Published: 05:00, 25 May 2022
| Updated: 14:48, 25 May 2022
A doggy daycare may be forced to close if it cannot secure new premises by the end of next month.
Hairy Poppins has been renting a commercial site in Hempstead near Gillingham but after five years its lease renewal request has been declined in a "devastating" decision.
Owner Tracy Buckingham said: "We are only just getting back on our feet. We are absolutely devastated.
"This leaves my team of 11 staff unemployed, my clients with nowhere to look after their dogs while they are at work and hundreds of dogs with nowhere to go.
"It all just feels so frustrating."
The 47-year-old said she had to close the company down completely during the pandemic and did not receive any funding or government grants. When able to, the centre reopened at half capacity.
One reason was due to fewer people bringing their pets in as they were now working for home and did not need them looked after in the daytime.
She added: "We are now busier than ever and we were planning on increasing our opening hours again. We have only been operating half-days for the last couple of years but we were ready to open for full days again as people are returning to work and need somewhere safe to look after their dogs."
The firm rent a space in Elm Court Garden Village which allowed it to pay a reduced rent while it was closed and pay back the arrears each month when it reopened.
But a few weeks ago, Tracy was told the "devastating news" that the lease – which expires at the end of June – would not be renewed leaving her without a site.
Alongside a daycare, Hairy Poppins also offers training and behavioural classes specialising in reactive and anxious dogs so need a safe and secure space like they have in Capstone Road, explained Tracy.
As is the nature of the business, classes are usually paid for well in advance and Tracy says her books are full until September but if she is forced to close would have to offer refunds.
She added: "At a time like this, we cannot afford to give money back to clients.
"It has always been our dream to have our space. It is doggy heaven. It is the bees' knees and so much fun.
"We are desperate to find another site and continue to help more dogs and I am so worried for my amazing team of staff who are so dedicated and amazing at what they do."
The daycare and classes are run in a large open field with designated activity spaces such as a beach, agility equipment, pools, sofas and a sensory garden.
Up to 24 dogs can be in attendance at a time and between eight and 10 for the behavioural classes.
Currently, the centre is open Monday to Friday between 9am and 2pm for the daycare but it hoped to open until 5pm.
Classes are held on evenings and Saturday mornings.
The landlord was approached for comment.