what are some signs to look for, that you either shouldn't work there, or shouldn't leave your dog there?
Safety, cleanliness, staff training, and bio-hazard training and mitigation.
I’d want to see double doors that can only be opened one at a time between common areas and certainly access to the outdoors. Dogs and cats can easily escape through even a partially open door.
I’d want to stop by unannounced to watch the cleaning protocol and check that the solutions used are appropriate and safe for use around animals. There are cleaners other than bleach that are safer and don’t need to be rinsed that are developed especially for kennel cleaning. Make sure that the walls, floors, and entrances/exits from each kennel are cleaned between each client and that all floors are washed daily. If pressure hoses are used the animal should be moved to another area. The water and noise can cause extreme stress to animals in a strange environment that can’t escape. How are outdoor areas maintained?
Ask if the kennel checks each animal for fleas and ticks before they enter the facility or interacting with other animals. What are the protocols? The facility should maintain copies of all vaccinations and require that they are current. I wouldn’t take my dogs anywhere that didn’t require complete vaccinations: canine distemper, canine hepatitis, adenovirus cough (kennel cough), parainfluenza, and parvovirus and rabies. Cats should also be vaccinated and screened for feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) if they are able to touch each other in any way.
There is a new trend to make kennels appear “homelike” with soft furnishings and even televisions in kennel areas. I’d rather bring my own dog and cat bedding than assume that the kennel has disinfected these items between boarders. They should be using stainless steel bowls - never plastic. Can you see dishwashers, washers and dryers? Are the cleaning supplies new and themselves clean? I’m not even sure you *can* disinfect a couch!
How are animals transferred from kennel to kennel or to and from the exercise area? They should ALWAYS be leashed, no matter how well trained or docile they appear to be.
I’d expect solid barriers between kennels, not just chain link fence, as that reduced aggression and stress. I’d want that in the outdoor section of the kennel run as well.
How much training do the owners and staff have in terms of bio-hazard (i.e., cleaning) and animal training? Hiring high school kids to clean the kennels and prepare food bowls is one thing. Letting them handle dogs that may be fearful or aggressive is another. Can the staff recognize stress behaviors versus aggressive behaviors and how are they handled? What is the procedure to handle a dog or cat fight? Is a veterinarian called? Are the owners told immediately? Is anyone a qualified animal trainer or is there one on call and what are their qualifications?
Are the staff trained to notice a dog that may be sick versus simply depressed?Is there a veterinarian on 24-hour call? How far is the vet from the facility?
Is someone there 24-hours a day on the property? (What if there is a fire?) Can the staff recognize medical emergencies such as overheating and bloat? What provision is made for severe weather? (In the Midwestern USA we get tornadoes.) Does each kennel have animal identification, owners’ emergency contact info, and the animals’ personal veterinarian information as well as any medication and health needs noted. Feeding amounts and frequency should also be noted.
Do the staff seem happy to be there or just going through the motions? Do they actually love animals or is this “just a job?” Are they 100 percent attentive all the time or on their phones? How long has the longest-term staff member been there (not the owner). What training has that person had? Check the staff turnover rate if you are considering employment. If people come and go that tells you something! How often are the owners on the property? Absent owners indicate lack of attentiveness and concern.
Do the boarded animals appear calm or stressed? Do they constantly have access to fresh water and is that checked at least hourly? Is the building heated and air conditioned? How is feeding handled and is your pet’s food kept separated from other dogs and identified? Is it safely stored and not thrown into a dirty corner?
If there are not attached indoor/outdoor concrete kennel runs how often are the dogs taken out to relieve themselves and for how long? Personally, I prefer my dogs and cats not interact with other boarding animals for safety and health reasons.
What is the staff to pet ratio? Do they bring in extra staff during busy periods when the kennel is at full capacity or are the same handful of people expected to handle 10 pets and also 40 animals? If working there, how long in advance is the work schedule prepared? What is the time off, sick, and vacation policy? Is overtime mandatory? Evening and weekend work? When are the staff paid? Do they employers handle tax withholding? Are there benefits? What is the training period? Is there a written employee handbook/manual available for each staff member addressing the usual Human Relations topics such as chain of command, time-keeping, and complaint procedures?
Unless I was boarding my animals at my veterinarians’ office overnight I would expect them to *not* be kept in crates or confined spaces.
Do you see that the dogs have their own toys in their kennels so that they have something to do all day? Do the staff change (and clean) the toys daily?
Do the staff happily answer your questions and address your concerns? If they have no answers, look confused, or refuse to answer - RUN AWAY.
Would you leave your child there? Whatever your dog or cat picks up at the kennel is coming back into your home…