A girl who owned two dogs had suddenly to go to her village. She left the dogs with a girl who ran a dog boarding house and paid her an advance of Rs 1200 at the rate of Rs 150 a day. Two days later she was informed through the email that the dog had run away and they were not taking responsibility as the dog was “badmaash”. The boarding house is in an abandoned chemical factory in Faridabad run by the daughter of the owner. She simply locks the dogs in a few rooms. She has one helper. No personalised forms, no doctor, no diets, no mattresses, no bathing, no de-ticking, no attempt to make the dogs comfortable. When we confronted her, her excuse was that she was doing “seva”.
Another person left his dog for a week in a boarding house in Noida while he went on a trip. The dog started vomiting at night. The vet refused to treat it because he had no medical history. The night staff had no access to the owner’s phone number so he was only informed the next day. Then the vet was on leave. The owner flew back immediately but by then the dog had died.
In another case, the pedigreed dog left for two weeks, in a Kolkata kennel, was rented out as a stud and by the time the owners returned he was weak and hyperstressed.
Dogs who are locked up in small kennels without exercise have returned with dislocated shoulders and wounds from gnawing at the bars or jumping to try and get out. Dogs come back with changed personalities.
In the last two years, I have received so many complaints from people who have left their dogs in boarding houses. They have got them back covered with ticks, sick with kennel cough, parvo or distemper, some have been mauled in a fight with other dogs, or the owners have been informed that the dog has run away or died. “Run away” if the dog is highly pedigreed, could mean the owner of the boarding house has sold it to a breeder.
This has become an unregulated backyard industry with no healthcare or management training. While breeders and traders are now regulated, boarding kennel operators are still out of the loop – though not for long.
Your pet depends on you to take care of her/him even when you are not there. If you are going to leave them with a boarding kennel you must make sure it is not like the ones described above. Boarding kennel stress is real. Imagine taking a young child to a strange place and leaving it with people it doesn’t know. The child will more often than not, become distressed and upset. The same thing can happen to dogs. A boarding kennel environment can be especially hard on nervy, anxious dogs.
Signs of kennel stress can manifest in dogs in many ways: excessive barking & whining, loss of appetite. Change of diet may also cause vomiting and diarrhoea, constant licking of the lips, pacing & depression. What you want is a facility that will care for your dog as if it was their own.
Here is the checklist when you need to put him in a boarding house:
- Your pet should know basic commands and be socialized around people and pets.
- Accustom your pet to longer kennel stays by first boarding her for a weekend. This allows you to assess the place before boarding your pet for an extended period.
- Your pet should be vaccinated The core vaccines for dogs are rabies, distemper, parvovirus and adenovirus, and canine kennel cough (Bordatella). Flea and tick prevention should be done.
- Required vaccinations for cats include rabies, feline panleukopenia, calicivirus and rhinotracheitis. Cats that are allowed to socialize with other cats should have negative feline leukaemia and feline AIDS status.
- Take your pet’s medications and special food (if any), your veterinarian’s phone number, and contact information for you and a local backup. Also take something that smells of you.
- Inform the staff about any medical or behaviour problems your pet has, such as epilepsy or fear of thunder.
The boarding house:
- Ask your veterinarian to recommend one. Since they talk to pet lovers every day, they know. Ask dog owners and look at online lists. Check through the web about any experiences others may have had with this facility. After selecting a few kennels, confirm that they can accommodate your pet for specific dates and can address your pet’s special needs. If you’re satisfied, schedule a visit.
- Always ask to tour the entire facility. If they refuse, leave, as they are probably hiding bad infrastructure.
- A good kennel should be well lit and airy with sufficient ventilation and temperature control. The living and playing areas should look and smell clean and be free of waste and urine. The flooring should not permit the absorption of fluids.
4. What kind of paperwork does the place have? Do they ask you any details about the dog – diet, exercise, sleep, medications, whether the dog wants to socialize, and any other pertinent information. If the facility does not insist on vaccinations, leave immediately.
- Notice the staff handling of the animals, and relationship between staff and other dogs, during the time of your tour. A wagging tail is usually attached to a happy dog. They should be able to tell you details about every dog and cat under their care. What is their experience and are they trained in first aid and aggressive dog handling?
- Does each dog have his own adequately sized indoor-outdoor run or an indoor run and a schedule for exercise? Does a fenced area for adequate exercise exist and what are the provisions for daily exercise? This is the law: If a dog is housed at a facility without sensory contact with another dog, it shall be provided with positive physical contact with humans at least once daily. The opportunity for exercise may be provided in a number of ways. (i) Providing access to a run or open area (ii) Adequate exercise either in a fenced area or on a leash with a person (iii) Exercising for at least 30 minutes twice per day (iv) Socializing with people at suitable intervals equalling at least three hours per day for adult and five hours for puppies less than four months of age; How large is the community area? Check outdoor areas to see that there aren’t any gaps in the wall or fence where your dog, especially if it is a small dog, can run out of.
- Is bedding provided? How often is it washed. Bedding should be clean, soft and free of any stains or crusting that may have occurred because of urine or faeces.
- Are cats housed away from dogs?
- Is there enough space for cats to move around comfortably?
- Is there enough space between the litter box and food bowls?
- How often are pets fed? What is the food?
- Can the owner bring a pet’s special food?
- What veterinary services are available? Is the vet experienced? What will they do if your animal gets diarrhoea, breaks a toenail or won’t eat? What are the protocols if your dog needs medical attention? Is there first aid medicine in the place and is anyone trained to diagnose and use it? All medication must be stored in clean cabinets with well-fitting doors or other suitable containers with well-fitting lids. All medication must be clearly marked, or labelled. Does the kennel have procedures in place so your pet gets her medication at the proper time?
- Are services available such as grooming, training, bathing?
- Will someone be on the premises at all times? Is someone checking in on the animals at night.
- If your pet has health issues, like a weak bladder, blindness, deafness, arthritis, can the staff look after them. These pets will need more personal attention and more time and patience to care for.
- Is the kitchen clean? Does it have a clean fridge? What food is there and how do the owners of the boarding house accommodate personal diets? Are the food receptacles clean?
- How is the place being cleaned? What type of cleaning products are used? What is done with the excreta?
- Is water available at all times?
- Does the facility have fire detection and extinguishers.
- What is the tick situation?
- Does the facility have actual rooms and not just basic fence cages with shared walls. Shared fence walls allow your dog and its neighbour to get into a barking competition. A stressed out dog won’t enjoy its time at the hostel if he feels intimidated during the entire stay. Rooms should be spacious and size appropriate for your dog breed. Doors and gates should be secure so that dogs are kept safe.
- How will your dog be exercised. Some kennels walk the dogs, others let them out to run in large compounds with other dogs. If the latter, are they supervised by someone physically present. Even friendly dogs can fall out and a dogfight may ensue. Small and big dogs should not be exercised together in groups. Is there some system in place to divide dogs by play style, size, age, etc. to keep them safe and happy?
*About the author: Maneka Gandhi is a minister in the Union Cabinet led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She is also a leader of animal welfare movement in India. You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.peopleforanimalsindia.org