Did you know that you’re required to give your boarding customers notice of how vet care treatment works while your customers’ companion animals are in your care? And that failure to give the right notice is a Class Three Misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $500 fine?
We should start by reviewing what a “boarding establishment” is. Virginia Code Section 3.2-6500 defines a “boarding establishment” as “a place or establishment other than a pound or animal shelter where companion animals not owned by the proprietor are sheltered, fed, and watered in exchange for a fee.” That seems broad enough to cover not only kennels, but also doggie daycares and train and board programs.
Boarding establishments must provide two types of notice to boarding customers under Virginia Code Section 3.2-6519. The underpinning of these requirements is that, while your boarding clients’ companion animals are in your care, you are responsible for providing the animals with adequate care – including adequate veterinary care – as required by Section 3.2-6503.
First – before your clients drop off their animals – you must give them the following notice, in writing and in ten-point boldfaced type:
THE BOARDING OF ANIMALS IS SUBJECT TO ARTICLE 4 (§ 3.2-6518 ET SEQ.) OF CHAPTER 65 OF TITLE 3.2. IF YOUR ANIMAL BECOMES ILL OR INJURED WHILE IN THE CUSTODY OF THE BOARDING ESTABLISHMENT, THE BOARDING ESTABLISHMENT SHALL PROVIDE THE ANIMAL WITH EMERGENCY VETERINARY TREATMENT FOR THE ILLNESS OR INJURY.
THE CONSUMER SHALL BEAR THE REASONABLE AND NECESSARY COSTS OF EMERGENCY VETERINARY TREATMENT FOR ANY ILLNESS OR INJURY OCCURRING WHILE THE ANIMAL IS IN THE CUSTODY OF THE BOARDING ESTABLISHMENT. THE BOARDING ESTABLISHMENT SHALL BEAR THE EXPENSES OF VETERINARY TREATMENT FOR ANY INJURY THE ANIMAL SUSTAINS WHILE AT THE BOARDING ESTABLISHMENT IF THE INJURY RESULTED FROM THE ESTABLISHMENT’S FAILURE, WHETHER ACCIDENTAL OR INTENTIONAL, TO PROVIDE THE CARE REQUIRED BY § 3.2-6503. BOARDING ESTABLISHMENTS SHALL NOT BE REQUIRED TO BEAR THE COST OF VET CARE FOR INJURIES RESULTING FROM THE ANIMAL’S SELF-MUTILATION.
For this notice, I suggest having this language in your boarding, doggie daycare and board and train contracts, as well as having a separate document to give to your clients at their initial intake meetings. Don’t hesitate to give them another copy when they drop their animals off. Keep a pile of extra copies right in your intake area. Printing these notices on boldly colored paper isn’t a bad idea. And there’s no harm in putting this language on your website.
Second, you must have a sign prominently displayed in your intake area with the following notice, in ten-point boldfaced type:
THE BOARDING OF ANIMALS IS SUBJECT TO ARTICLE 4 (§ 3.2-6518 ET SEQ.) OF CHAPTER 65 OF TITLE 3.2 OF THE CODE OF VIRGINIA. YOU HAVE SPECIFIC REMEDIES WHEN BOARDING ANIMALS IN THIS OR ANY OTHER BOARDING ESTABLISHMENT IN VIRGINIA. A COPY IS AVAILABLE IMMEDIATELY UPON REQUEST AND IS TO BE PRESENTED TO YOU AT THE TIME OF INTAKE IN THE FORM OF A WRITTEN DOCUMENT. IF YOU HAVE A COMPLAINT, YOU MAY CONTACT YOUR LOCAL LAW-ENFORCEMENT OFFICER OR THE VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND CONSUMER SERVICES, RICHMOND, VIRGINIA.
Ironically, failure to provide these notices carries a harsher penalty than the failure to provide adequate care to a companion animal (at least for first offenses), which is only a Class Four Misdemeanor punishable by up to a $250 fine. Hmmm…. Sounds like yet another example of mixed up legislative priorities, and yet another argument for harsher penalties for animal neglect.