Every day people face the question of what to do with their pets when travel, illness, or family emergencies disrupt normal care. Some pet owners attempt to solve this problem by taking their pets with them, only to discover that hotel restrictions, travel-induced pet illness, and runaway pets can turn their trip into a disaster. Other pet owners turn over the care of their animals to well-meaning but untrained neighbors, or friends. Again, sometimes the results are often unsatisfactory.
Fortunately, the majority of pet owners who find themselves in need of substitute pet care utilize the services of professional boarding kennels. Annually, more than 30,000,000 pet owners recognize that full-time, knowledgeable and experienced boarding kennel operators provide the most dependable, secure and safe pet care available.
Evaluating a Kennel
After finding your local kennels, you can determine the one to use by:
1. Telephoning the kennel. Call to see if the kennel can accommodate your pet. During peak times such as the Christmas season and summer vacations, many kennels are booked up and cannot accept your pet. Also, because some pets require special handling or accommodations (very young puppies, animals on special medication or feeding schedules, or giant breeds, for example), all kennels may not accept them. While you are on the phone, make an appointment to visit the kennel.
2. Making a personal visit to the kennel: A personal visit is essential to determine whether the kennel will be satisfactory. During your visit, observe or ask about the following:
of the kennel proper: Following regular daily clean-up procedures, the kennel should look
(and smell) neat and clean. Kennel operators are proud of their kennels and like to show them off, but some of them do not permit visitors in areas where animals are housed. There are two key reasons for establishing a "No Visitors" policy. First, some dogs react unpredictably to strangers. (They become excessively fearful or aggressive.) As a result, the presence of strangers in the kennel can cause such dogs to injure themselves or develop
intestinal problems. Second, visitors do not follow the same stringent disinfecting
procedures used by kennel personnel, and can transport contagious agents (bacteria,
viruses) into the kennel. However, kennels with a "No Visitors" policy
should provide you some type of viewing window, so that you can see where your pet will be
In visiting your local kennels, you will observe that there are several types of kennel designs currently in use. Some kennels have indoor/outdoor runs; some have totally enclosed facilities; and some house pets inside, but utilize outside exercise areas. Each of these designs has its own advantages, and you should ask the kennel operator to explain the advantages of the system in use at that kennel.
When you are on a trip, your pet may decide to try to "find" you. Because
of this tendency, and because very few homes are designed with pet security in mind, pets
can escape from inexperienced individuals who might be asked to watch your pet.
Boarding kennels, on the other hand, are designed to prevent this kind of accident. During your kennel visit, look for sturdy, well-maintained fencing, gates and dividers
between runs. If your dog is a climber, digger or some other type of
"escape artist" tell the kennel operator so that extra precautions can be taken
(wire covered runs, locks on gates, etc.). Cats always require covered facilities.
Safety: Kennels areas where your pet will stay should be free of sharp objects, harmful chemicals and objects your pet might swallow. Primary enclosures (sleeping quarters) should provide solid dividers between your pet and the other boarders, both for reasons of safety and so that your pet will be able to relax and sleep without feeling challenged by his or her neighbors. Exercise areas should include barriers between runs high enough to prevent male dogs from urinating into adjacent runs. Surfaces should offer good traction even when wet. Firefighting equipment should be readily available.
Proper supervision is the key to good boarding. Pets should be checked frequently
during the day by someone who is trained to recognize the signs of illness and distress.Experience and practical knowledge are required to detect or interpret such
symptoms as lethargy ("I thought he was just sleeping"), severe intestinal
disorders (friends or acquaintances rarely check the backyard for bloody stool), urinary problems (it is almost impossible to detect blood in urine when pets urinate on grass), loss of appetite, coughing, sneezing, or discharges from the eyes or nose. Yet, all of these signs can be significant. Competent kennel personnel are trained to recognize and evaluate such signs and to seek veterinary assistance when needed.
Therefore, you should try to evaluate the competence of the kennel personnel.
One good indication that the kennel operator is keeping abreast of the latest developments in pet care is his or her ABKA membership. Check for a current ABKA membership plaque on the office wall. If your kennel operator has been awarded the CKO (Certified Kennel Operator) designation by ABKA, it means that his or her competence and ethical fitness have been acknowledged publicly by the Association. If the CKO plaque has been awarded, it will be displayed proudly along with the kennel's ABKA membership certificate. Accredited kennels will display a certificate which attests to the fact that the kennel has been inspected and accredited by ABKA, and has met over 200 standards of excellence.
Sanitation: The kennel should be free of dirt, fecal accumulation, odors and parasite infestation (flies, fleas, ticks). There should be a strict schedule of disinfecting with effective chemicals. Note: Since 1978, there have been worldwide outbreaks of an intestinal disease called canine parvovirus. This disease is spread when dogs come into contact with a contaminated surface (clothing, shoes, grass, carpeting, etc.). New vaccines are now available to combat this disease, but until the dog population develops immunity to the disease, it will remain a potential problem. Several professional disinfectants, including bleach at a 1:30 solution are effective against parvo virus. Therefore, if there have been any reports of parvovirus disease in your area, your kennel should be using one of these products for routine disinfecting, in addition to requiring the immunizations.