If you have to put your pet up for a few days, make sure you get a kennel that's going to keep your pet healthy and happy.
Step 1: Ask around Ask friends and neighbors with pets who they use. Get a few names and then check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints against them before entrusting them with your pet.
Step 2: Visit kennels Pay a few unannounced visits after you've narrowed down your list. Ask for tours of the facilities so you can check the places out. Be careful about when you go, though -- some kennels close during certain hours of the day so they can tend to their boarders.
TIP: Be aware that some kennels don't allow visitors at all, but they should at least have a window that you can through to see where the pets are housed.
Step 3: Look at the lodgings Look at where the pets are kept. There should be strong dividers between the cages and the exercise area should have high fences to prevent escapes.
TIP: If you're looking at a daycare facility, make sure they segregate the pets by personality type, breed, and size rather than keeping them all in the same enclosure.
Step 4: Look for runs Look at the cages if you're boarding a dog. Dogs need exercise, so the facility should have long cages -- called runs -- that have room for dogs to run laps.
TIP: Cats don't need as much exercise as dogs. Just make sure the cages are big enough for your cat to stretch and move around.
Step 5: Take a whiff Make a note of how the place smells. If they're properly cleaning up after the pets, it should smell clean or not smell at all.
Step 6: Observe the staff Observe how the staff interact with the pets and ask what their policy is in case of an emergency. Some kennels have an on-site veterinarian or have a relationship with one nearby. Others will use the pet's regular vet if necessary.
Step 7: Ask about bedding Find out the kennel's policy on bedding. To avoid the spread of fleas, many kennels don't allow you to bring your pet's bed. Some may wash your pet's bedding before using it. If your pet is particular about what they sleep on, you may have to shop around for a kennel that allows it.
Step 8: Understand pricing policies Ask about the kennel's pricing. Some kennels charge by the calendar day and others charge for every 24 hours. Find out when you can pick up your pet. Some kennels don't offer Sunday pickups, so you may have to pay for the additional day. If your kennel meets the highest standards, when you pick up your pet, they'll feel like they were on vacation, too.
FACT: The first Westminster Kennel Club dog show, held in New York in 1877, featured 1,200 dogs.