By Steve Appelbaum, ABC President & CEO
I hope everyone is safe and healthy. Here’s what’s going on this summer at ABC. The COVID-19 roller coaster continues. When I reported last, we had successfully transitioned our corporate offices to remote in late March. At that juncture. we had temporarily suspended most externships and were waiting to see when things would open back up—and be able to remain open.
Of our five programs, four of them consist of 81 percent home study and 19 percent externships and/or shelter work, so the vast majority of students can continue from the safety of their homes. The fifth and newest program, Aquarium Maintenance, is 100 percent home study and not affected by any of this.
Fortunately, we have been able to place almost all students in externships with minimal and in many cases no delays. In truth, given the craziness of the past five months, many students are only too happy to stay close to home and do not mind what is at worst a temporary delay in their scheduled externship.
One interesting note is that new enrollments are up this year; this was not a complete surprise. We know that in times of economic uncertainty, such as the 2008 recession, enrollments increase as people look for new opportunities, particularly in the pet industry. However, because this coronavirus pandemic is so unusual, we were not sure what to expect.
This leads me to remind everyone about ABC’s Refer-a-Friend offer. Any ABC student or graduate who refers someone who then enrolls an ABC main program (Dog Obedience, Veterinary Assistant, Grooming Instruction, Cat Training or Aquarium Maintenance) will be awarded $100. Some restrictions apply; for example, enrollees must complete at least five stages of their program in order for the referrer to be awarded. We are also considering offering the Refer-a-Friend program to mentors. If you are a mentor and would like to participate, please email me ( to let me know. Refer a Friend is even more generous for classroom enrollment referrals.
We offer Dog Obedience In-classroom Program at our Santa Clarita location twice a year. We recently graduated our final class for 2020, and the next session is scheduled to start in January 2021. Class sizes are small, typically no more than six to nine students, and social distancing is maintained. In addition, about 90 percent of these classes are comprised of veterans who are transitioning back into civilian life. This program is very near and dear to my heart; I meet every student and always give presentations on business building to every class. Students and graduates who refer someone to this class will be awarded $300.
Next, I want to talk a little about our Cat Training Program, which every dog trainer should consider taking. Why? Consider the numbers. More than 42 million households in the U.S. and 4.7 million in Canada own cats. And in the U.S., 58 percent of those cat-owning households also have dogs. This not only increases your opportunities to help more animals find forever homes, it also can help grow your business. One of the ways you can build your business is to stand out from the competition. Because there are far fewer cat trainers, those who have this skill will stand out from those dog trainers who do not.
For example ,dog trainers who also work with cats will likely enhance their ability to partner with and/or receive referrals from veterinary facilities. Being able to train cats to accept going into a carrier and remain calm is a skill many in the veterinary community will appreciate; they know this is serious issue with many owners. As you know, offering something beneficial to those you want establish a business relationship with is essential. Those who also train cats have this advantage. I highly recommend this program to anyone with an interest in building their business.
In other ABC news, barring invasions from space or the zombie apocalypse, we hope to launch the Zookeeper Assistant Program (ZAP) in October 2020. We are very excited about this course. There has been great interest in ZAP since we started talking about it and working on its development nearly 2 years ago.
Lastly, if you are an employer looking for a certified dog trainer, cat trainer, pet groomer veterinary assistant or aquarium specialist, be sure to post your open position(s) on our website’s job board. You can post as many as you want as often as you need to for free.
Sources: 2019-2020 APPA National Pet Owners Survey; Canadian Animal Health Institute/de l’Institut Canadien de la Santé Animale