Laura English, owner of the new Pet Planet in Ahwatukee Foothills, knows first hand that not all the products grocery stores sell are actually healthy for pets.

"We lost a dog to cancer at a very young age, and we started to do some of our own research into healthy pet food and health-based treats and chew toys," English said. "We were a bit astounded all those years ago to find what we thought we were doing that was good was perhaps not. That kicked off for us our own extensive learning curve of what this industry is all about, and what healthy pet food really is."

That was the inspiration for opening the first Pet Planet in Canada 15 years ago. Now that English and her mother have established their brand and their concept, they're spreading their wings and moving into the U.S., starting with Arizona. First in Scottsdale, then Phoenix and, finally, Ahwatukee Foothills.

"We spent a lot of time getting to know the area," English said. "My family has been coming to Arizona for many, many years and, therefore, my husband and I have been coming for many, many years. We've fallen in love with the area over the last 20 to 25 years... It was pretty evident to us that this was a good extension for our concept because of the demographics here, and the concept that we bring match very closely. As we started to get to now all of the Valley areas and became aware of the location in Ahwatukee and spent a little time in that community, that location, probably more than any of them, is exactly what we've been talking about. Very family oriented, high population of pets in the family, a very lifestyle driven and health conscious community, and the community is very vibrant."

Though many locations in Canada have a pet resort and spa concept along with them, the location in Ahwatukee focuses on community first and providing strictly healthy products.

"We're smaller-format, community-based stores," English said. "We want to be right in the community and get to know our customers and their pets by name. We want them to visit us on a regular basis and we want to get to know them and their concerns. That's why we position ourselves in communities like Ahwatukee, which is right in the middle of the action. There's not a product on our shelf we haven't done extensive testing on and feel very comfortable with. Even down to the environmental impact. We choose companies to work with that are safe and ethical. That's a critical part of our store. It's necessary that customers trust us and, therefore, that entire supply chain needs to be very solid and very sound."

English says the biggest misconception she sees is people fear with so much effort going into researching products the products will be very expensive.

"We want people to know from the beginning that we consider ourselves, in addition to all that we are, a value retailer," English said. "It's really important to us that we provide these healthy products at the best prices we can. We want people to understand that feeding a healthy diet is actually less expensive. You can make really good decisions for your pets and you can save money as well."

To help with the decision-making process for those who are new to choosing food for their pets, each employee is trained to be able to provide a nutritional consultation.

"As a consumer who's interested in learning more about healthy pet options, you can come in and ask for a nutritional consultation for free," English said. "Through that, we walk you through explaining the differences between the foods on the market. We walk you through understanding what to look for in ingredients and meat content, and the crude analysis. We also give pointers and advice depending on the type of dog you have, and the age. All of those questions lead us to making a recommendation, which is never just one product. We narrow it down to a couple of options, and you can take a few samples home to see if your pet likes it."

For English and her family it's all about treating pets like family and finding ways to keep them around for a long time.

"We do it for our kids and for our families, and pets are part of the family," English said. "We felt that it was time to shine a spotlight on those healthy options and making better decisions for our pets as well."

For more information, visit petplanethealth.com, call (480) 759-2347, or visit the new Ahwatukee location at 4025 E. Chandler Blvd.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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