Opening a Kennel: General Tips and Guidelines
Opening a kennel is a huge undertaking, even for those who have worked in kennels before or think they know all there is to know about caring for dogs. The following tips and guidelines will help you plan for your business and will, perhaps, bring to mind things you hadn’t considered before.
1. Consider the cost of opening up a new business and make sure that you have the financial backing to support the venture. You should have enough funding set aside just in case it takes a few months or more for your business to really take off.
2. Make sure that the location of your kennel is zoned for that use.
3. Make sure that the building you choose to house your kennel either has all of the facilities you’ll need (enough space, fixtures, etc.) or can be easily modified to accommodate your needs.
4. Make sure that you have either applied for or received all the relevant state, county or local permits. Become an expert on the all of the regulations and statutes that govern kennel operations in your region and follow them to the letter.
5. Exceed the minimum standards of care at your kennel. This will help to ensure that you are indeed following all regulations and statutes. Potential customers will also be attracted by this attentiveness.
6. If you have employees, you’ll need to investigate group insurance plans. Some businesses pay for a portion of employee premiums. Even if you can’t afford to, however, you still may be able to negotiate a low group insurance rate for you and your staff.
7. Learn all you can about workman’s compensation insurance. If you have employees, you will have to pay for this insurance yourself – you cannot deduct it from the paychecks of your employees. Workman’s compensation insurance is mandated in every state and will pay your employee’s medical bills should he or she be injured on the job, even if the injury is the employee’s fault Workman’s compensation insurance will also cover any of your injured employee’s lost wages. If you keep a consistently safe workplace and keep the number of accidents down, you may qualify for lower premiums.
8. Utilize low-cost advertising and marketing to spread the word about your kennel. Neighborhood newspapers and door-to-door flyer distribution are great places to start. Word-of-mouth advertising, however, especially in a business that involves entrusting your furry family member to a stranger, can be very powerful as well. Encourage this by offering discounts to your current clients in exchange for referrals. Also maintain a professional looking website.
9. Provide multiple services (grooming, day care, pet supplies, obedience training, etc.) This will not only broaden your customer base, but will prompt multiple visits from existing customers.
10. Make sure that you and all of your employees are trained to deal with dogs in any situation and can remain calm in a crisis. Inexperienced and nervous dog handlers will only inspire fear and nervousness in the dogs they are caring for. This, of course, can lead to aggression and biting.
11. Provide a kennel that allows for dogs to play together for a set period of time everyday. Also make sure that all of the animals boarded there will receive an adequate amount of exercise throughout their stay.
12. Make it clear to the pet owners that if their animal becomes a serious threat to the safety of the employees or other boarded animals, you will be unable to board the animal again. Let the owner know that if the danger posed by their animal is serious enough, they will have to pick up their pet immediately or arrange for someone else to pick him up. Make sure that you have a signed contract that clearly states your obligations to the pet and the pet owner’s obligations to you.
11. Gain accreditation through the American Boarding and Kennel Association (AKBA). Accreditation through AKBA will increase the comfort level of your customers by letting them know you are dedicated to providing the best possible facilities for their pet. AKBA will examine and certify the following areas of your business and facility: personnel, office, reception area, record keeping practices, business practices, grounds, work areas, kennel area, animal care procedures, environmental controls, sanitation, trash and sewage disposal procedures, pest control, fire safety, grooming facilities, business vehicles, community play areas and availability and diversity in the animals boarded.