Boarding and Daycare Kennels

Boarding and Daycare Kennels

The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) is aware that pet owners are using boarding and training kennels and daycare facilities in significantly increasing numbers.  The demands of travel and work commitments and the recognized need to provide pets with daily active socialization have all resulted in an escalating demand for these services.  ARL is also aware that oversight of these facilities, including the establishment of standards for qualified and trained staff to ensure safe care, has not kept abreast of the explosive growth in these industries.  The resulting situations have created a broad spectrum of concerns ranging from cruel and neglectful conduct to the tragic deaths of animals that could have been prevented.

Under recent changes in (2012) Massachusetts state law, commercial boarding and training kennels as well as day care establishments are now licensed by the municipality in which the facility is located.  M.G.L. c. 140 §136A[1].  The municipality’s animal control officer is charged with making an inspection prior to the issuance of a license and an annual inspection thereafter.   Under M.G.L. c. 140 S§137C, the kennel must be maintained in a “sanitary and humane manner” and records maintained in a proper manner.  There is no definition of “sanitary and humane manner” and the phrase does not speak to training, qualifications, or certifications of the owners and staff of kennels.  Therefore, ARL believes that the sanitary and humane phrase is incomplete and is in need of further elaboration to address all facets of these businesses.      

Each city can enact ordinances and each town can enact by-laws that can provide stricter regulations with respect to establishments which require licenses to operate.   A general review of ordinances and by-laws reveals that many ordinances and by-laws reiterate the phrase “sanitary and humane manner” but without further elaboration.  While some towns and cities offer other provisions, generally there is very little contained in the by-laws or ordinances which speak to qualifications and training of owners and staff.

ARL is aware that circumstances and operating methods have resulted in injuries and death to animals at boarding kennels and daycare facilities.   The circumstances involved: ignorance of animal behavior; poor animal handling; ignorance of and failure to note stress factors which affect certain breeds; failure to promptly obtain veterinary treatment; poor kennel management which put dogs at physical risk with other dogs; few protocols that address emergency plans with respect to power failures and outages and extensive periods of time where animals are not properly monitored.

ARL believes that the changes essential in this area are best supported by a two-pronged approach:  legislative change and consumer education.  A legislative directive will provide a basic and consistent framework with the force of law to support and encourage these changes.   Consumer education would provide consumers with the knowledge and ability to leverage their economic power to demand changes in the industry to ensure their pets safety.

The legislatively-mandated Animal Cruelty and Protection Task Force in which ARL participated as a voting member recommended both that the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources make rules and regulations and that cities and towns model ordinances and by-laws encompass a section on Animal Care Standards.   While both avenues would be a good first step, ARL believes that, based upon the conduct and the incidents of which we are aware and have investigated, much more is needed and the changes need to be implemented swiftly.

Therefore, ARL will:

  • Develop and promote an educational awareness campaign to encourage all pet owners who use boarding and training kennels to take the following steps and make careful and detailed inquiries including, but not limited to, the following:
    • Make a personal visit to kennel or facility in advance of your pet’s initial visit.
    • Ask to inspect the facility including the housing area, the dog runs, the play areas, and the food preparation area.
    • Ask about the background and training of the owners and staff of the facility.  If training provided, what does the training consist of and who provides it?
    • With respect to licensed facilities, inquire about the last inspection. Were any violations noted within the last 6 months?  If so, what were they and how were they addressed?
    • Ask about the emergency veterinary protocol and who is responsible for obtaining veterinary care?  Where will be the animal be taken for medical treatment?
    • With daycare and boarding kennels, what is the policy for determining which dogs can be together? How many dogs are allowed out at one time?   Is staff in attendance and observing the interaction at all time? What is the staff/animal ratio
    • What provisions are in place in case of loss of power?  Is there an emergency generator?
    • Is the fire evacuation plan?   When was the facility last inspected by the local fire department?  Are cages or crates easily accessible for emergency crews?
    • What are the general security measures?
    • What are the hours of staff coverage?  Is there video surveillance?
  • Develop and support passage of comprehensive legislation to address the following issues:  required certification and training of owners and staff;  establishment of an emergency veterinary protocol to be  prominently displayed; establishment of emergency evacuation  plans due to fire and/or water emergencies; establishment of  protocols for  loss of power including heating and cooling systems;  require adequate staff-to-animal ratio; require continuous coverage of animals either by person or by electronic surveillance;
  • Develop and support cities ordinances and town by-laws to provide additional guidance to animal control offices as to enforcement of safety and standards issues.


[1] Licensing is required of commercial boarding or training kennel, an establishment used for boarding, holding, day care, overnight stays or training of animals that are not the property of the owner of the establishment, at which such services are rendered in exchange for consideration and in the absence of the owner of any such animal.”  See generally, M.G.L. c. 140 §136A.


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