Make sure you've got the right boarder for your pet

Mechele Agbayani Mills

For many of us, our pets are more than just animals; they are faithful companions and family members. As much as we may want to take our pets wherever we go, sometimes it’s impossible to take them along.

Every year the Better Business Bureau receives complaints on pet boarding and kennel facilities regarding poor treatment of the animal. Some owners reported their pets returned from boarding kennels severely dehydrated and malnourished or infested with fleas, ticks and even maggots. Worst-case scenarios include pets that became extremely ill from their stay at inferior facilities, which resulted in lengthy stays at the animal hospital.

Leaving your animals can be a high-stress experience for both you and your pets. Choosing the right boarding facility or pet sitter will help ease some of the guilt as well as provide pet owners with peace of mind.

If boarding your pets at a kennel, the BBB advises:

- Do your research. Check for a pet boarding facility’s business review. Get recommendations from other pet owners, your veterinarian or check with the American Boarding Kennels Association.

- Confirm facility’s state licensing. Research your state’s specific animal-to-staff ratio and animal-to-square footage requirements to see if the kennel you are considering meets those requirements.

- Visit the facility. Note the friendliness of staff members. Check the facility for cleanliness and safety of the kennel and cages. Also, be sure to ask if anyone is on the premises overnight.

- Perform a health check. Make sure the facility requires all pets to have proof of immunizations, and ask about procedures for flea and tick control. Ask about procedures in case your pet has a medical emergency.

- Find out about drop-off/pick-up policies. Facilities may not allow you to drop off or pick up your pet on weekend days, or may have very limited weekend hours, resulting in increased cost for the additional days.

- Ask about all fees. Some facilities charge extra for daily walks, etc.

- Ensure your pet’s comfort. Find out if you need to bring your pet’s dog bed, blankets or toys.

If you believe your pet will have a better experience in the comfort of your home, you may want to hire a professional pet sitter. The BBB offers these guidelines:

- Research. Make sure the pet sitter has a good track record by going to for their business review. Ask for references and follow-up. Determine if the sitter is bonded and insured; ask for proof of coverage.

- Meet before leaving. Schedule an appointment to meet with the pet sitter to ask questions and observe the sitter with your pets.

- Services can vary widely. Interview prospective pet sitters to find out what services they provide and whether they are trained to administer any necessary medications or emergency first aid.

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB Hotline: 903-581-8373 or report it via BBB ScamTracker.

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