Tips to find animal boarding in Tampa

Tips to find animal boarding in Tampa

Who we talked to

Betsy Hicka, owner

Almost Home Pet Resort

514 N. St. Cloud Ave.

Valrico, Fla


Betsy Hicka has worked with animals her entire life, including 35 years breeding and showing standard poodles, and 11 years as a veterinary technician. She founded Almost Home Pet Resort in 1992 in response to what she saw as inadequacies in animal boarding. "A lot of people tell me they board their dogs with their veterinarian, and I ask them, 'When you go on vacation, do you go to a hotel or a hospital?' I like to think of us as a hotel for dogs."

How can I make sure my pet has a happy stay?

"Take a tour of the facility and bring your pet with you. Let the people who are going to be caring for your pet meet and greet. I want the customer feeling very comfortable that they can see all parts of the facility rather than thinking, 'Oh, my dog's going behind closed doors.'

"You want to look for cleanliness. From the time you walk in the front door, there shouldn't be an odor. Make sure the water dishes are full and clean, and that the dogs have bedding, air conditioning and the chance to go outside.

"The animals should be tail-wagging, vibrant and happy to see you. Happy pets are our best form of advertising. You want to have a friendly staff, who bend down to say hello to the pets and interact. Individual playtime is important. We have a large enclosed grassy area where the dogs can play, and they have one-on-one interaction with the staff when they're playing.

"You need to bring your pet's complete vaccination history. We encourage people to bring their own food, to prevent any upsets from changing their diet, but we also have our own high-quality food here. We allow them to bring in two toys to make them feel at home, unless they're in the VIP suites, in which they can bring whatever they want.

"For our facility, the cost is based on the dog's weight. It's $22 per night at the low end, and $29 per night at the high end. The VIP suites are $35 per night.

"One of the best ways to judge a facility is if they're affiliated with a trade association, like the Pet Care Services Association. It's not just enough to say, 'I love animals.' You need to know good, basic information about sanitation, nutrition, behavior, recognizing symptoms of disease and other problems you might come across. Most pets are family members, and I tell my staff to treat them like their own pets."

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