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8 Signs of a Bad Boarding Kennel

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8 Signs of a Bad Boarding Kennel


By Monica Weymouth


Getting ready to leave for vacation can be hectic. There’s work to square away, suitcases to pack, neighbors to inform and thirsty petunias to consider. One thing you don’t want to overlook? Thoroughly researching your pet’s boarding kennel. Not all facilities are created equal, so we checked in with the experts for some common red-flags and signs that you should book Fluffy a room elsewhere.

Reluctant Tours


Your dog can’t call you to report a problem, and cats rarely text back. With that in mind, it’s important to personally inspect the boarding facility. “You should physically see the space your pet will be kept in, and the staff should want you to see it and be proud of it,” says Carmen Rustenbeck, executive director and founder of the International Boarding and Pet Services Association (IBPSA), which provides education and certification programs. “If they aren’t happy to show you the facilities, no matter how many good reviews they have, I wouldn’t leave my pet there.” Showing up unannounced and asking for a tour is the best way to get a feeling for what the place is like on a day to day basis.

Unpleasant Smells


As pet parents know, accidents happen. That said, you shouldn’t be greeted with unpleasant odors when arriving to the kennel. “There’s no reason a facility should smell,” says Rustenbeck. Even if things do seem sanitary, she recommends asking what type of cleaning products are used to make sure they’re pet-friendly. 

No Vaccination Paperwork


When checking your pet in, a reputable kennel will ask you to provide paperwork documenting your pet’s vaccination history. If not, your pet is at risk of contracting a potentially serious illnesses. 

Lax Emergency Plans


The kennel staff should be able to provide you with a detailed emergency plan that’s both species-specific and location-specific. If the kennel is in a flood-prone area, for example, they should know how to evacuate the cockatoos and the Chihuahuas. Furthermore, make sure to ask about around-the-clock staffing. “A lot of people assume that there’s a human on-site 24 hours, but that’s not always the case,” warns Rustenbeck. “If there isn’t, you need to know what happens if there’s an emergency at the facility and no one is there.”

Untrained Staff


Although the industry is largely unregulated, check to see if your kennel went the extra mile and invested in training. “We firmly believe that anyone who works in a pet care facility, including the receptionist, should be trained in pet care,” says Laaman. “They’re getting up and going to work every morning and taking on a huge responsibility.”

One-Size-Fits-All Playgroups


It’s important that your dog has plenty of opportunities to play and socialize while at a boarding facility, but it’s also important that everyone is safe. “Playgroups should be divided by size and by temperament,” says Rustenbeck. “Sometimes we forget that all dogs have their own personalities. If you have a 75-pound geriatric dog, you don’t want to just put him with the larger dogs—he may be big, but he’s probably less playful.”

Inadequate Outdoor Areas


Simply having access to the outdoors isn’t enough. Make sure the area is clean, that dogs have access to shade and water, and that there is a high, double-fence system to prevent any escapes. That said, pet parents have to do their part, too. “If your dog is a gymnast, no matter how high the fence, let the facility know,” advises Rustenbeck.

No Report Card


When it’s time to check out, you should expect to hear about how your pet did—after all, your pup can’t quite fill you in on the ride home. “Minimally, they should be able to provide you with a verbal report of how well your dog did, and there should be some detail—who their best friend was, how they were eating, how were their walks,” says Laaman. 

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  • Jan at the Ranch
    07/25/2016 10:55pm

    I can never, and I mean NEVER, see beyond the first page of any of the petMD.com posts on FB. Why is that? I guess from now on I just won't click on anything of theirs/yours.

  • 07/27/2016 04:15am

    I have the same experience..... no matter what I have tried, I also cannot get the slideshow to advance. Very frustrating. Would be nice if someone from PETMD.com would acknowledge the problem and let us know if their site will be made functional.......

  • 08/15/2016 10:38pm

    I can't get past the first page, but I'm using Firefox. When I switched to my Windows browser it worked.

  • Useless
    07/27/2016 04:50pm

    I cannot NEVER get past the first page.

  • TERRIBLE advice
    08/13/2016 12:00pm

    I only got through two reasons and couldn't believe the logic so I didn't bother to read anymore. I own a small boarding kennel in a rural area. I'm normally the only person here. If you show up without calling and think I'm going to leave my guests unattended because you're trying to 'catch' me doing something wrong, guess again. I'm sorry, but that's just rude and inconsiderate and you're putting my other clients at risk.

    Secondly, as far as the smell, you might be correct in that the place should be clean, but on occasion, a client doesn't potty his/her dog prior to entering my reception area and the dog has an accident before I have a chance to finish checking the client in and getting the dog outside. Are you saying that if the next person walks in and smells that accident from five minutes earlier, it's a terrible place?

    This article was clearly not written by anyone in the boarding business.

  • JCM's Luxury Pet Resort
    01/08/2017 07:00pm

    This comment has been flagged as inappropriate.