Board a pet
There are many ways that you can effectively help military pets and their owners. Our boarder resources will help guide you in finding, meeting and caring for military pets.
Understanding What Paws Abroad Does
Paws Abroad is a networking site; we do not arrange boarding between owners and boarders. It is the responsibility of the owner to contact boarders in their area and choose one that will be the right fit for their pet. We highly encourage our boarders to contact any owners who are searching in your area. Using our site proactively will increase the chances that all our Pets in Need will find the right boarder.
Making the Arrangement
Contacting Pet Owners
Contacting owners is the first step in creating a relationship that might lead to a potential boarding arrangement. Email or call owners to introduce yourself and offer your help. Talk about your household, living situation, what you do, why you want to help and who you are. The more information you provide them upfront, the less questions they’ll need to ask in response.
What to Ask
You will be caring for someone else’s pet; it is important to know as much about the pet before boarding begins. Consider asking the following:
- What is the temperament of the pet?
- How is the pet with other animals? In public places? In the car?
- How do they discipline their pets? Do your training and discipline methods differ? Can you adjust to match the owner’s methods?
- What is the daily life like for the pet in its current household?
- Where does the owner expect their pet to be during the day? Alone? At night?
While Paws Abroad does screen every Pet in Need listing and attempts to verify every account for qualification for our program, we cannot guarantee that all our owners are using our site correctly. Ensure you ask for some sort of verification of military service, such as asking for a contact from their military unit. If you have any questions about the legitimacy of a owner, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for advice or request that we do further investigation to ensure our Pet Owners meet our requirements.
Meet and Greets
Once you’ve talked with a owner over the phone or email and believe their pet might be a good fit in your household, schedule your first meet and greet. Do this in a non-threatening environment; someplace the pet will not feel territorial or uncomfortable. Good places are parks (if their pet is well socialized). Observe the pet first; don’t force the pet to interact with you. Allow the pet to adjust to your presence and accept you. Feed some treats to the pet to encourage trust if the pet is shy. Allow the pet to come to you, not the other way around. If you have other pets, this would be a good time to meet to check for compatibility.
It is recommended next that you meet the pet in their current home. This is to ensure the pet is accepting you into their territory. If the pet is growling, barking uncontrollably and irregularly, or showing any other forms of aggression the pet might not be comfortable with you initially and may need more time and meetings. On another date, invite the owner to your house where the pet will be staying. This is a great time to allow the pet to explore their new home. If you have other pets, it might be best to keep them in a separate room to avoid territorial problems. Let the new pet sniff, play with you and get comfortable.
Schedule a weekend for you to watch the pet as a “trial run.” This is to make sure the pet is completely comfortable in your home. Agree to watch the pet for 1-2 nights, this way you can talk to the owner about any problems you might encountered. The point of this is to one, get the pet comfortable, but also highlight any problems you might have with the pet. This can also help decrease the chance that you might become overwhelmed with the pet’s behavior AFTER owner is gone, and be stuck with a pet you can’t handle. This is your chance to determine if the pet is a good fit in your house.
Providing Your Background
An owner might ask you for references from your employer, veterinarian/etc or landlord. They may even request an online background check. Do not be insulted or put off by this. The owner is putting a great amount of trust in you to watch their pet while they’re away from home and may want to ensure your credibility from outside sources. If this is something you are comfortable with, agree to provide them with the desired references. If this is something you are not comfortable with, explain to them why.
Don’t Be Afraid of Saying “No”
If after several meet and greets, you do not feel comfortable with the pet, do not be afraid of telling the owner that you cannot agree to watch their pet. Pets can sense discomfort, fear, resent, and other negative emotions. If you are having any of these thoughts towards a pet, if you agree to board them, the pet can behave in ways which reflect your feelings and cause greater problems for you. You have rights as a boarder too; do not be afraid to exercise them.
Do Not Leave Them Hanging
If you have talked with and met with a owner but have decided that boarding a pet is not for you or their pet will not fit with your household, do not leave them hanging. Military members are working on a tight time schedule and are relying on you and other boarders to be fair, honest and hopefully care for their pet. By not returning phone calls or emails, breaking an agreement to meet or worse, backing out of a boarding arrangement at the last minute, you are putting their pet in danger by making the owners desperate to rehome their pet. Pets may be relinquished to shelters or worse, euthanized, because of flaky boarders. Be upfront with the owner in order to have them move on if you won’t work out.
Before you take in a Pet in Need, ensure you have gone over our example Boarding Contract with the owner, and each of you retains a signed copy. Download the Paws Abroad Boarding Contract here.
Prepping your Household
If you have other humans in the household, adults or children, ensure that everyone is on board for watching a pet for an owner. Ensure that the pet gets along with all family members and is accepting of any children in the home. If the owner has specific requests made in regards to the care of their pets, make sure everyone knows of those requests. When it comes to training, discipline, feeding, playing, etc, there should be consistency for the pet from the owner’s home to yours.
All pets should meet the incoming Pet in Need before boarding begins. For pets that are not comfortable with meeting new animals, ensure you are introducing the pets slowly and in a method that makes them comfortable with each other. Allowing them to meet and get used to each other before boarding begins with decrease the likelihood of aggression that might arise if animals are introduced too quickly. Also, ensure that all your pets are kept current on their vaccinations and parasite prevention medication to help all pets remain healthy during the boarding.
Pet-Safe Your Home
If you do not already own pets or if this is the first pet to live in your home, ensure your home is pet-safe. Check your backyard for security, ensure gates lock completely and check if any of your plants are poisonous to animals. If you have carpets in your home, prepare yourself for an occasional accident, as sometimes pets have potty accidents when they are nervous or stressed. If you have collectibles or fragile items in their reach, consider removing them while the pet adjusts to decrease the chances of any potential damage. Cover exposed wires to your electronics. Consider your trash can – is it exposed or hidden out of reach? Pets when stressed or nervous can have a tendency to participate in destructive activities; decrease this likelihood by scheduling meet and greets in your home before hand and pet-safe-ing your home to prevent potential destruction.
Prepare for the Worse, Hope for the Best
Pets can act completely differently when in your care than in their Pet Owner’s care. The Pet Owner may ensure you that their pet is well-behaved, but once they leave, you may find that the pet is doing things that the owner did not warn you about. Common problems are potty accidents, chewing, barking and aggression. All of these problems are normally associated with stress, frustration to a change in their routine and separation anxiety. To help decrease the chances that these unwanted behaviors occur, ensure you spend plenty of time before boarding begins getting to know the pet, having the pet come to your home and attempt to keep the pet on the same schedule as the owner had after boarding begins. Feeding on a consistent schedule, allowing the pet to sleep where it is comfortable (in the bedroom, in a crate, etc – wherever the pet slept with the owner), keeping the pet in a familiar place (indoors or outdoors), etc.
Expect an adjustment period. A new pet may take anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days to adjust to their new surroundings. However, if after a couple weeks you are still experiencing severe behavioral problems with the pet, start looking at outside resources. Use the internet as a resource for attempting to find solutions for the problems. Contact the owner and explain what is going on in detail to see if they have any advice. Ask the owner if they will be willing to pay for a trainer to help. However, without owner consent, under no circumstances should you give the pet away or rehome the pet to another boarding home. This is why we recommend many meet and greets before boarding begins. If during those meet and greets you are experiencing problems that you do not think you can handle, you can avoid future problems by not agreeing to board the pet and requesting the owner find other arrangements.
Going Out of Town
Whether or not you have a pre-planned trip scheduled when boarding is to take place, ensure you talk to the owner about what will happen to their pet if you have to go out of town before boarding begins to discuss where the pet will go in your absence. The owner might have a boarding facility or friend that may be able to watch their pet short term. If you keep your pets at a boarding facility or a friend’s while you are out of town, ensure that the owner agrees to these arrangements. The owner may also ask that you use a pre-approved secondary boarder if they are available. Boarding fees are usually considered to be a cost of pet care, and thus an owner should agree to reimburse for any short term boarding necessary, but not to exceed an unreasonable cost. You must be able to balance your request to the owner for reimbursement with your desire to leave town.
Boarders are not allowed to require payment for boarding a pet in military member’s absence. However, it is expected that owners remain financially responsible for their pets during boarding. This includes pet food, parasite prevention, toys, grooming, veterinarian care, etc. You and the owner should discuss reimbursement or payment options. If you are comfortable paying for goods and having the owner reimburse you at a later time, ensure you keep all receipts and denote this arrangement in the Boarding Contract. It may be preferable for you however for the owner to send you a monthly payment, either check or direct deposit to your bank account, in order to cover anticipated costs. If there is an injury or accident during boarding, a veterinarian release form is included in our Boarding Contract which should authorize the owners credit card to be charge in case a vet visit is required. Ensure the owner has turned this in to their vet and if a vet visit is required, you bring the pet to the vet that has been authorized. If the pet causes any damages to your house or property (chewing, marking, potty accidents, etc), save any receipts for repair or cleaning and ask the owner to help pay for these costs.
Have an Emergency Plan
In the rare circumstance that you are not able to care for the pet during your boarding agreement for an extended period of time where a boarding facility is not a financial option, ensure that you have discussed a back-up emergency plan with the owner before they leave. The owner should have a secondary boarder lined up in the event that you, as the primary, can no longer care for the pet. Ensure you contact secondary boarder as soon as any problem arises to confirm that they are still able to provide the pet care. In this event, you should go over the pre-existing Boarding Contract with them and ask that they sign and agree to the contract as well in order to legally transfer pet care. If this scenario happens, notify the owner as soon as possible.
If You Can’t Board Pets
If there are Pets in Need in your area or others that are not a good fit for your home, but you still want to help, please help us recruit potential boarders by helping us get our name out. We have a very active Facebook page that you can share our Pets in Need, mention us to your local pet-service providers, print our flyer to place in community places and donate to our cause. All these things will help us gain exposure and reach others who may be able to help. Your help in sharing may also help us reach military members who may need our service.