At some point, most pet guardians will have to travel, whether for business or vacation, and leave their companion animals behind. Whether that means getting the help of a friend or family member to care for them, or boarding them with a reputable kennel, pet owners want to know that their loved one will be kept healthy and happy in their absence. Unfortunately, animals aren’t always treated with the care and attention that their owners would provide. Where an animal suffers injuries or is lost while in the care of a kennel, there might be a case for kennel negligence. While no amount of money can truly compensate for the pain and suffering of animal neglect or loss, damages may be recovered to pay for resulting vet bills and in recognition of the pain and suffering for the loss or harm of a pet.

What does “kennel negligence” mean?

When you board your companion animal at a kennel, the kennel assumes a duty to care for them as a reasonable and diligent person would in the same circumstances. In Richard v 2464597 Ontario Inc., to determine the duty of care, the judge considered the claims on the kennel’s website, including 24/7 supervision and an on-site veterinarian [1]. A kennel would be negligent if it failed to meet the standard of care required of it. In cases where negligence is suspected, the burden is on the kennel to prove that it exercised due care. If the kennel is found to be negligent, damages may be awarded [2].

A leading case in Ontario, Ferguson v Birchmount Boarding Kennels Ltd from 2006, recognized the emotional distress that animal suffering has on their guardians. Mrs. Ferguson had left her dog Harley in the care of Birchmount Boarding Kennels while she went on vacation in Hawaii. During his outdoor playtime, Harley escaped by squeezing through two boards in the fence. The kennel was found to be negligent because it had only visually inspected the fence and hadn’t checked for any loose boards. Mrs. Ferguson had a difficult time coping with the loss of Harley, experienced insomnia and nightmares, and needed to take time off of work. Although animals are treated as property under the law, the judge in this case recognized that losing a dog is different than losing a piece of furniture. Damages for emotional distress were awarded as the judge factored in the plaintiff’s relationship with Harley [3]. The judge recognized that animals are unique, and Harley could not be replaced.

In a more recent case, Richard also found a kennel to be negligent. Maverick was in the kennel’s custody for five days. He suffered from severe stress, was seen biting on metal bars, and was not eating. Upon Richard’s return, Maverick had three broken teeth that had to be removed, a consequence of Maverick anxiously chewing on the metal bars. The staff was negligent, as they noticed this behavior but never checked his teeth or called his owners. Maverick’s vet testified that this behavior, and the 15 to 20 pounds that Maverick had lost in just 5 days, was not typical behavior. The kennel was required to pay for the resulting vet fees[4].

Leaving your companion animal in a kennel

Before boarding your cat or dog with a local kennel, visit the kennel to ensure that it is the right fit for you and your companion. It is important to visit the facilities to inspect where animals are kept, how much attention they get from staff, the qualifications of the staff, whether animals in their care are required to be vaccinated, whether the premises are sanitary, what outdoor areas look like, the security of fences and any other questions or concerns you might have.  It’s also important to ask the kennel for references from other pet owners who have used its facility; if the kennel is unwilling to provide any, consider it a red flag.

You know your companion best. If you know your pet is prone to separation anxiety or if you don’t feel comfortable with kennels in your area, you may consider opting for a sitter instead.

If you are seeking legal action or have questions about what your options are in a potential case of kennel negligence, consider contacting Gartner & Associates by phone at 416-849-0944 or via email at We recognize that your animals are members of your family and deserve legal protection.


[1] Richard v 2464597 Ontario Inc., 2019, ONSC 2104.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ferguson v Birchmount Boarding Kennels Ltd., 2006, ONSC, 399.

[4] Richard, 2019.


Animal Law has many aspects. The links below lead to discussions of common issues and of the expertise Gartner & Associates can offer you if you are facing such issues.

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