How to choose a boarding facility for your pet

There can be many hesitations when you are considering a kennel for your dog or cat. Will they be happy? Will they be supervised and taken care of? Most importantly, will they be safe? Here are a few questions for prospective boarding kennels and some key considerations prior to boarding your pet.

1) Touring the facility

-Can you drop-in and view the entire facility prior to boarding, or do they hesitate to show you around when asked. If they do not allow drop-in tours, this is a red flag.

-Does the premise look well-maintained?

-How clean are the kennels, outdoor areas, and staff areas? Is there a pungent or foul smell when you enter the facility? Are there cleaning products readily accessible? Are litter boxes clean? Are dogs let outside for urination/defecation or left in their kennels?

-Is the facility made of sanitizable material (stainless steel, sealed concrete without cracks, or properly-sealed plastic kennels are best). Cracked un-sealed concrete and rubber cannot be sanitized. How often are kennels cleaned?

dog outside

2) Security

-Do they have cameras, security guards, or a security system for after-hours?

-Do they have staff on the premises 24/7 or someone that checks in periodically?

-What is the outdoor fencing like? Could a dog or cat potentially escape the premise? Ask what safeguards are in place to prevent escapees.

3) Vaccination/health status of boarding animals

-Does the kennel require proof of vaccinations (a veterinarian-signed document)? If a kennel does not require proof of vaccination, this is a red flag.

-Do they require pets to be spayed and neutered?

-Do they require ectoparasite treatment (ie flea/lice/tick preventive)?

-The more requirements they have decreases the risk of boarding an un-healthy animal. This leads to lower risk of disease transmission to your pet.

4) Feeding/watering and general comfort

-Is there a fresh source of water available 24/7? How often are bowls checked/re-filled? Are the bowls clean?

-Are they able to feed specialty diets or give medications if needed?

-Is there adequate lighting in the event of a power outage?

-What type of bedding do they provide and can it be washed/sanitized properly?

-Are the kennels large enough for a sleeping area and feeding area? Is there enough room for a litterbox while still allowing room for a sleeping/feeding area?

-Is there proper ventilation in the facility? There should never be a strong smell of animal waste or chemical cleaning products. What temperature do they maintain the facility? It should never exceed 27 degrees Celsius indoors.

-Are cats and dogs housed separately? Cats should be in their own quiet area away from dog noise and activity.

-Cats like to hide and have a vantage point – is there somewhere for them to hide in the kennel or a place to perch?

cat on perch

5) Outdoor areas

-Are outdoor enclosures clean and well-maintained? Enclosures should be ‘escape’ proof with double fencing maintained in good condition.

-Do they offer protection from wind, rain, and cold weather?

-Is there scheduled play/exercise time outside?

dog on fence

6) Staff training

-Is the staff trained in animal CPR? Is there an emergency evacuation plan in place?

-Are they trained in administering various medications if needed?

-Are there protocols in place to get your pet to a veterinarian if needed? Ask what their protocol is if there is an animal emergency.

-What is your first impression of the staff? Do they appear to genuinely care about your pet, appear knowledgeable, and appear responsible? Gut instincts should not be ignored.

7) References

-Will the facility offer to give you references (personal and professional)?

-Are they certified by a third-party such as the Better Business Bureau?

**Take home message – Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions. If they are dodging your inquiries or refuse to answer, go elsewhere. Trust your intuition!

Resource for more information:

Canadian Kennel Code of Practice –

Article referenced: SVMA News May 2017, Volume 52, Issue 2, Pages 18 and 19. Authors Patricia Cameron, Dr. Karen Machin, and Dr. Anne Allen.