By Sara-Megan Walsh
Travelers are used to parking their car, but few have likely thought about parking their dog.
The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport will be the first place on Long Island to host a DogSpot, a smart dog house where pet owners can make sure man’s best friend has a comfortable place to rest while they take in the museum’s exhibits.
“I’ve always felt bad turning away people who weren’t aware they couldn’t bring a dog onto the property even though we have 43 acres,” said Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the Vanderbilt Museum.
In recent years, Reinheimer said he has seen a growing number of visitors who want to bring their canine companions with them while traveling. Unfortunately, this poses a number of issues for the museum, according to the executive director, due to the delicate nature of its exhibits, the Vanderbilt mansion and the potential issues that could arise between dogs and other guests.
Chelsea Brownridge, co-founder of DogSpot, said her smart dog house was designed to offer businesses an alternative to turning away potential customers, or guests, and their four-legged friends.
“We started this company with the mission of giving people a safe way to lead active lives with their dogs,” she said. “They now have a safe alternative to tying them up, as you see in walkable communities, or leaving them in the car.”
Brownridge said a DogSpot modular dog house is made of veterinarian-grade, nonporous plastic fully ventilated with air conditioning to control the temperature. Pet owners can call the museum in advance to reserve the kennel for up to 90 minutes at a time.
“The summer months are a great time to start doing this, as this time of year it gets more dangerous to leave your dog in the car,” she said.
The housing units also contain an ultraviolet sanitation light, built into the roof, that zaps the unit between uses to eliminate any germs or bacteria, according to Brownridge, to prevent the spread of communicable diseases like kennel cough. It is also serviced once per day, cleaned inside and out by hand to remove any muddy paw prints or dog hair.
Reinheimer said the smart dog house will be installed near the museum’s gatehouse, adjacent to the parking lot, as the building is manned round the clock by personnel. That way, if a dog needs help or is in distress,
museum staff will have a way to access the unit and help the animal.
“I think it would probably do well in Northport and give people in town something to talk about.”
– Flemming Hansen
Pet owners can download the DogSpot app on their smartphone, allowing them to view their dog through the dog house’s webcam to check in. There is a 24/7 hotline where users can report any problems, such as a malfunctioning air conditioner or a lost key card.
“Each house is internet connected, so we can handle a number of issues remotely including checking the temperature and unlocking it if necessary,” Brownridge said.
There have been 50 DogSpot houses deployed across Brooklyn outside grocery stores, restaurants and coffee shops as part of a pilot program for the last two years. The company’s co-founder said it went well, but they have temporarily been pulled as they work with city officials to figure out long-term rules and regulations.
“We are currently expanding on Long Island and other places on private properties,” Brownridge said.
One Northport business owner, Flemming Hansen of Copenhagen Bakery & Café, said he already has an interest in having a unit outside his shop. Hansen said he gets a lot of customers who come by with dogs, that cannot be allowed to enter the bakery.
“A lot of people are very protective of their dogs and treat them like a child, they are part of the family,” he said. “I think it would probably do well in Northport and give people in town something to talk about.”