Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Kennels & Catteries

Despite the credit crunch I decided l would do a post for those who are going on holiday and what to look for in choosing a Kennels or Cattery for their pets.It is around the time of year to start looking as the good kennels are snapped up. On the face of it quite easy just open your telephone directory prod a finger at a selection, check the cost and maybe go down to look at them. Maybe ask a friend but their dogs and standards will be different to yours.

Well, if you want to do it that way fine, but l very much doubt that you will end up getting the best for your animals. You take them to kennels or catteries to be safe, so should you not apply a bit more examination in choosing the holiday home for pets?

I looked through nearly 30 kennels in looking for a suitable kennels for my lot to go into when we went back to Tenerife to do some work a couple of years after we had arrived back in the UK. Speaking to people l realise that there is a lack of knowledge over what should (ok by my standards) constitute a good safe environment. The list is not definitive just some points l look for and the reasons for it.

As l live in the NW l use the following Glenbrittle Kennels and Cattery Since then l have passed the name to many people. I advise people to go and check out the kennels to see that the standards are still high and they find them acceptable. I do not know if they used the kennels or not, then last year l know 2 people one a veterinary nurse friend of mine who used them after l recommended Glenbrittle both said the standards were still very high for both dogs and cats.

The following generally applies to dogs and cats, l have commented on some species specific things to watch for.

1) Are you welcome to call in and visit without an appointment to inspect them. I just turn up and see what sort of reception l get.

2) Do they insist on vaccinations being up to date and check the vaccination cards.

3) What are the security arrangements? The kennels l use has CCTV, someone on the premises 24hours a day. Animal areas are surrounded by a high security fence inward bent wire tops to prevent climb outs. And double door and roofed cat areas so that cats can not get out. Some kennels have double doors on kennel areas also a good policy but l feel critical for cat areas.

4) If your pet has special needs can they handle them. Discuss it and see if they know how to give and keep the medications or any injectable.

5) What vet do they use and are they willing to use your vet, assuming they are close enough. Make sure all health info is written out anyway if the pet has special needs and the kennels have details of your vet (even if unable to use them say due to distance). Clear with your vet that information can be given while you are away. Although it will automatically be exchanged between vets the kennels may have a query.

6) What are the kennels or catteries made from?
Wood is porous and can not be cleaned properly. It is often chewed so splintered, often has nails, screws or bits sticking out and is a lot easier for the determined dog to escape from.
Brick tiled is easier clean although cracked tiles will absorb gunk and can be mouldy from washing.
Plaster on brick walls are they chipped and dirty or kept clean and painted.

7) Floors should be non slip and sloped slightly downwards to the drains which should run across the front (outside) of the kennels. Concrete and drains should be clean and surround all animal living areas.

8) Catteries should be brick with forward facing views. The problem is that cats can become very stressed having strange cats looking in on them. If they do have views to the next door cat it should be glass separating them from the next door cat to avoid passing any of the cat viruses.

9) Dog kennels I prefer brick with forward facing views between dogs to avoid stressing dogs. Aggressive or nervous dogs should be in kennels where they can not see the dogs next to them for obvious reasons.
With dogs if there is mesh between kennels it should be double with a suitable gap so that there can be no bites through the wire. The mesh should be in good condition with no sharp or broken bits.

10) Doors should be metal frame and mesh door or metal frame and half metal and mesh door, not wood. They are easier to clean and more secure re comments on wood.

11) Each dog should have a separate and safe area sleep area and run, for cats a separate hidey house usually in the “run”.
I remember my Mum using a cattery that had a couple of big communal areas and all the cats went into them in groups. This causes huge stress for the cat, often leads to fights, health problems will be missed like bite wounds and urinary problems. If it is something like FUS (blocked bladders) these are classed as life threatening to the less dangerous cystitis. Food, water and toilet facilities will be in limited supply to nervous animals.

12) How are the kennels and catteries cleaned? do they use disinfectant and what sort and how? Are they just poured in or used at the correct concentration? Too weak will not only not kill the nasty’s it will allow them to become immune. Too strong and it may prove toxic, and set up problems for the animals.

13) What are the beds bedding and policy. I have seen places with raised metal beds you supply bedding, it was never washed looking at the state of it. Those whose owners had not brought bedding there was just metal beds. I have seen similar with plastic dog beds. If wood is used watch problems re wood.

The kennels l used have shredded paper, very warm, very deep and cleaned every day. They did not allow pets own bedding but this was not a problem and sensible.
It gets wet, needs drying has health implications if not kept clean and so adds to the work load. Will get lost in the wash, if it did not then it would not be getting cleaned. And after being in a pile of bedding and then washed will have lost all smell anyhow.
Pet bedding may be supplied like vet bed or other from the kennels but it should be clean and washed daily.

14) What form of heating is in use and arrange to have it used as much as your pet may need. You pay for it so you choose and ensure it is available and suitable. If overhead lamps are they protected by a guard against accidents. Heating on walls is it clean behind it or full of crud what about a guard to prevent burns? I have seen a dog who got a leg stuck and nasty burns on the leg.

15) I looked at one place that had a set of separate dog runs. The dogs were put in them. It was a boiling hot day there was no water or shade. The kennels were proud of these hell holes and said “oh we are getting shelters built” when l asked about shade. Every kennel had a dog run attached but they were not used the dogs not out in the “fancy paddocks” were locked into their kennel house section. I could get no answer for that or why water was not supplied.

Glenbrittle l use has a walking paddock, surrounded by a high security fence, dogs were only walked on leads and do not run around. This means that they have less risk off injury and staff are not running after dogs that are disobedient. If it is a free run paddock who pays any vets fee’s for injury? For me, possible vet fees were not a problem for lead walked dogs you may want to check anyway.

One kennels l know, have as well as a walking area a communal play area. If you want to use it l would advise taking your dog down first and being there to see how they interact, in fact they may insist on that.
Check the credentials of who and how it is supervised, can they handle a mass fight if one happens and who pays the bills?

16) Can they also handle big dogs? What size kennels are there and do they have special family ones if you have several dogs and how many/run if they do.

17) What is their food policy, if they can not supply the food your pet needs then they should be willing to use yours. This avoids upset stomach and more pet stress. Have a look in the pet kitchen is it clean, would you eat food from there? Is there clean fresh water in each kennel.

18) Are there enough staff for the animals? How old do they look, are they a lot of very young people that look “high turnover” type and how long have they been there? Are you able to hold a sensible discussion with them and do they answer your questions or evade them. There is a difference between being honest and asking you to ask the manager/reception some questions but if they are evasive and do not want to answer anything stop and think what is their reason.

19) If other people are there dropping off, collecting their pets or looking round. Stop and talk to them, ask what they think about the place.

20) Look at the animals there. Do the animals look happy in general, some will be pining but allowing for that take a good look. Some kennels dope noisy dogs!!! Do the kennels and area smell clean or have a heavy faecal or disinfectant smell - Ick.

A kennels or cattery may not tick all the boxes it is up to you if you decide to use them or look further afield. The kennels l use are miles away from our house but l trust them. If in doubt about the kennels do not use them.


Dave the Dog said...

Good advice. I know Glenbrittle, it's a nice place. Not far from Leahurst, Liverpool University Large & Small Animal Teaching Hospital.

Pickyknitter said...

Wow, great advice. Many items I would not have thought to ask about. I will keep these tips handy!