If you have read “Part One” of this article then you should already have a list of some needs your pet may have. I’ll go over some other, possibly more important needs in this section.
You have already taken some pretty big steps in choosing a boarding facility that will be beneficial to your pet. The goal here is to make sure he is happy. After all you don’t want him to come home after your trip and spend the next week being mad at you, do you?
Before you start calling around to local kennels, let’s add a few more things to your growing list of pet needs. That way you’ll have all the information you need to immediately eliminate some choices.
Does he have a medical condition that may need immediate attention? If he has seizures, is the kennel prepared to deal with it. Does the staff know how to handle it? If your pet has recently had a medical procedure done (i.e. Spaying, neutering, or other surgery) does the staff check the stitches for any problems that may arise? Is there a veterinarian available 24 hours a day? If not, what is the protocol in case of a medical emergency?
Does she routinely need medication? Not all kennels are willing to administer medications to your cat or dog. If they do, make sure they give your pets type of medication. Is it a pill, eye drops, spray, or ointment? If your pet is a diabetic, be sure her insulin injections won’t be a problem. Does the staff record who is giving medication and when they are giving it? Even something like occasional saline eye drops can have a huge impact on the comfort and health of your pet if it is not being administered properly. There may be a fee for giving medications so be sure to ask about it.
If you have a dog, figure out how many times he needs to go outside for a potty break. You’ll want to know this when you call around. You can find out what the standard allowance is and if extra potty breaks are available.
Does the kennel offer a “playtime” or exercise for dogs? Dogs like to play. It’s their time to run about and jump and fetch. If your dog would benefit from a “playtime”, you’ll want to know if it is offered and if there is an additional fee involved. Also make a note to find out how long the playtime lasts, how many playtimes are allowed and if there will be other dogs in the same play area. If the play area is outdoors, find out what happens in case of rain or more severe weather.
Does your pet have a lot of “luggage” to bring with her? In many cases, a pet feels more “at home” if they have some of their own familiar things with them. It would be a toy, a bed, or a blanket. If you feel this will help her, find out if you can bring her belongings. Some places even require owners to bring bedding. If you choose not to bring bedding, be sure to find out what bedding is available. Many facilities offer soft padded bedding or raised cots.
What does your pet eat? If he is on a special diet, or even if he’s not, can you bring his food? It is recommended that an animal’s diet not be changed frequently, so it may be in our pet’s best interest to bring his own food. However, it wouldn’t hurt to ask what is available at the kennel. Many times, the company offers top quality brand name pet foods such as Purina, Science Diet, Hill’s Prescription Diets, and Pro Plan.
It is time to shop around. Grab the phone book and your list of referrals and start calling around. Don’t just stay in the immediate area, either. If there is a highly recommended kennel 20 miles out of town, call them. It’s not unusual for people to drive 50 miles to take their pets somewhere they feel their animals will be comfortable.
Everything on your list can make or break a deal so this is the information you need to find out now, over the phone. It would be better to eliminate a company now instead of waiting until you’re making a reservation to find out the facility can’t accommodate your pet.
While making your phone calls, take notes. It is a good idea to take notes for each company on separate pieces of paper. Ask yourself, “Is this person friendly?” (They represent the company). “Is this person knowledgeable?” (Again, they represent the company) “Is this person helpful even when they don’t have a favorable response to my question?”
Ask about vaccine requirements for boarding. Vaccines that should be included are current rabies, distemper, parvovirus, and bordatella vaccines. Ask the receptionist to define a “current” vaccine for you. A veterinarian may give a bordatella vaccine annually while a kennel may require it every 6 months.
Don’t forget to find out the standard overnight rate for your pet and everything that rate includes. Is there a fee associated with Sunday pick-ups? If your vacation plans change, are you able to pick up your pet earlier or later? However, unless the fees are way out of your price range, don’t use the price alone to make a decision.
In a case where the company is obviously not going to work for you because of available accommodations, you may want to ask the receptionist of other facilities that may offer what you are looking for.
If all your questions are answered satisfactorily, book a tour. Visiting the facility and taking a tour may seem like a waste of time to some people, but you can tell a lot about a company by seeing it’s “inner workings”. See if you can bring your pet along to meet the staff. While this isn’t necessary, it may give you an idea of how your pet will interact with the people who would be caring for him.
If you are not allowed to take a tour, ask why. Even if you cannot tour the areas where animals are kept, you should be allowed to view them through a window of some sort.
While taking a tour, pay attention to details and ask a lot of questions.
How do the building and surrounding grounds look?
Does the parking area appear to be safe with minimal traffic? Remember, you will be getting your animal in and out of the car here.
How are the pets identified?
Are collars removed? Leaving a collar on can be a potential choking hazard.
How do they store individual animal’s belongings so they don’t get mixed up?
Are there laundry facilities within the building in case your pet has an accident on his bedding?
How often do they get fresh water?
When do they eat? Do staff members monitor how much food is being consumed? Are they willing to separate animals for feeding if needed?
When do they get potty breaks?
If you are boarding your cat, find out how often the litter box is changed.
Is the temperature comfortable? Is there heating and air conditioning?
Do the animals look comfortable? This may be hard to determine. Let me warn you that a new face in the kennel will cause a lot of commotion. The animals, being the curious creatures that they are, will jump up and start barking or meowing furiously.
Check out the floors of the runs. Are they solid concrete or are there grates to allow “potty accidents” to flow through?
Ask how the areas are cleaned and how often? Are they regularly disinfected?
When touring the “play” grounds, particularly if they are outdoors, note the ground covering. Is it blacktop? Gravel? Grass?
Is the area fenced? Is there a covered area or shade in the yard?
Although they are very important, don’t go by price or appearance alone. Probably the most important asset of a boarding facility is the staff. They are the people who will be in direct contact with your pet, responsible for his care. Are you comfortable around the staff? If you brought your pet along, how does he react to the staff? Does there appear to be a sufficient number of staff members on duty? Working in a boarding facility is a physically and emotionally demanding job. Do staff members appear to enjoy their jobs even after a long day? Do they seem to give personalized attention or will your pet become “just a number?”
Ask if the facility is a member of ABKA (American Boarding Kennel Association) and if staff members are accredited. Although being accredited means the staff is knowledgeable in the proper procedures for caring for your pet, you want to be sure they use the knowledge, too.
Finally, what other services or “perks” are available? Can your pet get a bath or grooming services before she comes home? Since your pet is already there, can you enroll him in training classes?
There are a lot of questions and answers to consider when choosing a pet care facility. Once you have all the information, you should have a good idea how a typical day in the facility will be for your pet. Carefully go through the information and weigh the results. It does take time, but by being prepared and being thorough, you can rest assured you have done everything you could to make sure your pet will be well taken care of. She will be happy staying at the kennel, and she will always be happy to return home to you.
For more information on finding a pet care facility, read the free ABKA online publication titled “How To Select A Pet Care Facility.” It includes good, solid information about kennels and daycare facilities for your pet.