published Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Winsett: Finding kennel for cat, dog while you’re away

By Jim Winsett

Q: What advice does the BBB have for helping pet owners choose a kennel during the holidays?

A: As much as pet owners may want to take their furry friends with them wherever they go during the holiday, sometimes you simply cannot. In turn, finding a kennel or pet care service you can trust is paramount.

That’s why the Better Business Bureau has created a checklist to help pet owners choose a safe and reliable home-away-from-home for their pets.

Every year, BBB receives thousands of inquiries from pet owners about kennels. In the past 12 months, we received a whopping 141,829 inquiries nationwide, of which 2,629 were regarding local establishments. Fortunately in the Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia BBB service area, there have only been two complaints this year.

During the same timeframe, the BBB nationwide received more than 400 complaints over billing disputes and treatment of the pets. Some of the worst complaints provided statements by pet owners that their four-legged friend was found severely dehydrated, malnourished or rife with fleas and ticks.

Some of the most alarming reports described pets that became extremely ill while boarding and resulted in lengthy stays at the animal hospital.

If you are looking for a reliable kennel, BBB recommends the following checklist:

• Check the kennels out and get recommendations. Always check out local kennels with BBB at www.Chattanooga.bbb.org first to make sure it has a good track record for keeping customers satisfied. Also ask your friends, neighbors, veterinarian or local animal shelters for recommendations.

• Make a visit. Personally visit the facilities you are considering before scheduling the boarding. Check for cleanliness and offensive odors, and note the overall safety of the kennel and cages.

• Ask lots of questions. If your pet is prone to running away, ask about steps the kennel has taken to make their facilities escape-proof. Ask about how your pet may come in contact with other animals. Some kennels let animals play together, while others keep them separate at all times. Ask about the feeding schedule, water accessibility and frequency of — and fees related to — exercise. Ask about the hours for drop-off and pick-up and make sure you understand the billing policy. Finally, ask what happens in case of a medical emergency or other unexpected situation.

• Go with your gut. Note the friendliness of staff members and how they interact with the boarded pets. Ask about their background and experience. If your state requires inspections, look for the certificate on the wall and make sure the kennel is properly licensed. Make sure the facility requires that all entering pets have proof of immunization, and ask about policies regarding flea and tick control.

Get answers to your questions each Friday from Jim Winsett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Inc., which serves Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Submit questions to his attention by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN, 37401-1447, or by e-mailing him at dflessner@ timesfreepress.com.

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