8 Things to Consider Before Boarding Your Pet

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Ever sign a kennel liability waiver? Most pet owners do not realize that a kennel liability waiver is a contract that dumps most of the risk on them. I’ll tell you the danger signs and how to improve the odds of a great boarding experience by following these easy tips.

  1. Facility. Before dropping off your pet, do an advanced visit to check the site for cleanliness. Ask to see the boarding area and check whether pets have fresh water and clean cages. Do the animals seem scared or content? You can’t know everything from a quick inspection, but your nose and gut will tell you if the facility is sanitary.
  2. Staff. Many kennel owners love pets, but some owners have an absentee relationship with their business. Try to meet the owner and find out which staff members will be on duty during your pet’s stay. Ask about staff qualifications. While most kennel caretakers are capable and loving, the low entry qualifications mean there is potential for staff to be borderline competent. You want to look for staff members who are responsive to your questions and motivated to help the animals.
  3. Routine. You will want to find out what your animal’s routine will be. If you are boarding a dog, will he be walked two to five times a day, or will he be stuck in a cage with minimal breaks? If you have a cat, check to see if she will be caged next to barking dogs or in a pampered suite with room to roam. Find out what an average day looks like for your pet.
  4. Food. You will want to bring food in containers marked with your pet’s name. If you have an animal with special needs, such as hand-feeding, you may be charged extra.
  5. Policies. Top kennels have strict policies requiring proof of vaccinations and flea treatment, while some boarders will take your word and that of any Joe who pays the daily rate. You want the kennel to enforce health policies because that means your pet is likely to be kept safe.
  6. Web cameras. Top kennels are often wired with cameras transmitting canine or feline frolics to your smart phone. For some pet parents, seeing Shelby run with new friends is worth any price. Of course cameras are not necessary, but be aware that an unwired kennel may have something to hide or may be disinterested in updating equipment.
  7. Recommendations. The best kennels stay busy through word of mouth, not advertising. It’s usually a good rule to avoid kennels that offer coupons. Instead ask fellow pet owners for recommendations and check online sources like Yelp. If you can’t decide between kennels, check with your veterinarian for a recommendation, but remember he may have an on-call agreement with a kennel which could mean a bias.
  8. Liability. Be prepared to be handed an agreement that says you are liable for any damage caused by your pet. Before you sign that waiver, make sure you are comfortable with the thought that any damage your pet causes – even if provoked – will be paid for by you. If your pet is taken on a walk by an inexperienced walker who lets go of the leash, you could be liable for a bite or property damage. If your pet is easily agitated, or if you are uncomfortable with a stranger taking care of your pet, you may want to reconsider the idea of a kennel stay. You may prefer to make your pet a traveling companion. But if you really want to board your pet, have your attorney look over the waiver. She may add a note that you will not be responsible for negligence or gross misconduct by the kennel owners or staff. If your pet has behavioral issues, your attorney can make it clear so the kennel has advance knowledge and will bear responsibility. Just remember that when you sign that waiver, you are signing a contract; having your attorney look it over may give you peace of mind and happy vacation memories.