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Finding a Doggie Daycare/Boarding Facility

As anyone who has had to travel without bringing their beloved dog or cat knows, leaving your pet overnight can be a significant source of worry. While a growing number of hotels, and restaurants with outdoor areas accept or even cater to people traveling with pets, there are times when it just isn’t possible to bring your pet with you, and you may need to consider boarding him or her. Finding a reputable boarding kennel or other arrangement in which your dog or cat will receive proper care will help ensure that your pet will have a happy and safe boarding experience and, in turn, you will have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your beloved family member is being well cared for in your absence.

Regardless of whether you will be boarding your dog or cat at a kennel, or instead, will be leaving him or her with a private individual, finding the right caretaker will take a little advanced planning and time. What follows are some key considerations to help you make the best decision for your pet and you.

Why it’s Important to Carefully Choose a Boarding Arrangement

Being proactive in finding a reputable caretaker for your pet is important, especially since there are few Massachusetts laws regulating the pet boarding industry, and those laws that do exist tend to offer only minimal protection for animals being boarded.

In Massachusetts, commercial boarding kennels are governed by state statutes and, in some communities, local ordinances and by-laws. Although boarding kennels must be licensed by the municipality in which the facility is located, state law does not provide clear and meaningful guidance regarding the basic operation of these businesses. While state law requires kennels to be kept in a “sanitary and humane manner,” this phrase is not defined in the statutes, and the law governing kennels fails to provide meaningful standards for animal care and supervision, qualifications and training of kennel owners and staff, physical facility requirements, insurance, and other important matters. Although cities and towns may enact ordinances and by-laws to provide additional regulations of boarding kennels within their communities, these local laws tend not to provide significant additional oversight over these facilities and vary from community to community.

Given the lack of meaningful regulation of boarding kennels in Massachusetts, the MSPCA is working to strengthen the laws governing the operation of boarding kennels. The Massachusetts Legislature is currently considering several proposed laws, including “Ollie’s Law,” named in honor of a 7-month-old Labradoodle puppy who died two months after he was injured in a dog fight at an East Longmeadow dog daycare facility. If enacted, these new laws will require the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources to adopt meaningful rules and regulations for boarding kennels (including home-based kennels) and dog daycare facilities. The new rules and regulations would address a range of needs including staff qualifications and professional development, staff-to-dog ratios and interaction, group sizes and supervision, minimum housing and care requirements, indoor and outdoor physical facility requirements, dog handling, body language and interpretation, breed familiarity, emergency response training, utilities, and insurance.

While many boarding facilities and individual caregivers no doubt provide exceptional care for the animals they’ve been entrusted with, tragically, there are numerous examples of well-meaning pet parents returning home from their travels only to discover that their dog or cat did not receive the care they had expected, or worse, that their pet was hurt or even killed. 

Furthermore, with the increasing popularity of websites and apps such as Rover, Wag, and connecting people with individuals willing to care for their animals while they’re away, we are now experiencing what some have described as the “Uberization” of pet care. Again, sadly, over the years, there have been numerous instances of people entrusting their beloved dog or cat to a pet sitter, only to find out that their animal had gone missing, became ill, was injured, or had died.

Notwithstanding these tragic examples, fortunately, with a little advanced planning and preparation, a pet parent can improve the chances that they will find a reputable caretaker and that their animal will be in good hands while they are away.

A good place to begin your search for a boarding kennel is by seeking recommendations from friends and neighbors who also have pets. Your groomer or other pet professional may also refer you to a particular kennel. While recommendations from others will be helpful, it is also appropriate to call the local Better Business Bureau to ask if any complaints have been lodged against these facilities. Google and Yelp searches may also provide some insight into a specific kennel’s reputation.

Before deciding who to entrust with caring for your animal while you are away, it is extremely important that you make a careful inquiry into any potential boarding arrangement, and that you both call and visit any boarding kennel you are considering.

Make a phone call. The first step is to call the kennel to ensure it will be able to accommodate your dog or cat. This is especially critical if you plan to board your pet during holidays or summer vacation periods, which is when many people may be wanting to board their animals. Additionally, if your dog or cat requires special handling or accommodations (because, for example, your pet is a young puppy, is a giant breed dog, is on medication, or follows a special feeding schedule), you will want to inquire whether this facility can accept him or her. Finally, during this initial phone call, before committing to board your animal, you will want to make an appointment to visit the facility.

Take a visit. Be sure to personally visit a potential boarding kennel before arranging to board your pet. During this visit, you will make observations and ask questions to ensure it will be suitable for both you and your pet. At this initial visit, you should ask to see all parts of the facility, including where your dog or cat will be housed, exercise and play areas, and the food preparation area. (If the facility does not permit visitors to enter its housing area, it may cite animal stress or animal health as its rationale; however, even in this situation, the operator should still offer you some type of viewing window through which you may observe where your animal will be staying.)

Things to consider

General Considerations:

  • Does the facility appear to be in good, clean, overall condition?  Are the kennel grounds and office neat and well-maintained? Are the housing, exercise and play, and food preparation areas neat and clean and in good repair?
  • Does the facility appear to be secure? 
  • How long has the kennel been in business?
  • When was the kennel last inspected? All Massachusetts kennels should have a license from the city or town in which they are located. The city or town clerk should have this record. Were there any violations, and if so, what were they and how did the owner address those deficiencies?
  • You might also ask if the kennel is a member of a professional association such as the American Boarding Kennels Association (ABKA) or International Boarding & Pet Services Association, and if it is, whether it has been inspected by that organization. For example, the ABKA awards a “Certified Kennel Operator” designation to facilities which have been inspected and have met more than 200 standards set by the organization.
  • Does the kennel have some kind of boarding agreement or contact clearly specifying your rights and the kennel’s responsibilities?
  • Does the kennel provide live streaming for you to check in on your animal? If so, in what parts of the facility (e.g., housing areas, play areas, outside runs, etc.) are cameras located?
  • Will the facility be sending you video updates or reports about how your pet is doing? How else will the kennel communicate with you while you are away?

Housing (Sleeping Quarters): 

  • Are animal cages or housing systems clean and dry?
  • Will they provide your cat or dog with enough space and allow for freedom of movement and normal postural adjustments (i.e., allowing your pet to comfortably and easily stand up, turn around, and stretch out)?
  • Do they provide an appropriate place for your animal to rest?
  • What arrangements are made for your pet’s resting and sleeping comfort?  Are you required to bring (or, alternatively, restricted from bringing) bedding from home? If you will not be bringing bedding, is the bedding used by the kennel appropriate for your animal?
  • Do animals have easy access to fresh water?
  • If you are boarding a cat, is your cat’s housing area large enough to permit moving around, and does it contain a regularly cleaned litter box?
  • Will your cat have his or her own condo?
  • Is the cat area away from dogs and their barking
  • If you are boarding a dog, will your dog have his or her own run, or will your dog be housed in a crate?
  • If your dog is housed in a crate, how often will he or she be let out for exercise or to relieve him or herself?
  • If you dog is housed in a run, is there an indoor and outdoor portion?
  • Are there solid dividers between animals’ cages or housing systems? (Solid barriers help ensure animals’ safety and allow them to relax and sleep without feeling threatened by neighboring boarders)
  • Can you bring your pet’s favorite toys? (Boarding can be a stressful experience for any animal, and perhaps your dog would appreciate having a familiar stress toy such as a Nylabone or favorite stuffed animal.)

Kennel Personnel:

  • What is the staff-to-pet ratio?
  • Have criminal history checks been done on personnel? 
  • Do kennel personnel have a clean and neat appearance?
  • Do they demonstrate a high level of understanding and concern about your dog or cat (which you might gauge by their answers to your questions, the questions they ask you about your pet, their attitude, and the way they handle animals)?
  • What experience do kennel personnel have caring for animals? What kind of education and training do they have, and where did they receive it?
  • Have staff members received training in appropriate animal handling and restraint techniques?
  • Do they hold any certifications such as in pet CPR and first aid for pets?
  • Are kennel personnel trained to recognize the signs of illness and distress and to know when to seek veterinary assistance?
  • If your pet has specific medical needs (e.g., oral medications, injections, or other treatments), are kennel personnel experienced with this?

Temperature and Ventilation:

  • Is the temperature inside the facility (especially in housing and play areas) appropriately controlled? The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that, in general, for dogs and cats, the ambient temperature should be kept between 50 to 80 degrees, and relative humidity should be from 30 to 70 percent. However, if your animal is older or requires warmer or cooler accommodations, you will need to ask if special arrangements may be made for your pet.
  • Is the facility properly ventilated?

Animal Supervision:

  • How much supervision, and what kind of supervision, do boarded pets receive? 
  • Is staff on premises 24-hours a day? If not, what hours will staff be present at the facility? Are animals monitored electronically when staff are not present?
  • Do staffing levels change on weekends or holidays?


  • What will your pet be fed? If your animal requires a special diet or prefers his or her own food, is the kennel willing to accommodate this? 
  • If your dog or cat is on a special feeding schedule, will that need be met?
  • Does staff keep an eye on how much your pet eats and if his or her eliminations are normal?

Exercise and Playtime:

Veterinary Emergencies: 

Animal Health:



Additional Considerations When Boarding Your Pet with an Individual

If you are considering boarding your dog or cat with a private individual, for example, by using a website or app like Rover, Wag, or, be especially diligent in your vetting process. While many people offering overnight pet sitting love animals and have some experience caring for their own pets, this does not guarantee they will provide proper care for your pet  It is worth remembering that essentially anyone can advertise their services online and some of these individuals do not have the proper experience, skills, background, personality, and/or housing situation to ensure your pet’s good care and safety.

Many of the considerations for boarding kennels discussed above will also be relevant to pet sitters offering overnight care in their home. You will want to visit the home where your animal will be staying, paying attention to the same things (as relevant) you would if you were visiting a commercial boarding kennel. It is also important to arrange for a “meet and greet” to ensure the person interacts well with your dog or cat—that they are comfortable with your pet and that your pet is comfortable with them. And just as you would interview the operator of a boarding kennel, you will want to interview the person who will be caring for your pet in your absence. In addition to some of the considerations mentioned with respect to boarding kennels, you should specifically note and ask about the following:


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