Planning for holidays can be hectic and stressful. It can be made even more stressful when trying to make the best arrangements for the family pet, keeping the best interests of both you and the family pet in mind. The decision to use a boarding kennel, in itself, is often a very stressful decision, as loving and devoted pet owners fret over leaving Fido or Fluffy behind. The following is some helpful advice when looking for appropriate care for your pet.
Finding a Good Kennel
- The Internet: The Internet is an extremely valuable resource for those who are seeking a pet care facility for the first time. Many boarding and daycare facilities take the anxiety out of the first visit through features offered on their Web sites. Many pet care facility Web sites offer virtual tours of the facility and the option to make boarding or daycare reservations online. Pet owners are also often able to download the boarding or daycare agreement, vaccination requirements, or other paperwork prior to coming to the facility.
- Yellow Pages: In addition to the Web site, an ad in the Yellow Pages is often the primary method of a pet care facility’s advertising. Remember, though, the size of the ad is no indication of quality.
- Recommendations: Satisfied customers are the best recommendation that a pet care facility can receive. Ask your friends and neighbors about their experiences. Check with your veterinarian or animal shelter or ask the facility in question for references.
- Better Business Bureau: If your community has a Better Business Bureau, a phone inquiry about your local pet care facility is appropriate. Ask about the reputation of a specific business and if any complaints have been lodged against them.
Evaluating a Pet Care Facility
After finding your local pet care facilities, a personal visit is essential in determining whether the facility will be satisfactory. Ask what the facilities policies are on receiving a tour. Can the tour be unannounced, or is an appointment needed? During your visit observe or ask about the following:
- Water: At boarding facilities, individual containers filled with clean drinking water should be available to each animal. Water should be checked and changed frequently.
- Food: Feeding procedures vary in each pet care facility. Some facilities supply preferred brands of food, which they serve to all boarders; however, they usually allow you to bring your pet’s favorite food if you wish. Other facilities maintain a stock of the most popular brands and feed whatever you request. Still others require that you bring your pet’s food with you when you check in. Determine the business’s policy and if there are any additional charges for special feeding arrangements.
- Veterinary Services: Ask if the kennel is trained in basic animal first aid. Also ask about the procedure for obtaining veterinary service, if required. Some pet care facilities retain the services of a preferred veterinarian for their facility. Others prefer to use your pet’s veterinarian so that there will be a continuity of care.
- Immunization Requirements: Ask if pets are required to be current on all annual vaccinations including the vaccine for canine kennel cough (Bodatella).
- Medication Policies and Procedures: If your pet is taking medication, advise the business operator of the nature of the problem. Many facilities will not accept animals requiring excessive medication (more than three times per day, or nighttime medication, for example). Ask if there is an additional charge for administering the medication. If your pet has any health conditions, please discuss them with the operator prior to enrolment. Provision for Animal Comfort
- Temperature Control: The facility should be able to maintain temperatures within healthful, comfortable limits for your pet. If you have an older pet or a pet that requires warmer or cooler accommodations than are normally provided, determine if special arrangements can be made.
- Ventilation: Good ventilation helps minimize the spread of airborne bacteria and viruses.
- Light: Lighting should be at comfortable levels during the day.
- Bedding: Find out what arrangements are made for pet bedding. Some facilities provide resting platforms or bedding. Others require that you bring bedding from home. Check if there are any restrictions on owner-provided bedding (wicker beds and feather pillows, for example, may not be accepted).
- Sleeping Quarters: As you know from observing your pet, most of his or her time is spent resting or sleeping. Your facility should provide a place for this purpose (a primary enclosure). It should be clean and dry and roomy enough for your pet to stand up comfortably, turn around easily, and stretch out.
- Exercise Area: All animals require exercise, but the requirements for dogs and cats are different. Dogs: Exercise time will depend upon the facility’s layout. In some facilities, dogs are allowed free access to their own individual exercise runs during the day. Other facilities use a “time-sharing” method for scheduling exercise. In such facilities, make sure that the time allowed and the frequency of exercise periods are adequate for your dog. Cats: Because cats exercise isometrically (by stretching), and because they are not pack animals that need, or enjoy, the company of other animals they do not necessarily require separate exercise areas, but are content when housed in roomy primary enclosures. However, some facilities also provide play areas for those cats that appear to enjoy the additional space. Whether or not your facility provides such play areas, your cat’s primary enclosure should be large enough to permit stretching and moving around and should contain a regularly cleaned litter box.
As a customer, you are entitled to be treated in a friendly, professional manner. Furthermore, a facility’s customer-handling practices are a reflection of their awareness of their responsibilities to you, the customer, and to themselves as professionals. Therefore, you should observe the following:
- Personnel: Personnel should demonstrate a high level of understanding and concern for your pet through their questions, their animal handling techniques, and their attitudes.
- Appearance of Facility Grounds and Office: All property should be neat and well-maintained.
- Rates: Rates should be easily available. Be sure that you understand the method of calculating charges. Some facilities have a checkout time after which you are charged for an additional day. Others charge by the night or day.
- Agreement or Contract: There should be some type of agreement which states pet owner’s rights and the pet care facility’s responsibilities. This type of form protects both you and the facility from any misunderstandings in these areas.
- Hours of Operation: Days and hours of business should be clearly posted. If your facility is closed on weekends or holidays, note and respect that policy. On those days, all pets are fed and exercised and the facilities are cleaned and maintained but the facility office is closed and there is no one there to meet customers.
Preparing for Boarding
- Make your reservations early: Most boarding facilities are booked up on holidays and during vacation times. If you wait until the last minute to make your reservations, you may be disappointed. As you make your reservations, verify those items which you should bring with you to the facility, such as immunization records, special food, medication, bedding and toys.
- Prepare your pet for boarding: If your pet has never been boarded before, you might consider short, overnight stays at the facility prior to an extended boarding stay to help him or her get used to boarding. Before boarding for the first time, make sure that all immunizations are current and have your immunization records on hand if your facility requires them. Keep in mind that many boarding and daycare facilities require that pets are spayed or neutered. Make sure you know and understand your pet care facility’s policies on intact pets. Finally, because pets sense and reflect our emotions, DO NOT allow any member of the family to stage an emotional “farewell” scene. Your pets can be made to feel unnecessarily anxious about the facility visit if they are subjected to this kind of dramatic display.
- Check in during normal business hours/Arrive prepared: Allow enough time in the office to fill out the necessary paperwork. Your pet care provider needs to know such things as: name, address, phone number, return date, additional services requested, where you can be reached in case of an emergency, the name of a local contact, your veterinarian’s name and phone number, special feeding instructions (if any) and medication instructions. If your pet has any special problems which are not covered on the check-in forms—such as fear of thunder, epilepsy or deafness—point them out to the staff. All of this information helps your pet care provider take better care of your pet, especially if there is any type of emergency requiring special action. Remember: This is what professional care is all about. Anyone can feed your pet, as long as nothing goes wrong, but what you want for our pet is supervision by someone who can assess and respond properly to emergencies.
Picking Up Your Pet
When you pick up your pet after a stay at a boarding facility there are some things you can do to make the homecoming a happy one for both you and your pet:
- Pick up your pet during normal business hours: Attempting to conduct business after hours is not only an imposition on the facility staff but a possible disruption of sleep for the boarding animals.
- Ask about your pet’s stay at the facility: Did your pet adapt well to facility food, routine and environment? Did he or she display any unusual behavior or require any special handling? This information will be recorded and kept on file to assist facility personnel in caring for your pet during the next stay, but you should also be aware of it in the event that you move or use the services of another pet care facility in the future.
Hopefully, your pet is looking and feeling fine! If not, be sure to speak to the manager or owner. Good communication is important. If you are happy with the kennel, tell others. If you are dissatisfied, it is important to let the kennel know the reasons for your dissatisfaction. Developing a good relationship with a pet care facility will make things a lot easier for your pet, your family and you.
Following the advice listed will result in a pleasurable experience with a pet care facility for both you and your pet. Do your homework in advance and trust your pet care provider to ensure a safe, happy homecoming when you return.