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Pet Know-How for the Masses

A new Web site unites pet owners with all the expertise they need.

Last year between 6 million and 7 million cats and dogs were euthanised at animal shelters in the United States. David Beart believes that with education, this wouldn't happen.

In 1999, Beart and girlfriend Amy Sheppard founded The Pet Professor Inc., a Calgary, Alberta, company that, through its Web site (www.thepetprofessor.com), aims to bring together pet professionals and owners to provide information and resources for both parties. "By having members who are pet professionals submit articles [to our site], [we have information] coming from people who know about pet care," says Beart, 33. "We want to make sure the right information is given out."

The Pet Professor accepts groomers, trainers and manufacturers as members. Members pay $99 Canadian (about $66 U.S.) annually to upload a profile and submit articles.

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To get traffic to the site, Beart and Sheppard, 30, have developed pet information software. With versions for dog and fish owners currently available, the software is distributed through pet stores and contains a link to The Pet Professor's site. The partners are also creating a pet image library for their site that will allow visitors to freely view and download images. Beart is marketing the image library to schools, magazines and graphic designers, hoping word-of-mouth from the image section will get traffic to the informational areas.

Beart is confident The Pet Professor will make a difference, because while there are nearly 200 million cats and dogs living with families in the United States, none of them comes with an owner's manual. "What I don't understand is, when you buy a toaster or something like that, you get a user's manual," he says. "Unfortunately pet stores don't give out such a thing with pets even though a pet is much more complex than your toaster or coffee pot."

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