Pups can once again be pampered with warm-water baths at Arroyo Burro Beach in Santa Barbara, where dog owners have welcomed the new credit card-operated machines.
Santa Barbara County Parks installed two self-service pet washing machines at the popular off-leash dog beach in May, volunteering to fill a void left when the previous vendor vacated and ceased operations late last year.
The parks department even foot the bill, paying $13,000 for each machine that allows pet owners to place their dogs into a metal tub and pay $10 for 10 minutes of rinsing, shampooing, moisturizing, drying and more.
If use remains high, the county could next install pet-washing machines at Lookout Park in Summerland and Waller Park in Santa Maria — where former vendor Monarch Pet Spas also facilitated washes, according to parks operations manager Jeff Lindgren.
“Since (May) it’s just been picking up steam,” Lindgren said.
“There’s no cash handling involved. It seems to be well accepted.”
The county opted to end its contract with Monarch Pet Spas and owner Ed Bertling at the end of last October, claiming he did not meet certain agreements.
According to the contract, penned in February 2009, Bertling was supposed to pay 20 percent of gross revenue from locations back to the county. That percentage was to rise to 25 percent in 2014, lasting through the remainder of a contract ending in 2019.
Monarch Pet Spas operated three pet-washing stations consisting of tile tubs instead of two in the new system, which puts dogs on a raised platform instead of in the dirt and grime they just washed off, Lindgren said.
Water is heated to 72 degrees and pet products are available through a rotating selector.
He called the new machines more sanitary and reliable, since some Summerland residents used to complain the old machines weren’t working.
Bertling, who could not be reached for comment, has threatened to sue the county for ending the contract, but so far nothing official has materialized.
Bertling has recently been involved in a separate breach of contract case, however.
A Santa Barbara judge last month ruled Bertling must pay more than $36,000 to Michele Rangel, who filed suit against his company in January. She alleged Monarch Pet Spas wrote a contract allowing her to franchise a county pet spa location in Summerland in fall 2012 — only the company didn’t have the authority to do so.
Rangel also alleged Bertling took a higher percentage of profits than agreed upon, according to the filing.
County parks staff plan to wait about a year before deciding to buy more machines, the revenues of which go directly back to the department, Lindgren said.
A peak weekend of nearly 100 washes in two days makes officials optimistic.
“We’re trying to be conservative about it,” Lindgren said.
“The public seems to be enjoying them. I think it’s a great alternative to throwing your sandy dog in your car and getting your car detailed later.”