Pet Boarding 101

How to Choose the Right Boarding Facility

These dogs are having a ball at a pet  boarding facility's "playground."
These dogs are having a ball at a pet  boarding facility's "playground."
Darren McCollester/Getty Images

­It's important to ask the right questions when you're checking out a place to board your pet, but it's even more important to visit the facility in person. 

You can narrow down your boarding kenn­el selection over the phone by asking a few questions -- for example: Is your facility a member of the of the American Boarding Kennel Association (ABKA)? The ABKA is a trade association that works to promote professional standards in boarding facilities. Members of the ABKA must agree to a code of ethics and may participate in voluntary inspections of their kennels.

You should also ask how the kennel deals with animals that become sick while the owner is away and how it deals with an animal that seems unusually stressed or anxious. If your pet requires special food or medications, ask if the kennel can accommodate your needs. If you have more than one pet you'll be boarding and you'd like them to be housed together, ask if the kennel allows that. You might also save money doing this.

Make sure you understand how you'll be billed and what time you should dr­op off and pick up your pet to ensure you're not billed for additional days. If the dogs are kept inside and taken outside for exercise, ask how much exercise they'll get each day. Also ask what accommodations are made for exercise when the weather is bad. By posing these questions, you should get a general idea how each kennel works and which ones seem reasonable.

Once you've narrowed down your choices of boarding facilities, visit each one and look around. A reputable boarding facility will have no issue with you visiting before making reservations for your pet. Look for clean facilities with plenty of light and adequate ventilation. The temperature should be comfortable. The staff should be interested in the animals, call them by name and act affectionate and caring. The cats should have ample room to move between food areas and litter boxes. Concrete is easy for facilities to keep clean. But animals should be able to lie somewhere soft as well.

Lastly, there's one more step to take before making reservations. Call your state's Better Business Bureau and ask if the kennel you're considering has any complaints. If that report comes back clean, make reservations with confidence.

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More Great Links


  • American Boarding Kennels Association.
  • Eldredge, Debra M. et al. "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook." 2007.
  • The Humane Society of the United States.
  • Overall, Karen L. "Treating Anxiety is Different than Managing Problem." DVM Newsmagazine. Jan. 1, 2003. (Jan. 8, 2008)