We’re happy to bring you this guest post by Rori Paul.
From the moment you pass from under the awning through the two-sided entry (one in, one out) and see the large lobby-registration area at Best Friends Pet Care at Walt Disney World, you know you’re at WDW. Fun and friendly architecture, the over-sized dog bone, fire hydrants and the cat face smiling at you give it away.
By all accounts this new facility is a dog kennel and cattery. Yet you can feel something is different. Heck, referring to this place as a “typical” kennel is like calling the Magic Kingdom a typical theme park. This is Disney, after all, and the folks at Best Friends Pet Care – already well established throughout the U.S. with more than 40 locations in 18 states – knew that when they teamed with the top U.S. travel destination they had to do it right – Disney right.
Mission accomplished! On this day I had a personal tour given by Area Manager, Jennifer Kratzer. She’s my kind of lady – personally greeting each dog we passed, unafraid of bending down to the dog’s level, accepting a doggie-kiss, and letting each one know they are welcome and cared for.
Prior to building the new facility, Disney had five small pet care facilities in the park. For the most part they were only open for the day to park visitors. That worked fine for families camping at Fort Wilderness, where pets continue to be welcome on the “pet loops,” but other travelers who wanted to stay for the week with Fluffy or Flip in tow encountered a problem: where do pets spend the night? Best Friends Pet Care now provides a central location to accommodate a larger number of pets and allow for both daycare and multi-day stays.
And yet, there were still unsure faces dropping their dogs off …
So, I took the VIP tour, talked with Jenn and her staff, and got to see just what your dog, cat, pocket pet or pig will experience.
I’ve been to a number of kennels over the years, managed one, and in some ways this one appears to be similar to some good ones. The facility welcomes 240 dogs, 24 cats, and any number of pocket pets. Yet, you’re in the middle of a major vacation resort with families having fun at theme parks all around. And, those families are invited to interact with their furry family as much as they’d like during normal operating hours. Not something you’d find at a “typical” kennel.
Nor would you find this kind of attention. Throughout my visit I was impressed and pleased to find a staff that is caring, attentive, knowledgeable and always on duty – watching your pet as closely as parent would.
Pets are checked in at the registration desk – very hotel-like – as photos of “guests” play above. The staff is friendly and efficient. The lobby is clean and peaceful. The occasional bark filters from the back play area or through an open door, but in general, there is a quiet that one doesn’t usually associate with such locales.
Jenn and I headed straight for the top-level facilities – the VIP Luxury Suites. Rooms fit for the king of your household. Dogs enjoy spacious rooms with indoor/outdoor access, a private TV (I’m assured it’s not all Disney movies, but it is all pet-related) and a raised bed. Their “pet concierge” will be watching over them, assuring their complimentary 2 potty walks, 2 playgroups, and bedtime story. “Go home fresh” baths are provided after a 3-day stay. This is the kind of accommodations many parents would love to give their furry ones. (Standard $76, Resort Guests $69)
Adding to your peace of mind are the Internet-based cameras that allow you to watch what’s going on in the VIP Suites, or in the playgroups.
We moved on to the Vacation Villas, a long-hall like space where dogs individually enjoy 72 square feet of space with raised bed, doggie-eye level TV, and a private outdoor relief patio. Their Vacation Villa stay includes 1 potty walk, 1 playgroup session, and turn-down service. Yep, I asked; turn-down includes a kiss good-night and biscuit for a personal touch. (Standard $59, Resort Guests $53)
A favorite of mine in here: the across-the-hall windows providing your pet a variety of doggie-level views. Too cute.
The more basic kennels are laid out in two layers, upper and lower, and offer a more cost effective way of allowing your pet to stay near you. The lower kennels, open to dogs of all sizes, provide an indoor/outdoor arrangement with one potty walk. (Standard $40, Resort Guests $36). The upper kennels are for small dogs – roughly 20 pounds or less – and offer indoor accommodations only with two potty walks. (Standard $37, Resort Guests $34).
I’ve always suggested that pet-parents looking to board visit the facility first. You should be wary of any kennels that don’t let you look. At Best Friends Pet Care facilities, you are welcome to view any area where your pet will be staying. (They do not provide general tours, in an effort to keep things calm and familiar for their guests.)
An informational chart is kept on each kennel or door and everything that goes in and comes out is noted. If there are any anomalies – such as a soft stool or missed meal – parent’s are notified. Emergencies can be handled with parents, or if parent’s are concerned they may be difficult to reach, procedures can be prearranged at check-in.
As you enter the building, to your left there is a large window to the Cattery. This long room is bright, airy, and lined with large kennels, or “condos.” Offered in two-level or four, cats are comfy here as they settle in away from home.
I asked Jenn and she confirmed, cats don’t travel as much as dogs, but they do come. Jenn and her staff are well aware that cats are, by nature, not as adaptable to change. Careful notes are kept of what goes in and comes out, and they are always ready to react to even the simple changes, such as not eating or drinking. (Two level condo: Standard $23, Resort Guests $21 / Four level condo: Standard $32, Resort Guests $30)
Hamsters, rabbits and fish, oh my. And yes, they all stay here.
This room, specifically for Pocket Pets, is lined with shelves to house these family members. Capacity is determined by cage size rather than a set number, and just like the dogs and cats, pocket pets are monitored with their own charts.
I met “Cow” the rabbit on my tour, and admired a fish, but Jenn told me they’re prepared for a range of pets – including the baby pot-bellied pig who shared the dog’s quarters during his stay!
I’ve had furry family my whole life, and as I mentioned managed a kennel for a year. Because of my experiences and having boarded two of my dogs once, I’ve been leery of ever boarding again. Yet my tour and time at Best Friends Pet Care at Walt Disney World has me reconsidering my stand – at least there.
This is perhaps the cleanest kennel and cattery I’ve ever been in. Ok, its brand new. Use has just begun, so keeping it clean is to be expected. But that’s exactly why I looked beyond – I noticed the materials used in the kennels, the play-yards and the daycare rooms. These are good, sturdy materials that can be cleaned and disinfected.
Jenn, the leader of this pack, sets a very sure tone of care, compassion and love for their guests. Many members of the staff have been Vet Techs or worked in kennels, and while that’s not required, being able to work with and understand dogs, cats and other pets is a must. (They are hiring – especially before the holidays – so send your resume and fill out an application.)
There are a la carte options available for your pet including playtime, cuddle time, walk and explore, bottled water and more. For cats, playtime, cookies and milk, or tuna on a Ritz are among the options.
They’re adding a “photo program” for guests who stay more than 3 days – taking photos and making them available for families to see how their pet’s vacation is going.
There is also on-site, a grooming facility. Dogs in the VIP Suites who stay a minimum of 3 days get a complimentary bath, but your dog too can be groomed.
All dogs are checked for personality before they are included in any group situation. Multiple dogs may be housed together for comfort and security.
Do not forget proof of vaccines. There is a “quarantine” area where your dog can stay if you do not have proof of vaccination with you. However, you’re only allowed one such mistake and your dog will be housed in a “vet-like” area – kennels in an area separate from the other dogs. These dogs will not be handled and remain in their kennel throughout the stay.
Pets are not allowed in Theme Parks & Resorts. While service animals are allowed everywhere on Walt Disney World property (with proper proof of being service animals), pets are only welcome at Best Friends.
There are regular operating hours. I loved this – based on park hours they are generally open from one hour before the the earliest park opening to one hour after the latest park closing. In an emergency, or if travel delays occur, someone is available 24 hours to facilitate late night check-ins and check-outs.
As a local area resident, it made me feel good to learn that Best Friends Pet Care at Walt Disney World is open to anyone. Park guests, locals in need of a kennel, or visitors to the area, are welcome to board their pets at Best Friends. In the event of hurricane evacuation, they are prepared to increase capacity (though that might mean your pet staying in a movable kennel), which is great news for people seeking shelter in places that don’t take pets. (WDW guests have priority).
Photo Credit: All photos in this post are by Rori Paul.Best Friend at Walt Disney World 2510 Bonnet Creek Parkway PO Box #2216 Lake Buena Vista. FL 32830 Phone: 877-493-9738
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