrs Gray said: “It is great recognition that we have our business model correct and are providing the quality and professionalism that we strive to achieve every day.

“We have always maintained that to run a good pet care business you must not only love animals, but you must also know how to run a good business.

‘We work hard to engage with the wider business community on a local level; we have recently been instrumental in working with Darlington Borough Council and other local businesses, to ensure the PSPO’s (Public Space Protection Orders) are applied fairly.

“We are also immensely proud to have had a leading role in the creation of a new working group, a partnership with the council, to deliver an educational programme for the benefit of all residents, in what is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK."

Mr Gray added: “We currently employ 22 members of staff, and like most businesses we basically fell off a cliff as soon as the national lockdown was announced.

“Our business is built on the basis of people being at work, people being allowed to go away for weekend breaks to socialise with family or go on holiday, and all three of those activities have been severely curtailed.

“It’s the holiday side of our business which is the home boarding for dogs, cat visiting and small animal visiting, that is down about 90% as things stand.

“In terms of the dog walking it hasn’t been bad, we’re back to about 80% of pre-Covid levels now which is good.

“From our point of view, the government schemes like furlough have worked for us tremendously well, and it means that we’ve been to retain the entire team.

“Eight of our team have now been with us for over ten years, and I would hate to think about losing that resource.

“One of the things we were slightly concerned about was being stopped in terms of excessive travelling, but we were able to work and obviously that was very important because a lot of our client base are key workers, and at that stage a lot of them were expected to work 12 hour plus shifts.

“Clearly animal welfare was a massive issue, but we were able to network quite extensively, and that has helped to keep the business going and obviously being seen and recognised in that respect has helped us keep the business ticking along.”