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If you've got a pet, chances are you'll need a kennel at some point. Lots of pet owners go with in-home pet-setting services, or take their pets along with them on out-of-town trips – but Tabby probably isn't welcome at a work retreat in Tahoe, and let's face it, sometimes you want a vacation from the pets themselves.
But you also want the boarding facility you pick out to be safe and comfortable for you pet. Lynn Gensamer, the executive director of the Humane Society for Greater Savannah (Georgia), listed a few key ways to make sure you're getting the best kennel experience for your pet in a recent article.
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Her first recommendation: research the kennel beforehand. A lot of kennels have websites with virtual tours, or even cage-cams where you can look in on what's going on; you can also read up on customer reviews, or check Yelp to see if your neighborhood kennel is highly rated.
You can also learn a lot from an in-person visit, which any kennel of repute should be happy to accommodate. Take a tour; make some notes. Gensamer says that the whole place – "kennels, play yards, dog runs and rooms – should be clean and odor-free." Check both dog and cat areas, and talk to staff, especially the ones who'll be interacting with your pet. Mention any special needs, and make sure the kennel is equipped to deal with dietary issues, special beds for arthritic pets, or whatever specific extras your pet might require. Get a sense of how Fido or Fluffy will be spending the days – do they get to play outside and/or with other guests?
Gensamer also suggests word-of-mouth research – asking friends and neighbors where they send their pets (or where they won't send them again). Some kennels, like some vets, just do better with dogs than cats, or with "behaviorally challenged" animals than with seniors; fellow customers are the best source for that kind of info.
What to check next, after the jump.
When you've found a kennel you like the looks (and smells) of, Gensamer says it's time to check two key facts. First, ask about the proof-of-vaccination requirement. To get licensed, a kennel must have records of proof of current vaccinations for each animal on-site; you don't want an infectious disease running rampant through the facility – and then your cat or dog – while you're away.
Next, determine the employee-to-pet ratio. This is where taking the tour and getting a sense of the place comes in handy – do the staff seem overwhelmed, like they have too many dogs to walk or too many tasks to take care of? Does the kennel have enough people working to give pets not just food and water but grooming, playtime, any socializing exercises that are necessary? A harried staff could mean your dog gets only a brief walkies twice a day, or your cat misses a scheduled medication she needs at a specific time. You also want to determine that there's someone at the kennel around the clock. A 9-to-5 facility isn't ideal, especially if your pet has medication needs or behavioral issues.
And for some pets, those needs and issues can mean that the right kennel is actually your home. Gensamer notes that, for some animals, pet-sitting is preferred – dogs who suffer from separation anxiety or general fearfulness outside the house; pets who hate the car; and pets who aren't used to or don't do well with other animals may be best off at home.
Share your own tips for finding the best kennel for your kitties and canines in the comments.
— Sarah D. Bunting
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