Ellie Dyer meets some of Cambodia’s animal enthusiasts and discovers more about the rising tide of pet services. Photography Anna Clare Spelman.
After enjoying a relaxing oil massage, the client’s hair is worked into a rich lather. Strands are carefully shampooed and conditioned with sweet-smelling products, before being dried and brushed until they gleam.
Yet despite the chilled out music, calming ambience and aromatic aromas, this is no human enjoying a day of primping at the salon. Today it’s Tinkerbelle, a friendly spaniel, who is benefiting from a treatment at Pet Grooming Cambodia – a small business billed as the country’s first pet spa.
Expat Donabelle Zuzart, originally from Goa, India, opened the facility in Phnom Penh’s Toul Kork district earlier this year after a lifetime love affair with all creatures great and small.
“I’ve grown up with animals all my life. Ever since I’ve been born we’ve always had pets in my house – a zoo eventually,” she adds, ticking off the 14 dogs, 36 turtles, two goats, two guinea fowl and four ducks that she has looked after at one time or another.
The professional DJ’s dream is to one day own a zoo, but it’s most often dogs and cats that enter the doors of her grooming salon, which is decorated in paw prints, and offers pet boarding and boasts a spacious garden.
Soothing massages using olive, coconut, avocado or tea tree oils can be carefully administered by Zuzart alongside a variety of grooming options and ‘pawdicures’, with professional equipment disinfected after every use.
Other than being a pet paradise, the sparkling new business is indicative of a wave of animal lovers who are tapping into a greater demand for pet-related services in Cambodia.
“Khmers are spending real income on their pets and beginning to imitate first world retail customers in their choices and purchases,” explains Leo Clifton, the owner and founder of K9 Group Ltd, who conceived the idea for his canine-focused business after an off-the-cuff conversation about the excellent condition of his Great Dane.
With a policy of “dog needs before human needs”, K9 operates a head office in Sihanoukville and offers a wide range of services, such as kennels, a veterinary clinic, a grooming salon, a pet travel agency and a certified breeder network – stating that, under no circumstances will it purchase from the industrialised puppy market.
The business also operates a street dog rehabilitation program for prospective owners who want to adopt, and runs a civilian section at its training facility, which can transform a competent pet into a defensive home security guard dog or a family or personal bodyguard. Dogs can also be rehabilitated for unwanted behaviour and in obedience and socialisation.
Indeed, whether it is organisations like the Phnom Penh Animal Welfare Society (PPAWS) working towards improving the lives of animals or the specialist hotels dedicated to pet boarding, animal enthusiasts around the country are catering for creatures’ wants and needs.
What unites them is the respect and appreciation for the animals in their care. As Zuzart says before lovingly washing her contented pet, Tinkerbelle, in a flurry of shampoo suds: “Some people consider dogs as kids and, for me, she’s a child.”
AsiaLIFE looks at just some of the animal-related businesses and organisations working in the Kingdom:
This “one-stop-shop” for canine services enforces a European standard of animal welfare, amenities, equipment and building standards. Headquartered in Sihanoukville, it provides a large range of options from kennels to grooming and a pet shop. It also runs a training facility with a civilian section. Another side of the company caters for sectors such as the government, NGOs, the military, civil defense and corporate and private enterprises.
Visit K9cambodia.com or the K9 Dogs Cambodia Facebook page.
Founded in 2011, the Phnom Penh Animal Welfare Society (PPAWS) aims to improve the welfare of cats and dogs in Cambodia. Its goals, as stated on the ppaws.com website, are to work with pagodas to take care of animals, spray and neuter animals in order to limit stray populations, find homes for animals and educate people on animal welfare and responsible pet ownership. It also regularly updates the PPAWS Facebook page.
Pet Grooming Cambodia
This relaxing salon is located in a spacious villa and garden complex in the capital’s Toul Kork district. Spa services, such as massages, are offered alongside pet boarding without cages and grooms. “I would say a short crop is ideal for pets here. You have to keep pets clean. The biggest factor, because of the humidity, is fleas and ticks which bite into them,” says managing director Donabelle Zuzart. A range of organic shampoos and conditioners, which are not animal tested, are also on sale.
For more information, visit the petlovercambodia Facebook page.
Pet Resort Cambodia
Set near the Bassac River, around 25km from the centre of Phnom Penh, Pet Resort Cambodia offers pet boarding for dogs and cats and is closely linked to veterinarian clinic Agrovet. Four permanent staff members spend their days amongst the animals, with time set aside for playing and interaction. Cats are kept in a house, cleaned multiple times daily, with a large opening on the riverside. They are free twice a day for scent marking and caresses, and there are facilities for claw sharpening.
To find out more, visit petresort-cambodia.com