Away for the holidays? Vet your pet boarding facility first

Taking off for the holidays without your pet? If you aren't fortunate enough to have a pet sitter you can call and must board your dog or cat, don't forget to vet the pet boarding facility.

Far too often pet owners drop off their animals without seeing the facility where they will live and too often pets come home with fleas or worse, contagious diseases caused by unsanitary or overcrowded conditions in boarding facilities.

The Better Business Bureau recommends the following:

*Ask friends and neighbors for recommendations.

*Check the BBB website for each kennel to make sure they have a good reputation.

•Visit the facilities. Check for cleanliness and note the overall safety of the kennel and cages. If your pet is prone to running away, ask about steps the kennel has taken to make their facilities secure.

• 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. Make sure the facility requires that all entering pets have proof of immunization and ask about their policies regarding flea and tick control.

• If your state requires inspections (as Pennsylvania and New Jersey do for all licensed kennels which include boarding facilities), make sure the kennel is properly licensed. Ask about the background and experience of company staff and take a few moments to see how they interact with the other boarding pets.

Check out kennel license inspection reports in Pennsylvania by going to the state Department of Agriculture site: Click on "Bureaus, Commissions and Councils." Then click on "Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement." Then click on "Kennel Inspection Database." You can search by kennel name, town or county. In New Jersey consumers can check with local municipalities which keep kennel inspection records.

• Take the time to read over the boarding agreement. Verify it includes the feeding and exercise schedule as well as pick up and drop off hours. Some facilities offer bathing, nail trimming and immunization as additional services. Make sure these and any additional fees related to medical emergencies or other care are included in the agreement.