For people who find critters in their homes, one Hamilton franchisor wants to them to think one word: Skedaddle.
Bill Dowd, owner of Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control, has been in the urban wildlife wrangling business since 1989, helping to move raccoons, squirrels, skunks, birds, bats and mice out of people’s homes.
“We provide hands-on removal so we don’t use traps,” Dowd said during a recent interview from the company’s headquarters in Hamilton. “We go right into the animal’s living space, whether it’s in an attic, a chimney, underneath a deck or a porch and humanely remove the animals, keeping family units together. “
Once the company has removed the animals and made sure the mother and babies stay together, they animal-proof the home to ensure the animals cannot re enter, plus they give homeowners a lifetime guarantee on their work.
While it’s been in operation for 26 years, the business has only been franchising for the past three years. To help with franchising, Dowd brought in long-time franchisor Mike Kernaghan, who has managed six franchise brands with over 400 franchise operators. Kernaghan states that “their partnership is the best of both worlds.
Bill Dowd is the pioneer and leading urban wildlife expert in Canada, with a proven business concept. Our team has over 30 years of franchise experience and you’ll be generously supported by the best franchise management in Canada. That’s our promise”
Currently, Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control has 22 locations servicing over 75 different municipalities in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.
Living with the Animals
Back in 1989 in Hamilton nobody was doing wildlife control, Dowd said, and he, fresh out of university, saw a niche to be filled. The company pioneered its methods and procedures and in every city it expanded into, they were successful.
“Wildlife are in our urban centres, they’re here to stay. They’re not going anywhere,” Dowd said. “They’re damaging, in most cases, people’s biggest investments of their lives; their homes.” And with the kinds of numbers Dowd quotes, it sounds like the company will remain busy. In a square kilometre, the business owner said, there could be anywhere from 15 to 25 raccoons. Recent studies by a York University professor, have indicated that there may be as many as 100 raccoons in a square kilometre in some cities.
Dowd called raccoons the perfect urban critter and said typically it’s the house that’s more of the problem because any home has between 30-50 vulnerable areas that allow animals to get in. He added that people want a long-term and humane solution to urban wildlife in their homes.
Expanding with the Animals
After expanding throughout Canada, Dowd wants to expand into the US. Plus, raccoons are overtaking Europe, so there could be room for expansion there in the future. He pointed to Australia’s opossums as being another pest problem that may lead to expansion.
To see this ambitious expansion, Dowd will need the right people and that means entrepreneurs who enjoy dealing with people as much as they enjoy a challenge. Being an outdoorsy type would help, plus the desire to not be chained to a desk for franchisees who want to be owner operators. They will also have to be real problem solvers, too, because each animal reacts differently and the construction of the various homes they’ll be servicing is vastly different from one to the next.
It all starts with the initial conversation and most people who are enquiring have had a run-in with a wildlife issue in the past. Company reps explain the process of animal extraction, which is an important step because the company often faces misconceptions that they trap animals and relocate them. But, Dowd said, as up to 70% of animals relocated that way die, it wouldn’t fit with the company’s humane ethos.
Once the company and the franchisee have had some back and forth, they are on boarded with the help of webinars and sometimes the company even brings a potential franchisee on the road with them for the day. Skedaddle gets a lot of recent graduates with biology degrees or fish and wildlife management certification. Since there are not many jobs in the wildlife field, being their own boss can be a rewarding career for these recent grads, Dowd said.
Training and Support
Skedaddle has a full training centre in Hamilton that is in a converted house. In addition to a classroom, students get hands on experience screening vents, looking for potential entry spots, and searching a mock up of an attic for hidden stuffed baby animals in the various hiding places. While doing this exercise, they are trained in the proper way to handle the baby animals and how to reunite those young ones with the mother. The training lasts for two weeks.
As for ongoing support, the franchise offers a call centre that is available for franchisees to use to field after-hours calls and book service appointments. They also provide administrative help with sales projections and expenditures. The company offers a clean up service along with the installation of an environmentally friendly insulation once they’re done removing the animals to help homeowners deal with all the aftermath of having animals living in their house. Some of these jobs run into the tens of thousands of dollars to perform and sometimes company reps will drive or fly out to a franchise to help a franchisee quote and assist for one of these massive jobs.
The company is also technologyoriented, Dowd said, and relayed an anecdote about a new franchisee in Halifax who could not figure out how a raccoon kept regaining entry into a person’s house. Using a camera, the franchisee was able to walk around the house while beaming a live feed back to the head office where the entire management team helped him find the alternate entry points just based on what they saw on the live video feed.
It was a tricky way the raccoon was reentering the house, Dowd recalled, not one a new franchisee would spot easily. But, thanks to the technology and his staff’s wealth of experience, they were able to easily help out from thousands of kilometres away.
Turns out homeowners with urban wildlife issues aren’t the only ones Dowd wants thinking Skedaddle. He also wants the right entrepreneurs to be thinking it, too.