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Pet college moves to expand business

Profile: Animal Behavior College relocates to city for economic benefits

Posted: March 17, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 17, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Animal Behavior College employees, from left, Kimberly Decker, Daniella Retamal and Ashlie Herring tend to a pet cat. The school relocated its headquarters to Valencia this week. Animal Behavior College employees, from left, Kimberly Decker, Daniella Retamal and Ashlie Herring tend to a pet cat. The school relocated its headquarters to Valencia this week.
Animal Behavior College employees, from left, Kimberly Decker, Daniella Retamal and Ashlie Herring tend to a pet cat. The school relocated its headquarters to Valencia this week.

The Animal Behavior College relocated its headquarters to Santa Clarita this week, opening its doors Monday. The company was previously located in Northridge.

ABC is reported to be one of the largest schools of its kind in the nation, offering three certificate programs in animal careers: dog trainer, pet groomer and veterinary assistant.

The school also has training programs in development.

The decision to move the company to Santa Clarita was based on a number of factors, the most important being the economic advantages offered to local businesses such as Santa Clarita’s Enterprise Zone, said Steve Appelbaum, ABC president.

“I’d rather be in a better business-friendly community,” Appelbaum said. “There are better economic opportunities here.”
Forty-five percent of the company’s 64 employees already live in the Santa Clarita Valley and were commuting to Northridge, Appelbaum said. ABC also needed more space, so the decision, based on economic advantages, was made to move to Santa Clarita.

The company packed everything up last Friday, moved into its new headquarters and was ready for business by Monday of this week.

Room to expand
ABC moved into Valencia’s Mann Biomedical Park, expanding to 21,612 square feet from the 6,500 square feet of space it occupied in Northridge.

“We’re probably going to hire 20 to 30 more people in the future,” Appelbaum said. “The new site allows for future expansion.”

The school specializes in career-related training, and developed an innovative program that combines “distance learning” with hands-on education.

Students across the country study courses correspondence-style, taking online exams and working with assigned advisers.

The school pairs students with pet-related businesses where the students gain hands-on experience.

When designing the veterinary-assistant-training program, which launched in 2008, ABC sampled companies from several key markets across the country and found veterinarians were wildly enthusiastic about working with students, Appelbaum said.

“The students get critical hands-on experience, and the vets have the ability to see if that person will really fit into the hospital or clinic before hiring them,” he said.

Big growth industry
The growth in the pet-related industry creates increased demand for training.

The pet-related products were estimated to be a nearly $48 billion industry in 2010. The industry has grown more than 20 percent between 2006 and 2010, despite the Great Recession.

The industry’s growth is evidenced by ABC’s ability to successfully launch two new certified programs during the recession: groomers and veterinary assistants.

Security and film
The business originally began as a professional dog-training program that supplied trainers to PETCO. Eventually, PETCO bought Appelbaum out and brought the program in-house. He then searched for a model that eliminated the need for him to put people into stores and positions across the country.

A security specialist and patrol-dog handler and trainer in the U.S. Air Force, Appelbaum enrolled at the Animal Trainers Career Academy after he left the service, where he learned to train dogs for motion pictures.

A self-described animal lover, Appelbaum said he knew the pet market would transform itself in a big way when he started his first company.  He also said that he was fortunate to have connected with PETCO early on.

His first training company morphed into the centralized business model, ABC, located in the L.A. market, from its origins as a professional dog-trainer school supplying 550 trainers to 400 locations across the country.

Forward looking
Future training programs in the design stage are cat-behavior training and animal nutrition.

The nutritional program can be coupled with other training programs, Appelbaum said, giving vet clinic staffs, groomers and pet handlers a good foundation for working with pets. There’s a correlation between good nutrition, good health and good behavior, he said.

Also the staff at pet clinics is frequently inundated with questions from customers. If the students have more information to offer customers, they become an asset to the companies who hire them. Veterinary clinics with knowledgeable staff bring a higher value to their customers.

Since its inception more than 13 years ago, ABC has enrolled more than 14,000 students so far, expects to continue expanding, making the new headquarters necessary.

The company is looking forward to being a member of the community, create jobs and opportunities in the SCV, Appelbaum said.

He projected the increased hiring would take place over the next 12 to 18 months.

“We’re really excited to be here,” said Appelbaum. “It’s a beautiful location.”


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