BBB: Keep your pet healthy, safe and happy during your summer vacation

There are few things as sad as looking in the eyes of your beloved pet as you head out on vacation. For peace of mind while you are away, Connecticut Better Business Bureau says there are several ways to make sure your other "family member" is being taken care of in a safe environment.

Depending on where you are going and the size and temperament of your pet, it may be possible to bring it along, but most often we must leave them in someone else's hands.

The two main choices open to pet lovers are boarding or hiring a pet-sitter. Regardless of which you choose, you have to take time to find the right fit.

"For most people pets, like children, create concerns relating to their happiness and safety," said Howard Schwartz, spokesman for Connecticut Better Business Bureau. "You want to be satisfied that you make a choice with which you are comfortable."

If you decide to board your pet, begin with recommendations from friends, neighbors or relatives. Your veterinarian may be able to recommend facilities or tell you which ones you might want to avoid. Begin by checking a kennels' reputation at to see what other consumers have to say about it.

Once you have selected a potential part-time home, drop by unannounced to assess the staff and the facility's cleanliness, both inside and out. See if it has the necessary licensing, and whether owners are required to provide proof their pets have had all of the required vaccinations.

Your pet's personality is a key issue. Some boarding facilities allow pets to play together outside. Some dogs enjoy the open air and interaction, but others do not. You will want staff to know about your pet's preferences, typical behavior and energy level, and if there are any medical conditions that require attention.

Prepare a "go bag" to carry medicines, special food, treats, favorite toys, blankets or a shirt with your scent on it.

Not all pets require boarding. In such a case, hiring a pet-sitter may be more appropriate.

Regardless of your pet's personality and species, such as cats or exotic pets such as birds or reptiles, they need fresh food and water several times a day, a clean environment and human company.

BBB offers some tips on selecting a competent and trustworthy pet-sitter:

  • Ask about their services and experience — Some pet-sitters are willing to stay overnight or even do unrelated chores such as check the mail. You would also want to know whether they are qualified to administer medication or injections if required.

  • Find out if they are bonded — It makes sense to ask if a pet-sitter is bonded because you are giving them access to your home. Make sure all valuables are stored out of site or safely stored.

  • Get everything in writing — Get a contract from the kennel or agreement from the sitter that describes how your pet will be cared for and any extra fees. Most businesses will have their own contracts. Discuss payment terms and pay with a credit card in case you want to dispute a charge.

  • Provide a pet-sitter or kennel contact information for your pet's veterinarian. Don't wait. This is a very busy time of year, so make your reservations as early as possible.

You will find additional helpful tips on making educated consumer decisions at .

For more information contact Howard Schwartz, executive communications director, 860-740-4500, Ext. 103; 860-384-5875.