Many pet owners know that traveling out of town often means a bite out of their wallet because Fido or Fluffy has to be boarded at a kennel, which can get pricey for extended stays.
Of the $55.7 billion Americans spent on their pets in 2013, boarding and grooming accounted for nearly $5 billion, according to the American Pet Products Association.
The main thing to know about boarding kennels is that they can vary dramatically in price and quality.
It’s not always an example of “you get what you pay for.”
So the wise choice for your beloved pet isn’t necessarily pricey boarding, which the American Kennel Club has described as “bed-and-biscuit” resorts with grooming and aromatherapy.
“There’s really no relation between price and quality when it comes to kennels,” said Robert Krughoff, founder of rating service Consumers’ Checkbook, which rates kennels in several markets around the country.
The cost of boarding a medium-size dog with basic care ranged from about $125 to nearly $400 per week when Consumers’ Checkbook conducted its undercover price checks. And many of the lower-priced kennels provided top-quality service, according to pet-owner reviews.
With smart research, you’re likely to be able to find a kennel that’s both reasonably priced and high-quality. Here’s advice on getting good value when you board your pet.
• Herd the candidates. You can ask local friends and relatives for kennel recommendations. But realize that’s a small sample size. Your vet might have a more informed recommendation.
For a broader overview, consider using Consumers’ Checkbook (Checkbook.org) if it’s available in your area, or Angie’s List, AngiesList.com. Both require subscriptions. Yelp.com has free consumer reviews, but you’ll have to take comments with a grain of salt, as with many free review sites.
• Be your own watchdog. Check the Better Business Bureau for complaints at BBB.org, but also consider touring the kennels in person.
• Use your hound senses. Check for excessive odors. “A well-run kennel should not stink of doggy odors,” the American Kennel Club says. Note the overall condition and safety of the kennel and cages, along with the friendliness of staff members and how they interact with boarded pets.
The kennel should require proof of immunization, and ask about policies regarding flea and tick control. “All responsible kennel owners and operators will ask you about your dog’s vaccinations and will require proof of certain shots,” the AKC says.
• Operating hours. Kennel hours, particularly on weekends, are a common complaint. If the kennel is closed on Sundays, for example, you would have to pay for a Sunday-night stay even though you are back in town on Sunday morning. “Sometimes, you can be kind of surprised at that,” Krughoff said.
• Ask about extras. Find out the basics – if the kennel requires you to bring food or whether it will provide food, for example. And ask about extra services. Many kennels will charge more for administering medications to an animal – maybe $4 per day – or, in the case of dogs, providing extra exercise, which can cost an extra $8 or more per day.
• Get it in writing. Get a written contract, Angie’s List advises. The contract should state the price and who is responsible for vet bills if your pet is injured or becomes ill.
• Try it out. It’s a good idea to accustom your pet to longer kennel stays by first boarding the pet during a short trip, such as a weekend getaway, the Humane Society suggests. That allows you to work out problems before boarding your pet for an extended period.