Pet boarding: 10 questions to ask

Angie's List offers advice to pet owners

Pet boarding is a service lots of pet parents end up needing. How do you make sure your pet's needs are handled properly and the experience is safe and appropriate for your pet? Before you spend money and worry, there are some questions to ask staff and things to check with your own eyes.


10 Questions to ask before you board your pet:

  • Are your facilities a doggie daycare or kennel?  There is a difference in most cases.  Doggie daycares offer more time outside of cages and dogs interact and play together.  Kennels keep dogs inside separate enclosures most of the time and may allow for exercise at scheduled intervals.
  • Are you a member of the Pet Care Services Association (PCSA)? PCSA members must commit to quality pet care, comply with all applicable laws and ordinances, and follow the PCSA Code of Ethics.
  • Do you offer cageless options? Most dog owners don't want their pets cooped up in a cage for extended periods while they're away.
  •  If pets are primarily caged, how often are they let out for exercise? It's likely that your pet will not have the same freedom you allow him or her at home. But it's important that pets are let out at least a couple of times daily.
  • Are all the facilities outdoors, or do you have indoor facilities? You don't want your pets exposed to the elements all the time.
  • If there are inside facilities, is there climate control? Chances are if your pet stays indoors with you at home, he or she may be used to climate control.
  • How often are the cages or rooms cleaned? Your pet's kennel space needs to be cleaned.
  • How are emergency situations handled? You want to know that the kennel has access to veterinary services and that you'll be notified if something goes wrong.
  • Do you have webcam access? You may want to check in on your pet while you're gone, and webcams allow you to monitor what's going on.
  • Are you really for my pet?  Even though a kennel or daycare might seem great to you as a human, keep in mind that animals' wants and needs are different.  Check if the facility is really catering to you, the pet parent, or to your pet who is the one who really needs care and attention while you are away.

    3 Cat-specific questions:

    • Are cats housed away from dogs? 
    • Is there enough space for cats to move around comfortably? 
    • Is there enough space between the litter box and food bowls?

    Angie's List Tips: Choosing a pet boarding facility:

    • Take a look: A reputable facility will ask that you bring your pet in to gauge how he/she reacts to the other pets. Use this time to get to know the staff and introduce your pet to the staff. The facility should look and smell clean. Do employees regularly clean up? How is the facility set up? Is it safe for your pet? Are indoor/outdoor runs available? Is there enough space in the sleeping areas? Is the bedding clean and dry?
    • Check their license/certification: Check if your state requires boarding kennel inspections. If so, the facility should display this information.
    • Make sure they offer proper supervision: Ask how many pets the facility accommodates. Do they have enough staff to ensure proper supervision? Do they staff the area 24/7? Do they have a veterinarian on staff?
    • Food and water: Do pets have plenty of fresh water? Food bowls should be washed after every feeding to help prevent the spread of illness.
    • Ask about rates: Some facilities have a checkout time. If you don't pick up your pet by that time you could be charged an additional day. Are there additional fees for administering medication or taking extra walks?
    • Vaccination requirements: A reputable facility will require all pets to be current on their vaccinations and ask for proof of that information.
    • Schedule setup: Ask about the pet's schedule. Most facilities have specific times set up for the pets to eat, play and sleep.
    • Going for walks: Frequent walks ensure newly housebroken pets won't lose their good habits.
    • Get a written contract: The contract should state the price that you are expected to pay and who is responsible for vet bills if your dog is injured or becomes ill. Make sure you get a copy of the contract as a receipt, so you can prove the dog was in their care.
    • Additional services: Some pet boarding facilities now offer grooming and training services. Others even have web cams on their website so you can watch your pet from a computer.

    Angie's List Tips:  Preparing Your Pet for Boarding:

    • Book early: Make your pet's reservation as early as possible; especially during holidays when many kennels tend to fill quickly.
    • Test run: Give your pet a trial run at a boarding facility for a short trip, like a weekend. That allows you to work out any problems before boarding your pet for an extended period should you go out of town on vacation.
    • Be prepared: Be sure to provide the facility with your pet's food and medications, if needed. They should also have your vet's information and a couple of phone numbers where they can reach you in case of an emergency.
    • Consider other options: If your pet has an aggression problem, a boarding facility may not be the best idea. Another option would be to consider hiring a pet sitter to come to your home.

    As always, get three estimates; check animal boarding kennel reviews on Angie's List; and verify a kennel's insurance and, if necessary, licensure information before hiring.

    4 reasons a boarding facility might not be right for your pet:

    • Stress related to staying in an unfamiliar environment. 
    • Proximity to other pets who may expose your pet to health problems. 
    • Older or anti-social pets might not be comfortable around other animals.
    • The drive there could be hard on a pet stressed by car travel.