Three Tips for Avoiding Illegal Dog Daycare and Boarding Operations

trumanThe topic of finding the right daycare and/or boarding solution for your pup is such a complex one that we wanted to dig a bit further into an aspect of the search on which we touched in a previous post.

The burgeoning pet care industry has meant explosive growth for services such as dog daycare and boarding. Ranging from individual “sitters” who come to your house or have your pup go to them, up to home-based operations and all the way to large-scale facilities that handle upwards of 200 dogs (or more) at any given point in time – the options for a pet owner are vast.

As noted before, this is both a good and a very bad thing. It’s good because the variety of solutions is broad and means that one can find the perfect type of set up that meets both the needs of the pup as well as its human. These needs are both related to the format/structure of the environment as well as the hours of service and, of course, the cost. It’s bad because the very low barrier to entry and relatively non-existent enforcement of laws (in the areas where laws even exist) means there are as many (if not more) service providers who have no more business taking care of dogs than I do walking into an operating room and cutting someone open.

Now you need to get a business license to operate any business in any city, and to operate a pet business most all municipalities require additional permits and licenses (not to mention zoning and such). The sad and simple fact, however, is that barring the larger spots (e.g. facilities that are wholly dedicated to daycare and/or boarding and handle upwards of 50 dogs a day) the vast majority of home-based businesses are operated by well-intentioned people who love dogs, who may have a business license but are rarely, if ever, properly permitted to run such a business in their home. These individuals also rarely (if ever) have any level of actual education in dog handling, canine behavior of management of off leash play – all crucial elements when considering just how badly something can go wrong.

I’m not saying that things don’t happen in even the best of facilities. We are, after all, dealing with live creatures and no amount of planning, training or even perfect facility layout can prevent scuffles. That said, a properly trained individual in an environment that is properly set up for the care of dogs mitigates the vast majority of problems.

So when evaluating a dog care professional to mind your furry kid, here are some questions to ask:
Is the business properly zoned for operation – This is particularly important when considering a home-based provider. There are no municipalities that will allow “kenneling” in a pure residential zone. If someone is operating out of their home, ask what permits they’ve secured, if their property is properly zoned and how often it is inspected. This deals with everything from fencing to sanitation to irrigation/sewage as well as noise.
Is the individual providing care properly licensed – In most cities, anyone running a dog care operation is required to hold some sort of permit with the local Animal Control services organization. It’s not enough to just have a business license (which they also must have, and which must be displayed prominently in their location). They must also have an operational license – which will mean they’ve filled out an application that was approved, have had their location inspected and pay a regular fee to retain that license/permit.
Is the individual providing care properly trained – Ask what techniques they use to manage the play. Ask whether dogs are separated by size/energy level. Ask if they have breed restriction and if they do, ask why. Ask how they handle altercations. Ask what trainers and/or behaviorists they have studied and how they implement that learning into their work. If this seems extreme. It should be. These people are taking responsibility for your live, beloved family members. You have every right to grill them. If they balk, seem irritated or you don’t like the answer, trust your gut.

At the end of the day it isn’t about how fancy a place is, whether they have faux Chanel sheets on the dog beds, have 24/7 live cameras and send you selfies of your dog. You may want those things and that’s fine, but those things won’t replace your pup if it’s in that environment and something goes wrong because the handlers aren’t trained or the facility isn’t properly inspected/safe. This is about finding a place where you feel confident that those minding your pup are doing so not only with great skill but with the integrity to operate their business in an ethical and legal manner.