If you can imagine ever having to kennel board your pet, the time to investigate which kennel service you would use is now, rather than right before you need it. Currently pet boarding is big business, so there's lots of competition, which is good for consumers looking for high quality care. The Pet Care Services Association is an organization that instructs and accredits member pet sitting services that volunteer for scrutiny. While a simple membership in this organization only means that dues have been paid, participation in the group and accreditation means that education and self-regulation are in place.

But you do not need to depend on outside organizations to choose which service you will use. When looking for a place to board your pet, please use the following topics and techniques as a checklist as you make your decision.

Location and Security: Is the facility near enough to your home that you can pick up and retrieve your pet conveniently? Is the facility in a "safe" location and does the surrounding neighborhood look safe to you? Lack of neighborhood safety could include large manufacturing industry, noise or very heavy traffic. Is the perimeter securely fenced and gated so that no pets can accidentally run off? Do you feel it would be hard to enter the facility unnoticed or unattended?

Staff: Does the staff seem genuinely interested in the dogs who are boarding? Do they seem to know what they are talking about? Have any of them had any training or certification in pet care? Are you greeted when you enter, or is it hard to find someone to help you? Does somebody stay at the facility 24/7 or are pets ever left unattended? Do you get a sense of warmth and competence?

Veterinary Association: Does the facility have a vet on call? What is the emergency procedure? Would the facility consult with your vet in case of illness?

Vaccinations: Are all pets required to be current on their vaccinations, especially for rabies and bordetella (kennel cough)? Does the facility willingly accept the responsibility to administer meds to pets that have regular prescriptions?

Contact: What are the contact procedures if staff needs to reach you? How easy is it for you to contact staff at any time for an update?

Cleanliness: Does the facility look and smell clean? Visit several times to make sure the cleanliness is consistently maintained throughout the day. How does staff handle food bowls and feedings to prevent spread of disease?

Pet Facilities: There should be plenty of light and good ventilation. How are heating and cooling maintained? Does each dog have its own kennel or are all kenneled together? Is there a space for play? Are the runs private or public? Are outside runs protected from rain and, again, are they clean? Does each dog have an elevated platform with clean bedding so they are not resting on the concrete floor?

Food: Will the facility use your choice of food (you might have to bring it) and what...