How do you find someone you can really trust to keep your furry family members safe, healthy and happy while you’re out of town?  You’ve got more pet care options than ever—from well-meaning neighbors, to pet sitters stopping by your house once or twice a day, to mom-and-pop backyard kennels, to professional boarding facilities like Cascade Pet Camp.

Deciding where to leave your pet can be a tough one, in part because—believe it or not—in many areas there are no laws establishing minimum standards of pet care beyond generic animal cruelty laws. And, there are no regulations about the education and training required for pet care takers.

Some kennels hold certificates and accreditations from pet industry associations and agree to abide by the professional care and ethics guidelines of those associations. However, these designations are strictly on the honor system, since there’s no independent, third-party oversight or evaluation system in place.

So when it comes finding first-class pet care, it’s entirely up to pet owners to compare and evaluate the available options.

“Luxury” or expected standards?

At Cascade Pet Camp, we hold ourselves to the highest possible professional standards and best practices. As a result, other facilities sometimes refer to us a “luxury pet-care facility.”

While we do love to pamper our campers, we believe every pet deserves a high level of care, safety and attention from trained professionals, along with state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor spaces.

Does that make our accommodations “luxury”? Or are we setting the standard that all boarding facilities in the area should follow?

Insider tips for savvy pet parents

So how do you know if a pet care facility will meet your expectations? Here are the criteria we consider most important:

1. Is the facility a legitimate business with reliable staff? Check with the county government to make sure the boarding facility you’re considering meets all licensing and zoning requirements. Make sure it carries business and liability insurance. Unlike pet sitters or neighbors, full-time, professional pet care businesses have systems in place to ensure your pet is always well taken care of, no matter the circumstances, so you can rest easy while you are away.

2. Do people you trust recommend this facility? Ask pet-savvy friends or neighbors, your veterinarian, or your dog trainer for boarding recommendations. Check Google and social media sites for customer reviews and testimonials.

3. Would you want to stay there? Visit the facility and ask to see the living, sleeping and play areas where your pet will stay. Are they clean and welcoming, well-lighted and well ventilated? Ask about safety and security measures. What health and vaccination requirements does the facility have?

4. Are the owners and managers highly educated professionals? The best pet care facilities put a high value on education and training. Staff take a scientific approach to animal behavior and evaluate each individual to provide appropriate care, training and play. Ask about the staff education and training.

5. Do all staff interact with the animals in a caring and positive way? The best pet care staff are not only knowledgeable about animal behavior, but they also genuinely love the pets in their care and treat them with kindness and respect at all times.

6. Does the facility provide the kinds of activities your pet needs and loves? Activity programs and standards of care should be provided with a thorough understanding of animal behavior and best industry practices. So you can be sure your pet’s stay is fun, safe and behaviorally healthy. Does your cat love to nap in the sun? Does your dog love to romp with friends or prefer to snuggle with an attentive human? Make sure the facility you choose offers activities your pet will enjoy.

7. Does the facility carefully supervise group play for dogs? In order to ensure safe play for all canine campers, facilities should carefully evaluate each dog’s behavior, size and play style before placing them in appropriate groups. And most importantly, group play should always have in-person supervision by trained staff.

8. What other services does the facility offer? Will your pet have access to quality vet care if needed? How about training, bathing and grooming?

Not all pet care options are created equal. But with these insider tips, you’ll know when you’ve found a great professional facility for your furry kids.