American Boarding Kennels Association
Thank you for your interest in
the American Boarding Kennels Association. ABKA, the non-profit
trade association for the boarding kennel industry, is operated
by its members,
the boarding kennel operators of the nation. The association provides
a variety of benefits, services and educational opportunities for
kennel operators and serves as a forum for the exchange of ideas
among members. Business benefits include an insurance program,
promotional advertising, educational meetings, web site development
and maintenance and much more.
The professional programs of ABKA include a Facility Accreditation
program, a Certification Program for kennel operators, a complete
staff training program, a nationally respected Ethics Program, and
much more. ABKA publications for members include the Pet Services
Journal magazine and Boarderline newsletter, keeping kennel operators
informed about industry advances and promoting member services.
ABKA is the only national organization dedicated to assisting boarding
kennel operators to become more professional and more profitable
and to promoting the industry in the national media. We invite you
to browse the pages on this Website which describe some of our benefits
and to join us...
For the pet industry professional, membership in ABKA doesn't cost
... it pays!
To order publications.
To order audio or video tapes.
To become a member of the association
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like more information, please send us e-mail with your request or
comment. If you would like more information, please include your
postal address so that we can send you an information packet.
What is the Voluntary Facilities Accreditation Program (VFA Program)
for boarding kennels?
The VFA Program is a professional program which requires participating
boarding kennels to demonstrate their adherence to a comprehensive
set of operational standards. These standards include over 200 detailed
requirements for boarding kennels and were developed over many years
by the American Boarding Kennels Association (ABKA), the international
trade association for the owners and operators of commercial boarding
kennels. The standards reflect the views of kennel operators, veterinarians,
pet owners, and humane organizations and thus represent the "state
of the art" in animal care and management.
Boarding kennels which participate in the VFA Program must submit
detailed information about their animal care procedures and business
policies and submit to an on-site inspection by trained VFA evaluators.
The VFA Program offers pet owners the assurance that Accredited
facilities have earned the ABKA "stamp of approval" by successfully
completing this comprehensive program.
When pet owners see the Blue VFA Accreditation Ribbon in their
boarding kennel's office, they can be assured that they are entrusting
their pet to the care of a dedicated leader in the boarding kennel
industry. A boarding kennel which meets all of the current industry
standards for pet care.
What kennel areas are covered by the Voluntary Facilities Accreditation
2. Office and Reception Areas
3. Record Keeping
4. Business Practices
6. Work Areas
7. Kennel Area
8. Animal Care Procedures
9. Environmental Control
11. Trash and Sewage Disposal
12. Pest Control
13. Fire Safety
14. Boarding Animals Other Than Cats and Dogs
15. Grooming Room
16. Kennel Vehicles
17. Community Playtime
How can a pet owner learn more about the accreditation program?
Pet owners who would like to learn more about the VFA Program are
encouraged to refer to the Order Form to obtain a copy of the VFA
Accreditation Standards. Kennels that would like to join the
accreditation program can contact the VFA Administrator at email@example.com.
Every day people face the question of what to do with their pets
when travel, illness, or family emergencies disrupt normal care.
Some pet owners attempt to solve this problem by taking their pets
with them, only to discover that hotel restrictions, travel-induced
pet illness, and runaway pets can turn their trip into a disaster.
Other pet owners turn over the care of their animals to well-meaning
but untrained neighbors, pet-sitters, or friends. Again, the results
are often unsatisfactory. Pets entrusted to such part-time custodians
frequently escape or become seriously ill because of lack of reliable,
frequent, and knowledgeable supervision.
Fortunately, the majority of pet owners who find themselves in
need of substitute pet care utilize the services of professional
boarding kennels. Annually, more than 30,000,000 pet owners recognize
that full-time, knowledgeable and experienced boarding kennel operators
provide the most dependable, secure and safe pet care available.
Because competent, ethical boarding kennels are an important part
of your pet care program, and because the selection of a boarding
kennel can be a confusing and disconcerting process for pet owners,
the American Boarding Kennels Association (ABKA) has published this
booklet to assist you in evaluating, selecting, and working with
your local boarding kennel. Our goals are twofold:
To give your pet a happy and safe boarding experience, and
To enable you to enjoy your time away from home content
that your pet is
receiving the best care possible.
WHAT IS A BOARDING KENNEL?
Throughout the United States and Canada, there are approximately
9,000 boarding kennels offering their services to more than 30,000,000
pet owners annually. Boarding kennels are businesses designed and
operated specifically to care for pets, as distinguished from breeding
kennels, which are devoted to producing puppies; training kennels,
which take in dogs for hunting, protection, and other types of specialized
training; and veterinary hospitals, which are designed to care for
sick and injured animals.
Most boarding kennels provide a variety of pet services such as
boarding, grooming, training classes, pet supply sales, and pet
shipping. Although the vast majority of boarded pets are dogs and
cats, many kennels also offer boarding for horses, birds, reptiles
and exotic pets.
WHAT IS THE AMERICAN BOARDING KENNELS ASSOCIATION?
A characteristic common to all boarding kennel operators is a deep
love and respect for animals. This is their basic motivation for
establishing their kennel. In 1977, however, a dedicated group of
kennel operators recognized that the love of animals, by itself,
was not enough to guarantee the development of professional standards
of pet care within the industry. What was also needed were educational
opportunities for kennel operators, to enable them to stay abreast
of developments in pet care, and some method of establishing and
promoting a high level of ethical conduct within the industry. To
achieve these goals, these concerned kennel operators founded the
American Boarding Kennels Association, the ABKA.
Today the ABKA has a membership of almost 1,800 kennels throughout
the U.S. and Canada; by means of its publications, conventions,
seminars, regional meetings, ethics program, certification program
for kennel operators, accreditation program for kennels, and industry
committees, the Association helps member kennels to develop and
maintain the highest professional and business standards. This in
turn enables ABKA members to offer you, the pet owner, the most
knowledgeable, ethical pet care available anywhere.
FINDING YOUR LOCAL KENNELS
There are several ways of locating the kennels that are convenient
1. Yellow Pages: Yellow page advertising is the primary
method of kennel advertising. Remember though, the size of the ad
is no indication of the facilitys quality.
2. Recommendations of friends: Satisfied customers are the
best recommendation that a kennel can receive. Ask your friends
and neighbors about their experiences. Check with your veterinarian
or ask the kennel in question for references.
3. Better Business Bureau: If your community has a better
Business Bureau, a phone inquiry about your local kennels is appropriate.
Ask about a specific kennels reputation and if any complaints
have been lodged against them.
4. ABKA Web Site: This web site has a listing of member
kennels, sorted by city and state. Click here to locate a member
EVALUATING A KENNEL
1. Telephone the kennel.
Call to see if the kennel can accommodate your pet. During peak
times such as the Christmas season and summer vacations, many kennels
are booked up and cannot accept your pet. Also, because some pets
require special handling or accommodations (very young puppies,
animals on special medication or feeding schedules, or giant breeds,
for example), all kennels may not accept them. While you are on
the phone, make an appointment to visit the kennel.
2. Make a personal visit to the kennel: A personal visit
is essential to determine whether the kennel will be satisfactory.
During your visit, observe or ask about the following:
General appearance of the kennel proper
Provision for Animal Comfort
Following regular daily clean-up procedures, the kennel should
look (and smell) neat and clean.
Kennel operators are proud of their kennels and like to show them
off, but some of them do not permit visitors in areas where animals
are housed. There are two key reasons for establishing a "No Visitors"
policy. First, some dogs react unpredictably to strangers. (They
become excessively fearful or aggressive.) As a result, the presence
of strangers in the kennel can cause such dogs to injure themselves
or develop intestinal problems.
Second, visitors do not follow the same stringent disinfecting
procedures used by kennel personnel, and can transport contagious
agents (bacteria, viruses) into the kennel. However, kennels with
a "No Visitors" policy should provide you some type of viewing window,
so that you can see where your pet will be staying.
In visiting your local kennels, you will observe that there are
several types of kennel designs currently in use. Some kennels have
indoor/outdoor runs; some have totally enclosed facilities; and
some house pets inside, but utilize outside exercise areas. Each
of these designs has its own advantages, and you should ask the
kennel operator to explain the advantages of the system in use at
When you are on a trip, your pet may decide to try to "find" you.
Because of this tendency, and because very few homes are designed
with pet security in mind, pets can escape from inexperienced individuals
who might be asked to watch your pet. Boarding kennels, on the other
hand, are designed to prevent this kind of accident.
During your kennel visit, look for sturdy, well-maintained fencing,
gates and dividers between runs. If your dog is a climber, digger
or some other type of "escape artist" tell the kennel operator so
that extra precautions can be taken (wire covered runs, locks on
gates, etc.). Cats always require covered facilities.
Kennels areas where your pet will stay should be free of sharp
objects, harmful chemicals and objects your pet might swallow. Primary
enclosures (sleeping quarters) should provide solid dividers between
your pet and the other boarders, both for reasons of safety and
so that your pet will be able to relax and sleep without feeling
challenged by his or her neighbors. Exercise areas should include
barriers between runs high enough to prevent male dogs from urinating
into adjacent runs. Surfaces should offer good traction even when
wet. Firefighting equipment should be readily available.
Proper supervision is the key to good boarding. Pets should be
checked frequently during the day by someone who is trained to recognize
the signs of illness and distress. Experience and practical knowledge
are required to detect or interpret such symptoms as lethargy ("I
thought he was just sleeping"), severe intestinal disorders (friends
or acquaintances rarely check the backyard for bloody stool), urinary
problems (it is almost impossible to detect blood in urine when
pets urinate on grass), loss of appetite, coughing, sneezing, or
discharges from the eyes or nose. Yet, all of these signs can be
Competent kennel personnel are trained to recognize and evaluate
such signs and to seek veterinary assistance when needed. Therefore,
you should try to evaluate the competence of the kennel personnel.
One good indication that the kennel operator is keeping abreast
of the latest developments in pet care is his or her ABKA membership.
Check for a current ABKA membership plaque on the office wall.
If your kennel operator has been awarded the CKO (Certified Kennel
Operator) designation by ABKA, it means that his or her competence
and ethical fitness have been acknowledged publicly by the Association.
If the CKO plaque has been awarded, it will be displayed proudly
along with the kennels ABKA membership certificate.
Accredited kennels will display a certificate which attests to
the fact that the kennel has been inspected and accredited by ABKA,
and has met over 200 standards of excellence.
The kennel should be free of dirt, fecal accumulation, odors and
parasite infestation (flies, fleas, ticks). There should be a strict
schedule of disinfecting with effective chemicals.
Note: Since 1978, there have been worldwide outbreaks of
an intestinal disease called canine parvovirus. This disease is
spread when dogs come into contact with a contaminated surface (clothing,
shoes, grass, carpeting, etc.). New vaccines are now available to
combat this disease, but until the dog population develops immunity
to the disease, it will remain a potential problem.
Several professional disinfectants, including bleach at a 1:30
solution are effective against parvo virus. Therefore, if there
have been any reports of parvovirus disease in your area, your kennel
should be using one of these products for routine disinfecting,
in addition to requiring the immunizations. (Surveys of kennels
using the sodium hypochloride 1:30 solution during localized outbreaks
in 1980 and 1981 demonstrated that the spread of parvovirus could
be controlled in a boarding kennel, even when nonboarding pets in
the area are contracting the disease. This suggests that during
a parvovirus outbreak, your dog might actually be safer in a properly
run kennel than at home.)
Inquire about the following:
1. Water: Individual containers filled with clean drinking
water should be available to each animal.
2. Food: Feeding procedures vary from kennel to kennel.
Some kennels supply preferred brands of feed, which they serve to
all boarders. However, they usually allow you to bring your pets
favorite food, if you wish. Other kennels maintain a stock of the
most popular brands, and feed whatever you request. Still others
require that you bring your pets food when you check in. Determine
the kennels policy, and if there are any additional charges
for special feeding arrangements.
3. Veterinary services: Ask about the procedure for obtaining
veterinary service, if required. Some kennels retain a veterinarian
on the premises. Others prefer to use your pets veterinarian
so that there will be a continuity of care. Remember that it is
customary (and responsible) for you to be financially responsible
for any veterinary care required for your pet while it is being
4. Immunization requirements: Dogs should be immunized against
rabies, distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, parvovirus
(DHLPP), and bordetella. Cats should be vaccinated against rabies,
panleukopenia or distemper, feline rhinotracheitis, calici virus,
and pneumonitis (FVRCPP).
5. Medication policies and procedures: If your pet is taking
medication, advise the kennel operator of the nature of the problem
and the type and frequency of medication. Many kennels will not
accept animals requiring excessive medication (more than three times
per day, or nighttime medication, for example) or animals requiring
potentially dangerous medication (diabetes shots, for example).
Remember, it is essential that heartworm preventative medication
be continued during boarding, if your dog is presently taking such
medication. Inquire whether the kennel provides such medication,
or if you should bring a supply. Ask if there is an additional charge
6. Parasite control: If you live in an area in which fleas
and /or ticks are a problem, your kennel should utilize procedures
for controlling these parasites (pre-entry examinations for boarders,
sprays, dips, etc.).
You should inquire into the following items which will affect the
comfort of your pet:
1. Temperature control: The kennel should be able to maintain
temperatures within healthful, comfortable limits for your pets.
If you have an older pet, or a pet that requires warmer or cooler
accommodations than are normally provided, determine if special
arrangements can be made.
2. Protection from the elements: Exercise areas should provide
shelter from wind, rain, snow and direct sunlight.
3. Ventilation: Good ventilation (no drafts) helps minimize
the spread of airborne bacteria and viruses.
4. Light: Lighting should be at comfortable levels during
5. Bedding: Find out what arrangements are made for pet
bedding. Some kennels provide resting platforms, bedding or newspaper.
Others require that you bring bedding from home. Check if there
are any restrictions on owner-provided bedding (wicker beds and
feather pillows, for example, may not be accepted).
6. Sleeping Quarters: As you know from observing your pet,
most of his or her time is spent resting or sleeping. Your kennel
should provide a place for this purpose (a primary enclosure). It
should be clean and dry, and roomy enough for your pet to stand
up comfortably, turn around easily, and stretch out.
7. Exercise Area: All animals require exercise, but the
requirements for dogs and cats are different. Lets discuss
their requirements for exercise individually:
Dogs: Dogs should have enough space to enable them to break
into a run. Exercise time will depend upon the kennels layout.
In some kennels, dogs are allowed free-access to their own individual
exercise runs during the day. In such kennels, you may want to make
arrangements to limit your dogs exercise time, if there is
any reason he or she should not be allowed to exercise at will (an
older dog with a heart condition, or a hyper dog who
tends to run weight off, for example).
Other kennels use a time-sharing method for scheduling
exercise. In such kennels, make sure that the time allowed and the
frequency of exercise periods are adequate for your dog.
Cats: Because cats exercise isometrically (by stretching),
and because they are not pack animals that need, or
enjoy, the company of other animals (as dogs do), they do not necessarily
require separate exercise areas, but are content when housed in
roomy primary enclosures.
However, some kennels also provide play areas for those
cats that appear to enjoy the additional space. Whether or not your
kennel provides such play areas, your cats primary enclosure
should be large enough to permit stretching and moving around, and
should contain a regularly cleaned litter box.
8. Additional services: Many pet owners find it convenient
to schedule grooming, bathing or training for their pets while they
are in the kennel for boarding. Ask if such services are available.
If you are in the process of moving, the kennel may even be able
to take care of shipping your pet. Such a service can save you time
and trouble, and helps ensure the safety of your pet.
As a customer, you are entitled to be treated in a friendly, business-like
manner. Furthermore, a kennels customer-handling practices
are a reflection of their awareness of their responsibilities to
you, the customer, and to themselves as professionals. Therefore,
you should observe the following:
1. Personnel: Kennel work is physically demanding and difficult.
Nevertheless, kennel personnel should appear clean and neat. They
should also demonstrate a high level of understanding and concern
for your pet by their questions, their animal handling techniques,
and their attitude.
2. Appearance of kennel grounds and office: Kennel property
should be neat and well maintained.
3. Rates: Rates should be available in the kennel office.
Be sure that you understand the method of calculating boarding charges.
Some kennels have a checkout time, after which you are charged an
additional day. Others charge by the night or day.
4. Boarding agreement or contract: Your kennel should have
some type of boarding agreement, which clearly states your rights
and the kennels responsibilities. This type of form protects
you and the kennel from any misunderstandings in these areas.
5. Hours of operation: Days and hours of business should
be clearly posted. If your kennel is closed on weekends or holidays,
note and respect that policy. On those days, all pets are fed and
exercised and the facilities are cleaned and maintained, but the
kennel office is closed and there is no one in the office to meet
6. ABKA Membership Certificate: Your kennels membership
in ABKA is a public commitment to ethical practices, and your assurance
that the kennel is subject to the ABKA Ethics Program. As a pet
owner patronizing an ABKA kennel, you also can call on the ABKA
for information and assistance should you experience a problem with
a member kennel.
If the kennel also displays an ABKA accreditation certificate,
you are assured that they have met the stringent standards of the
Voluntary Facilities Accreditation Program which inspects over 200
areas of kennel operation. The ABKA Code of Ethics and the Bill
of Rights for Boarded Pets should also be posted in your kennels
office, for your inspection. It is a public statement of the standards
by which your kennel should be judged.
PREPARING FOR BOARDING
You have now located, evaluated and selected your boarding kennel,
and have completed most of the steps necessary for successful boarding.
However, there is still one thing required to assure that your pet
receives the best care possible, and that is that you fulfill your
part of the boarding. Even the best kennel in the world cannot take
proper care of your pet unless you assist them by observing the
Make your reservations early.
Prepare your pet for boarding.
Check in during business hours.
Relax and enjoy your trip.
MAKE YOUR RESERVATIONS EARLY
Most kennels are booked up on holidays and during vacation times.
If you wait until the last minute to make your reservations, you
may be disappointed. As you make your reservations, verify those
items which you should bring with you to the kennel (immunization
records, special food, medication, bedding, and toys). Make arrangements
for any special services that you wish to have performed while your
pet is in the kennel (grooming, training, or shipping). As you make
your reservations, find out what type of payment arrangements are
acceptable (credit cards, personal checks, money orders).
PREPARE YOUR PET FOR BOARDING
Remember that pets, like people, usually appreciate a vacation
in new surroundings with new friends. Dogs, once they become familiar
with their new surroundings, have a marvelous, exciting time, almost
like kids at summer camp. (If your dog has never been boarded before,
you might consider short, overnight stays at the kennel prior to
an extended boarding stay to help him or her get used to boarding.
Every time you return your dog is less likely to affected by "separation
anxiety" and can enjoy boarding more.)
As a rule, kittens take to boarding easily and have a wonderful
time. Adult cats usually display a very nonchalant attitude towards
boarding and prefer to sit quietly and observe the daily kennel
routine. They dont seem inclined to make new feline friends
or participate in group play, but seem content to rest, eat, make
friends with the help and purr.
Make sure that all immunizations are current (and have immunization
records, if your kennel requires them).
Dont overfeed your pet right before going to the kennel.
The extra food is not really necessary and the result might be an
Finally, because pets sense and reflect our emotions, DO NOT allow
any member of the family to stage an emotional farewell
scene. Your pets can be made to feel unnecessarily anxious about
the kennel visit if they are subjected to this kind of dramatic
CHECK IN DURING BUSINESS HOURS
Bring all agreed upon medications, etc. Make sure that medications
list the prescription number and name of the pharmacy so the kennel
can obtain a refill if your return is unexpectedly delayed. Allow
enough time in the kennel office to fill out the necessary paperwork.
The kennel needs to know such things as: name, address, phone number,
return date, additional services requested, where you can be reached
in case of an emergency, the name of a local contact, your veterinarians
name and phone number, special feeding instructions (if any), medication
instructions, etc. If your pet has any special problems which are
not covered on the check-in forms, such as fear of thunder, epilepsy,
or deafness, point them out to your kennel operator.
All of this information helps your kennel take better care of your
pet, especially if there is any type of emergency requiring special
action. (And this is what professional care is all about. Anyone
can feed your pet, as long as nothing goes wrong. But what you want
for your pet is supervision by someone who can assess and respond
properly to emergencies).
Dont be surprised if your kennel operator asks you to leave
your dog in the kennel office, rather than allowing you to place
your dog in his run. This is done so that your dog will see you
leave and will realize that you have entrusted him or her to the
care of the kennel operator. It also eliminates the possibility
of your dog getting the erroneous impression that you are placing
him in the run to "guard" it. When dogs get that impression, they
sometimes become aggressive. (This same response often happens when
house sitters try to enter your home during your absence.)
RELAX AND ENJOY YOUR TRIP
Remember that you are leaving your pet in the hands of capable
professionals. Pets in the kennel probably receive more care and
attention than they would at home.
PICKING UP YOUR PET
When you return from your trip, here are some things that can help
you and your pet to have a happy homecoming:
Pick up your pet during the kennel's normal business hours.
Ask about your pet's stay at the kennel.
Do not feed or water your dog for at least four hours after returning
Contact your kennel operator if you have any questions about your
pet's behavior after returning home.
NORMAL BUSINESS HOURS
Attempting to conduct business after hours is not only an imposition
of the kennel operator and a possible disruption of sleep for the
boarding animals, but can also result in a wasted trip to the kennel
(because all personnel may be working in the kennel area and unable
to hear the doorbell). For these reasons, many kennels assess an
additional charge for after-hours pickup, to discourage the practice.
ASK ABOUT YOUR PET'S STAY
Did your pet adapt well to kennel food, routine and environment?
Did he or she display any unusual behavior or require any special
handling? This information will be entered on the kennels
records, to assist kennel personnel in caring for your pet during
the next stay, but you should also be aware of it in the event that
you move or use the services of another kennel in the future.
DO NOT FEED OR WATER IMMEDIATELY
Do not feed or water your dog for at least four hours after returning
home. Cats adapt to their return home with the same easy acceptance
with which they adapt to boarding, but dogs can become very excited
when you return. And, when dogs become excited, they tend to gulp
food and water.
Unfortunately, owners who allow their dogs unlimited access to
either food or water immediately after returning home, frequently
trigger vomiting and/or diarrhea. If your dog appears to be thirsty,
provide a few ice cubes, rather than water. Let him or her calm
down (about four hours) before offering food.
CONTACT YOUR KENNEL OPERATOR
Contact your kennel operator if you have any questions about your
pet's behavior after returning home. Sometimes pet owners become
unnecessarily concerned about behavior, which is completely normal.
(For example, many dogs tend to sleep almost continuously for a
day or two after returning home. This is usually a result of being
back in a relatively calm environment after the excitement of the
However, if you observe anything that appears to be out of the
ordinary, contact your boarding kennel operator to discuss your
observations. Your ABKA kennel operator wants you to understand
the boarding process and your pets reaction to it, and will
be happy to discuss any questions you might have.
ABKA member kennels have an investment in their profession. Through
their participation in the educational programs of their association,
they advance their knowledge and skills. Through their participation
in ABKAs Ethics Program, they demonstrate their commitment
to high quality, ethical pet care. To you, the pet owner, this is
your assurance that your pet's time away from you will be as safe
and enjoyable as possible.
Your ABKA member kennel is a valuable member of your pet care team,
which includes your pet, your veterinarian, your kennel, and you.
ABKA members invite you to stop by for a visit. They would like
to get acquainted with you and your pet, and they would be pleased
to explain their services to you. They are proud of their kennels,
and of ABKA, their trade association, which serves the boarding
industry through Education, Encouragement and Example.
Developing a good relationship with a boarding kennel will make
things a lot easier for your pet, your family, and you. Taking a
few of the precautions mentioned in this booklet before and after
you board your pet will result in a pleasurable (and economical)
vacation for every member of your family.
Do your homework in advance, and trust your kennel owner to provide
a safe, happy homecoming when you return. Have a good trip!