Pet care options during your trip
If you can’t bring your furry friends when you leave town, pet sitting options include hiring a pet sitter, asking a friend to let Rex crash for a few days, or booking a pet sitter. stay in a kennel.
By visiting Checkbook.org/Inquirer/Kennels, Inquirer readers can get free access through July 5 to unbiased quality and price reviews of local kennels from the Delaware Valley Consumers’ Checkbook. To help you get started in your search for pet care, here are some options to consider.
Traveling with your pet has several advantages. You’ll share the experience with them, know they’ll receive loving care, save them (and yourself) the stress of separation, and avoid the expense and hassle of a sitter or kennel.
But bringing your pet might not be possible. You may be flying out for work; your vacation digs may not allow pets; and having a pet with you can be very inconvenient. What do you do with Mr. Sprinkles when you go out to dinner, to the museum or to a show, let alone a business meeting?
There are also risks. Pets can be terrified or injured if mistreated by airline baggage handlers. Some were left for hours in airline processing areas or shipped to the wrong destinations. Dogs have died of heatstroke in airplane baggage compartments.
If your pet isn’t used to traveling by car, he may become anxious. More importantly, your pet could wander off, become disoriented, and get lost for good. Finally, you cannot leave your pet alone in a car, even briefly.
If you want to bring a dog, check out the list of hotels and motels that welcome puppies on AAA’s Traveling with Your Pet website.
Another option is to entrust your pet to a friend or guardian. Your pet will not be alone overnight and you will avoid some inconvenience and expense. But this arrangement can overwhelm a friend with responsibility, and the animal can suffer from stress caused by separation from you and its usual surroundings.
Bringing a pet sitter to your home has significant benefits. Your pet stays in familiar surroundings and continues familiar routines. Your pet will not feel the stress of staying with other animals. Additionally, the caretaker can provide services such as picking up mail, watering plants, and making your home appear occupied.
But pet sitters also have their drawbacks. Whether the sitters come from a commercial pet sitting service or from a neighbor, you cannot be sure of the skill, knowledge, or diligence they bring to the job. Unless you arrange overnight care, your pet will be left alone for long hours. If you use a commercial pet sitting service, you are giving access to your home to a stranger. And the cost of care can be high.
Most of what Checkbook hears from customers who keep pets is positive, but there are enough negatives to warrant caution.
Most kennels were dreary places. The dogs were generally housed in isolation; cats spent most of their days in cages. Kennels have focused on keeping creatures safe by keeping them separate.
No more; most kennels are now run as resorts. They are decorated and designed as cheerful and fun getaways. During the day, the dogs party together in a large common area or are split into small groups, depending on their size or disposition. Cats also usually have play areas. Do you have a pet that doesn’t get along well with others or gets anxious away from home? Some facilities will still host this one in isolation, but many will suggest you find another spot for your surly or wayward Spot.
The advantage of booking a stay at a kennel is that, assuming everything goes well, your pet will be cared for and never left alone, and you won’t have to worry about last minute mistakes. Serious health issues will be identified and referred to a veterinarian. And you don’t have to impose on anyone.
But using a kennel can be expensive and inconvenient. In addition to potentially exposing your pet to illnesses, staying in a kennel could cause them separation anxiety. Many kennels largely avoid these problems by employing caring, caring staff and maintaining comfortable, clean, and stress-free facilities. But based on the astonishing number of serious complaints Checkbook receives from consumers, you should exercise caution when selecting a kennel.
Checkbook’s secret price shoppers have also seen big price differences between local kennels. To house a medium-sized dog for a week, for example, prices range from $200 to over $500. It’s just for basic boarding. In some kennels, the extras can add up quickly: administering a pill can cost an extra $3 a day; arranging extra attention or exercise could cost $10 or more per day.
Plus, some kennels’ extremely limited drop-off and pick-up times make it hard to avoid shelling out for an extra day. All this can represent a substantial part of your holiday budget. Fortunately, some of the top rated kennels charge below average prices.
Beware of a kennel that won’t let you inspect their facilities unannounced during regular hours.
Where will your dog stay? During the day or at scheduled times, pets usually hang out in communal play areas. At night, the animals are safe in their own rooms, pens or cages. When left to their own devices, pets should have separate areas. In Checkbook’s survey of pet owners, kennels that have runs and communal nighttime spaces — mostly hospitals and clinics with limited real estate — generally score considerably lower than establishments with separate spaces.
What if your dog doesn’t get along with others? Some facilities charge an additional fee if your dog cannot participate in group play.
If you are hosting a cat, does the property have a separate area for them? Dog houses can traumatize a cat that is not used to constant barking.
Inspect the appropriate sanitary protections. Check to see if the facility is clean, indoor spaces are kept at a reasonable temperature, all pets have proof of proper vaccinations, and sick animals are isolated.
Evaluate staff members. Do they answer your questions? Do they show affection for animals? Are they available 24 hours a day?
Determine when the kennel is open for drop off and pick up.
Find out about arrangements for veterinary care, in case your pet becomes ill. If your pet regularly takes medication, will the kennel administer shots or pills?
Can you check in your pet while you are away? Many kennels now have webcams that allow customers to monitor their pets.
the Delaware Valley Consumers’ Checkbook magazine and checkbook.org is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help consumers get the best service and the lowest prices. It is consumer backed and does not take any money from the reviewed service providers.