Paws en route: A Transportation Business Dedicated to Treating Pets Like Family, Not Cargo 

March 13, 2024

When Dacia Rohlehr experienced heartbreak, she turned tragedy into opportunity. In 2016, Rohlehr had a sick dog who needed transportation from a veterinary emergency clinic near her home to a larger hospital with specialists who could provide needed treatment.  

Without access to a car, she asked the clinic to arrange transportation to the other vet. Their reply propelled her to reevaluate the entire pet transportation market. “The clinic said: Sorry, a service like that doesn’t exist,” said Rohlehr. “There was no taxi, Uber, or other service that would transport us. I started to wonder if there are any other pet parents like myself that go through this, especially people who don’t have cars and need to get to the vet.” 

Sadly, Rohlehr’s dog ultimately passed away from his illness, but the experience strengthened her resolve to ensure that no one should have to endure the stress of finding safe, reliable pet transportation. In 2017, Rohlehr founded Paws en route, a ground and air travel solution for pets. 

Operating on a philosophy of Reliability, Experience, Safety, and Trust (R.E.S.T. Assured), Paws en route started primarily as a local service for those needing to get their pets to and from appointments, daycare, kennels, and airports. It has since grown to include 70 drivers across Canada and worldwide partnerships that allow Rohlehr to safely transport pets across the globe by air. “As things started to get back to some sort of normality after Covid and people started to travel, we started to see a lot of requests for international transportation and so we decided to include that service in our overall offerings,” said Rohlehr. 

Paws en route will plan an animal’s flight from takeoff to landing, ensuring ground transportation to and from the airport, all necessary travel/medical documents, and a contingency plan in case of any flight delays. “We remain competitive by fostering our partnership relationships,” said Rohlehr of how her team deals with travel hiccups that may arise for a pet. “Having boarding facilities and other service providers in the pet industry helps us to provide a solution when things change that are beyond our control.” 

Transportation is not limited to dogs and cats. Paws En Route has provided transportation for chinchillas, potbellied pigs, rabbits, geckos, birds, and rats! Rohlehr noted one of her most memorable clients was someone who owned a pet rat named Louie, who needed daily transportation to and from his daycare. “We are very meticulous in how we define pet,” she said, reflecting on the different animals she has arranged transportation for throughout the years. “You cannot discount what someone considers a pet.” 

Self-funding the business from inception, Rohlehr watched her revenue triple during Covid but remarks that funding a business can come with some difficulties. “The company is poised for growth, but it’s been challenging trying to get funding to push the company to the next level,” she said.  

Capitalizing on DELIA (an affordable lending solution for women-owned businesses across Canada) has allowed Rohlehr to expand her team to include someone who can help support the technology requirements associated with Paws en route. “I found applying for the DELIA loan to be a very pleasant experience – it wasn’t drawn out,” said Rohlehr. “A long-drawn-out process isn’t going to work for founders who need to have capital infusion to help their business grow.” 

With the support of FedDev Ontario and ISED Canada, DELIA is offered by NCFDC and is committed to providing loans to Canadian women-owned enterprises for business startup, stabilization, and expansion. “The creativity, the innovation, the leadership, it comes from women like Dacia,” said Wendy Curtis, Executive Director of NCFDC. “DELIA financing simply helps to unleash the full potential of women-owned businesses across Canada, including Paws en route. Our organization is excited to be a part of this national momentum towards gender equity in access to capital.”  

The future of Paws en route is infinite as Rohlehr looks ahead at what is to come and continues to grow her business. She envisions a C-level team that will help lead her business and she is currently working on an app that will allow customers to track their pet’s travel in real-time.  

For Rohlehr, who started her career on the trading floor for the Bank of Montreal and then went on to consult for the energy and electricity sectors, Paws en route was founded in response to a personal need and then became her calling. “I went down a path and I have no regrets,” said Rohlehr. “If I had to give any advice to future entrepreneurs, it would be to always follow your dreams and don’t let the challenges make you weak – let them make you stronger.” 

Click here to learn more about DELIA and apply today. 

 

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