I was recently reminded that taking your pet to a boarding facility for the first time can generate roughly the same level of anxiety as taking your child to a first day of kindergarten.
In my case, it’s Jack, a not quite 2-year-old golden retriever who was rescued out of a Midwest puppy mill when he was 6 months old. Jack is about to spend several days at a ranch that accepts paying canine guests, but only after a test day to confirm acceptable manners. (Jack passed this test, although his final score was not disclosed.)
For those also experiencing pet boarding anxiety, the Colorado Pet Animal Care and Facilities Act, commonly known as PACFA, has been on the books 25 years, with several amendments along the way. After a sunset review by the Legislature this year, its expiration date has been extended to 2026.
PACFA is a complex and wide-ranging statute, administered by the Colorado Department of Agriculture. It regulates not just boarding facilities but also animal shelters, breeders, rescue agencies, pet stores, doggie daycare facilities and many other organizations whose activities can affect the well-being of pets.
The definition of “pet animal” is expansive. In addition to dogs and cats, the statute lists rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, rats, gerbils, ferrets, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and any other animal kept as a household pet. (Livestock, however, is excluded so, for example, pet goats, swine and horses are not covered. Also, dogs working on ranches and farms are excluded.)
Organizations covered by PACFA must have a license, which will only be issued after a comprehensive application and an inspection of the facility, and must be renewed annually. Inspections of licensed facilities are also made in response to complaints, and surprise inspections are occasionally performed to keep licensees on their toes. Obviously, a license will not be issued to anyone convicted of an animal cruelty offense.
PACFA gives the Department of Agriculture comprehensive rule-making and enforcement authority. Rules under PACFA affecting boarding facilities include requirements for space; floor material; heating, cooling and ventilation; cleaning and sanitation; detailed record keeping; and numerous others intended to ensure the humane and safe care of pets. (Examples: confinement areas for dogs must be at least 6 inches higher than the tallest dog in residence, when standing; floor material must be water resistant and able to be cleaned and sanitized.)
On enforcement, in addition to license revocation, the Department of Agriculture can seek civil fines and criminal charges for PACFA violations. False advertising and other violations can result in sanctions under the Colorado Consumer Protection Act, which allows for treble damages in some circumstances. Needless to say, licensees take PACFA seriously.
If you want to review the documents for a PACFA-licensed facility, go to the Department of Agriculture website — colorado.gov/pacific/aginspection/pacfa. There may be a small charge for this service under the Colorado Open Records Act.
A review of PACFA has made me feel better about Jack’s upcoming boarding. My concern now is that he’ll have such a good time, he won’t want to come home.