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Compare Carefully before Using a Pet-Boarding Service

  • 2016.01.14

Many families in Hong Kong keep pets.  When the owners travel abroad, the pet needs to be looked after.  Pet boarding service has emerged to meet such demand.  How can consumers make an appropriate choice?

There is a huge difference in fees charged by the boarding establishments, and there is no uniform standard for classifying a pet as big, medium or small for fee-charging.  A dog may be classified as belonging to a certain size group but as another by another establishment.  The boarding establishments charge differently, apart from the boarding fees, variance in the miscellaneous fees is found to be even greater.  Take the dog bathing which is an additional charge item as an example.  The fee for such service ranges from $80 to $1,550, a difference of 18 times.  Consumers should also take note of the difference among establishments in compensation in case of a pet’s injury or death.  The compensation amount bears no correspondence to the amount of boarding fee.

The Consumer Council surveyed 20 licensed boarding establishments for animals.  10 provide only dog-boarding services, 1 provides only cat-boarding services, while the remaining 9 provide both.

Although the law requires boarding establishments to be licensed and compiled with the attached conditions, it does not regulate fees or other miscellaneous services, or impose uniform standards.  For instance, in the case of dog-boarding, different establishments classify animal size for charging in different way with different fee schedules.  The cost of boarding a dog below 10kg for 10 days ranges from $115 to $500 per day, a difference of more than 3 times.  For dogs over 35kg, the daily boarding fee ranges from $160 to $830, a difference of more than 4 times.

Consumers should be mindful of the upper weight limit set by some boarding establishments which do not accommodate over-sized dogs.  Some of them set their own minimum boarding period of 2 days or longer.

6 surveyed boarding establishments offer a single rate for cat boarding, while another 4 charge at rates according to the boarding facilities consumers selects.  The rates range from $90 to $430 a day, varying by nearly 4 times.

The boarding fee usually covers feeding, basic pet bathing, room cleaning and indoor walking.  Boarding establishments suggest pet owners bring along the food their pets get used to in order to avoid digestive disorders as a result of diet changes.

Pet owners should also compare the additional service charges among boarding establishments, as the difference can be huge.  For instance, the charges for basic bathing for cats lie from $200 to $2,000, a difference of 9 times; and $80 to $1,550 for dogs, a difference of 18 times.  Consumers should note that even for the same boarding establishment, different charges may apply for different breeds, and cats and dogs which more active may be charged more.

Some boarding establishments have surcharges during festivals and long holidays.  During Chinese New Year, for instance, surcharges for boarding a cat or dog range from $50 to $290 per day, or from 50 to 100% of the total boarding fee.

If the owners are anxious about their pets' condition while away, 15 boarding establishments offer free photos and transmission service, but there may be limitations on the frequency and means of transmission.  3 others charge $20 to $50 per transmission, while 2 do not provide such a service at all.  5 of them provide a real-time, 24-hour webcam service for owners to view their pets online.

As regards compensation for loss, sickness, injury or even death of pets as a result of staff negligence, 10 boarding establishments set a ceiling for damages ranging from $500 to $10,000.  2 claim to offer no compensation at all, and 1 would hold itself accountable to pay only the medical expense incurred for the injured cats.  The others would negotiate with the pet owner or seek veterinary advice before making a decision.  Pet owners should beware of whether any compensation is offered and the amount of such compensation may not correspond with the amount of the boarding fee.

Pet owners generally have to book from 1 day to 3 months in advance for pet-boarding services.  As for deposits, 10 boarding establishments require a deposit ranging from $200 to $1,000, or 20% to 50% of the total boarding fee, while 8 others require consumers to settle the full payment before the boarding starts. 

If consumers decide to cancel the booking before the boarding starts, 4 boarding establishments will not provide any refund, while the others may give a refund on a case by case basis, for example, if it is cancelled due to illness or death of the pet, full refund of the deposit or boarding fee will be made.  Under other circumstances, the boarding establishment may make partial refund subject to the length of notice period, or allow the paid amount to be paid for the subsequent pet-boarding service or other services within a certain period of time.

Here is some advice for pet owners when choosing and using pet-boarding services:

  • Visit the establishment to see if it holds the valid licenses, whether the space is sufficient and the staff treating the pets well;
  • Since the service provided by different boarding establishments are not the same, ask for the details of every chargeable item and pay attention to the boarding terms and conditions.  For example, some boarding establishments may only receive pets under certain age;
  • Take preventive measures by having your pet vaccinated and treated for fleas to avoid cross infection with other animals while boarding;
  • Brief the staff of the boarding establishment properly about your pet's meal schedule and rest time, and consider bringing along with your pet's own food, health products, and toys to help it adapt to the new environment;
  • Keep the contact details of the boarding establishment and make regular calls to enquire about your pet's condition.

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