Small Enterprise

Graphic designer turns his love of dogs into a bundle of cash

Mr Michael Itotia  with one of his dogs. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU
Mr Michael Itotia with one of his dogs. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU 

The local dog breeding business is booming. Home owners’ need for security is the biggest driving force behind the breeders’ high returns.

It is also a cheaper option for home owners and entrepreneurs compared to hiring security guards.

Rearing dogs came naturally to Michael Itotia at a young age. To date, he keeps pictures of himself with dogs at his rural home, which he groomed well and made sure they were well fed.

As a young man, Mr Itotia dreamed of owning a pack of dogs but developed a passion for graphic design along the way, which he pursued as a career.

His love for dogs, however, did not die. The owner of a printing firm decided to register Zewal Kennels company and venture into dog breeding on his piece of land in Ruiru near Nairobi.

Mr Itotia started off with a few local breeds but later turned to exotic dog breeds due to demand for the species.
Zewal Kennels now boasts of pure breeds sourced mainly from Europe.

“The German Shepherd is the most popular breed, the dogs are both aggressive and ideal for security purposes,” Mr Itotia told the Business Daily.

He rears the Sebo, Long Coat and Short Coat breeds of the German Shepherd too. Mr Itotia also breeds the Malinois, Mastiff, Boerboel, Rottweiler St Bernard, Bull Dog and Presa Canario. He imported the parent dogs to breed for clients who love exotic pets. For instance, he bought the Presa Canario from the Canary Islands.

The price of a three-month-old German Shepherd puppy ranges between Sh50,000 and Sh150,000.

“Some people want a particular breed but importing one is a big hassle and too expensive for them,” said Mr Itotia, adding that it costs between Sh300,000 and Sh400,000 to import a pedigree dog.

One has to consider a number of issues before importing a dog. They include the cost of buying a puppy which is about Sh180,000, import duty, and a certificate from a government veterinary, among other charges, he said.
Mr Itotia said that he sells three to four puppies per month. This number rises to about seven towards the end of the year.

Mr Itotia said that he only breeds dogs and does not train them, unless requested to do so.

Eight years into the business and he has two breeding sites and five employees based in Kiambu County.

Mr Itotia has over the years built a dependable name and brand by remaining true to his vision of breeding the best dogs.

He complained that some unscrupulous breeders have given the business a bad name by passing off unworthy breeds as pedigree.

He gets clients mainly through referrals and an advert at the entrance of his main breeding site next to Ruiru bypass. The business needs a lot of investment in terms of dogs to breed, regularly vaccinations and other treatments, food and grooming.

“Before selling we give them various vaccines such as DHLP which is an immunity booster, and others against rabies and parvovirus,” he said.

Some of the dogs are expensive to keep, especially muscular breeds that eat a lot. This is the reason Mr Itotia buys their food in bulk and stores it in deep freezers.