Boarding facilities including dog and cat daycare centres


Ratification Date: 14 Jun 2019


  1. Boarding establishments must provide for the health and welfare of animals in their care, including the opportunity to carry out natural behaviours.
  2. Overnight boarding establishments and dog day care centres should be regulated and licensed, with enforceable standards and effective auditing of compliance.
  3. Proprietors and staff of day care and boarding facilities must have minimum training, which includes education in species-specific needs and behaviours, as well as the health and welfare implications of behaviour problems.


Boarding establishments, including day care centres for small animals, provide a valuable service for owners who are unable to have their dogs and cats accompany them on holidays, during working hours or in other particular circumstances when they cannot be appropriately cared for in the home environment.

An increasing number of busy households include dogs and cats that have limited social and physical interaction with other animals and humans for extended periods each day.

Well-run day care centres can provide a range of benefits for dogs and cats by:

  • allowing acceptable social interaction between different sizes and breeds in a non-threatening environment
  • providing companionship and exercise through interaction between pets of the same species
  • allowing non-aggressive social interaction between pets that often come from single-pet households; and counteracting boredom in the home by providing mental, physical and social stimulation.

For some animals, these facilities can provide the opportunity for avoidance of situations that progress behavioural illness; for example, animals that develop anxiety if left alone when an owner must work.

Many states and territories have no legal standards for the operation of these facilities. In those states that have developed standards and guidelines, the legal basis of these standards differs, with some being more detailed than others.1–9 Current licencing codes do not require that staff have an education level that certifies they understand species-specific needs or behaviours. Proprietors and staff of different day care and boarding establishments can vary in their level of knowledge.

Those states that have guidelines for catteries often do not make it clear that cats should be able to escape visual threats from other cats. Species-specific needs should be met regarding environmental enrichment and space requirements that may differ between species; for example, vertical space opportunities for cats. The ability to escape visual, auditory and olfactory threats from others is necessary for all species.

Current standards and guidelines in some states and territories outline the importance of identifying animals that may have a behaviour problem and separating animals that may use aggression in some situations. This in itself is not enough to protect the animal and other animals from future harm.

It is often unclear to the general public that behaviour problems can be a sign of chronic and progressive illness, which is related to the situation or environment where the behaviour is seen. Animals showing signs of behaviour problems or ongoing anxiety within a boarding or day care establishment may not be suited to the style of care the particular establishment can offer, or may not be suited to any boarding situation.


  1. There must be appropriate enforceable government or industry standards specifying the required levels of care, socialisation, housing, husbandry, nutrition, health, hygiene, biosecurity, vaccinations, parasite control, reproductive status management, microchipping, exercise provision, security, staffing levels, carer competence and emergency plans. Animal movement records must be maintained to assist in the event of a disease outbreak.
  2. Proprietors of boarding and day care facilities should be knowledgeable on the environmental needs of the species in their care, taking into account appropriate space, group numbers and enrichment opportunities when setting up their premises.
  3. Staff working in a boarding or day care facility should have a basic understanding of the communication signals given by the species in their care, such as signals for increased space, signs of anxiety and signs that an animal may be threatening another animal. Staff can then work to ensure an animal feels safe and comfortable in their care. The AVA has developed numerous handouts to help build awareness of the signs of anxiety in pets. These can be found on the AVA website and used as a guide.
  4. Staff should inform owners if their animals show evidence of health or behaviour problems while in care, and recommend veterinary examination and/or behavioural assessment before future boarding. Proprietors should support staff in such decisions, thus putting the future health and safety of animals in their care as a priority.

Other relevant policies and position statements


  1. Victoria State Government. Code of Practice for the operation of boarding establishments. 2017. http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/pets/domestic-animal-businesses/boarding-establishments/code-of-practice-for-the-operation-of-boarding-establishments. Accessed May 2018.
  2. New South Wales Government, Department of Primary Industries. NSW Animal Welfare Code of Practice No. 5: dogs and cats in animal boarding establishments. 1996. NSW Animal Welfare Code of Practice No 5 - Dogs and cats in animal boarding establishments. Accessed January 2022.
  3. Queensland Government, Business Queensland. The Animal Care and Protection Act. 2017. https://www.business.qld.gov.au/industries/farms-fishing-forestry/agriculture/livestock/animal-welfare/law/animal-care-act. Accessed May 2018.
  4. Tasmanian Government, Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment. Animal welfare standards and guidelines for dogs. 2016. http://dpipwe.tas.gov.au/Documents/Animal Welfare Guideline_Breeding Dogs.pdf. Accessed May 2018.
  5. ACT Government, A.C.T legislation register. Animal welfare (animal boarding establishments) Code of Practice 2008. 2018. http://www.legislation.act.gov.au/di/2008-234/20080912-37746/pdf/2008-234.pdf. Accessed May 2018.
  6. Northern Territory Government. Animal welfare. 2017 https://nt.gov.au/environment/animals/animal-welfare. Accessed May 2018.
  7. South Australia, Veterinary Surgeons Board of South Australia. Veterinary Surgeons Board of South Australia Code of Practice for the operation of boarding establishments. 2004. http://www.vsbsa.org.au/boarding.pdf. Accessed May 2018
  8. Parliament of Western Australia. Dog Act 1976. https://www.legislation.wa.gov.au/legislation/statutes.nsf/main_mrtitle_273_homepage.html. Accessed June 2019
  9. Pet Industry Association of Australia. Standards & Guidelines for best practice boarding facilities/establishments & doggy day care centres. 2016. https://piaa.net.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/SG-Boarding-and-Doggy-Day-Care-June-2016.pdf. Accessed May 2018.


The purpose of this policy is to educate the public and act as an easy reference for proprietors and employees at boarding and day care establishments.