Local pet store owner details animal care

By Abby Morris
star staff
amorris@starhq.com

  Animals require a lot of care and attention and for pet store owners, it is more than a full-time job.
  "You never get a day off. Animals always have to eat, drink and go to the bathroom," said Kathy Tipton, owner of UpTown Pets on West Elk Avenue. "If you take a day off from cleaning you get so far behind.
  "I don't know anyone else who owns a pet store who puts in as many hours a day that we do."
  The morning begins early for both Tipton and store manager Douglas Estep. The pair stated that they come into the store several hours before the doors open to the public in order to clean, feed and care for the animals.
  Everyday, Tipton, Estep and other store employees come to work early to begin the daily cleaning routine, which Tipton states includes cleaning the enclosures for all the animals, cleaning and sanitizing the water and food dishes, sweeping and mopping the floors and wiping down and sanitizing all of the counter surfaces which hold cages.
  "We split up and one person takes care of the dogs, cats, rabbits and Guinea Pigs, one person takes care of the mice, rats, gerbils and hamsters and one person takes care of the birds," Tipton said. The fish aquariums get a weekly scrubdown and filter cleaning, according to Estep.
  After a morning of cleaning, the store opens for business, but even after closing time, the day's work is not done, according to Tipton. "We come back in between 10 p.m. and midnight to feed the animals and make sure everything is okay," she said.
  UpTown pets is not required to have a license under state law, according to Estep and Tipton, because the store does not sell more than 25 dogs or cats during a single calendar year. "Our best sellers are fish," Estep said.
  Tipton stated that after the fish, the best sellers are the mice and hamsters and then the rabbits. "The dogs and cats are at the bottom of the list," Estep said. Tipton added, "We're a small operation here, a 'Mom-N-Pop's' store."
  In addition to selling animals, UpTown Pets as a free service also keeps a book of individuals wishing to put animals up for adoption and other individuals who are looking to adopt an animal. According to Tipton, the store attempts to help match those looking to adopt pets with those who have pets up for adoption.
   Tipton and Estep not only care for the animals while they are in the shop, they also want to make sure that the animals are cared for once they have found a home. According to Tipton, whenever someone purchases an animal from the store, an employee of the store will talk to them about the care that particular pet needs and will also provide them with an information sheet on the animal and its care if they request it.
  It was Tipton's love of pets which first inspired her to enter the pet store business. Tipton has operated UpTown Pets in Elizabethton for going on four years and she ran a pet store in Johnson City prior to that. "I'll never get rich off of this business but I do get satisfaction from the animals," she said.