It all started when David Marom watched a segment on Good Morning America about Howdy Homemade Ice Cream in Houston, which employed adults with autism and other special needs. Immediately inspired, Marom called up his daughter, Jillian Forman, and said “let’s do this.” 

Their idea to employ others with special needs turned out to be opening a nonprofit doggy daycare that opened its doors earlier this month at 1510 Gates Avenue, called Pawsability Dog Club Inc. Once the training curriculum is finalized by the end of April, Forman says they will work towards recruiting individuals with special needs to participate in the program with the expectation of hiring them once successfully completing their doggy daycare course.

Pawsability’s website says the company’s goals are to provide employees with a structured and meaningful work environment. Their location on Gates Avenue includes, among other things, an outdoor dog run.

“Each of the co-founders [David Marom, Justin Forman and Sandi Gluck] and I have someone in our lives with a disability. We’ve all been bystanders as we have seen them struggle,” Jillian said in an interview. She continued: “[Adults with autism] are not set up for success. They have a hard time interviewing and employers don’t know how to interview those on the spectrum.” Forman says that a personal inspiration behind Pawsability is a member of her family who currently lives at the Center for Discovery, a research center that specializes in disabilities that occupies the Hudson Valley town of Harris, New York.

Always wanting to work in the nonprofit world and already having some experience volunteering in dog shelters, Forman and the others had landed on the idea that a sustainable businesses model could be found in the pet market, specifically doggy daycares.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the ASPCA had reported that one in five households around the country had acquired a pet. With increasing numbers of pets being brought into homes and employees heading back to the office, doggy daycares are booming. According to the American Kennel Club, doggy daycares have experienced a six percent jump in the number of dog owners who turn to daycares, from 22% to 28%. 

To train their employees with special needs, the people at Pawsability say they will eventually run a six week course aimed at adults with autism spectrum disorder. Four hours a day will be spent doing hands-on learning and one hour each day will be spent on an online course from an online dog lifestyle brand called The Dog Gurus – “Knowing Dogs 101.” Trainees will later be hired to work at the reception desk, as pet counselors, dog brushers as well as dog walkers.

Pawsability’s founders say they are working directly with the group AHRC New York City, to staff Bushwick’s newest dog daycare business. They also have a relationship with the Invictus Bakery, which runs a similar sort of business in downtown Brooklyn. Pawsability inked a deal to sell Invictus’ dog treats, as well. 

Forman also says that Pawsability has been working with Brooklyn Autism Center, a private nonprofit school that works with kids between the ages of five to 21 with autism. “The Brooklyn Autism Center actually introduced me to Invictus. To prepare for our training program, BAC is visiting Pawsability next week to share best practices and recommendations for working with our trainees.”

“[Adults with autism] are not set up for success. They have a hard time interviewing and employers don’t know how to interview those on the spectrum,” Jillian Forman (above) says. One of the people behind Pawsability, Forman said that a personal inspiration behind Pawsability is a member of her family who currently lives at the Center for Discovery in the Hudson Valley.

Some of Pawsability’s thoughtful touches that have been already implemented. In the break room are sound absorption panels to reduce noise and walls that are painted a calming, sage green. 

Amenities that make Pawsability stand out from some of the other dog daycares in the local industry include having an outdoor dog run on the building’s property as well as an indoor kenneling system, as well as offering pick-up,drop-off services, grooming and training services. They hope to be able to look after up to 40 dogs at a time.

A full day at Pawsability will cost $35, while a half day costs $25. They’ll also be selling monthly unlimited packages as well, with some incentives if joining before June 30.

“Pawsability wants to increase customer awareness about people on the spectrum,” Forman says when laying out Pawsability’s mission. “To have those who are not exposed to individuals with disabilities understand what the real normal is.”

Pawsability Dog Club is located at 1510 Gates Ave. and open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

All photos taken by Kylie Becker for Bushwick Daily.

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