The (Almost) Self Cleaning Kennel
By Craig McAllester
Cleanup is always a pain. Whether it’s washing the car, giving a dog a bath, washing the dishes after a meal, cleaning is a pain. I’m constantly being asked questions like…
…how can I make my kennel more self-cleaning?
…isn’t there a way to reduce the amount of daily cleaning?
…how can we reduce the amount of work we have to do with everyday cleaning?
Once in a while, a client may even go beyond just simply asking the question. They might go so far as to even engineer a solution to their cleaning needs. For example…
- Quite a number of years ago, a soon–to–be client asked me if they couldn’t just use the fire sprinkler system to automatically wash the kennel each morning.
- A police K9 department commander, who was building a new police K9 kennel, mentioned he was planning to use only gravel for the floor of his kennel. He said that would lessen the cost of the building by not needing a concrete floor or any drains. That would help with cleaning too, as the floor would not need to be cleaned.
- Just this week I got a request from a client to provide an open trench drain at the back of the kennels. They would install high pressure nozzles for a flushing system. That was to move all the solid waste to the septic system, so they would not need to pick it up.
I could go on, but I think you get my drift. Everyone is trying to simplify their cleaning process.
For a kennel, the honest truth is, there is NO Self–Cleaning kennel solution. Owning and operating a kennel is a lot of work. Work that must be done every day. There is no Roomba, or Kennelba, or robot to do the cleaning for you; and no giant dishwasher either, at least not yet.
That said, there are some things you might consider that will make your life and your daily cleaning tasks a little easier. Let’s have a look at some of these…
First, keep cleaning in mind as you shop for your new kennel equipment and materials. Look at the surfaces that you will be cleaning and make sure that they are smooth, and without any holes or grooves that could trap soil, and so, would require special attention when cleaning.
Where there is a change in materials, make sure that no water could be trapped or pond, and build-up where you would need to go back and dry it. The water should fall freely to a drain or onto the floor where it is vacuumed up. This saves a step.
Where materials do change, it is better if they are bonded together, rather than simply attached to each other. That may help in preventing wash water from getting inside where it should not. I often wrap a trawled epoxy floor finish up onto a kennel partition to make the transition between a kennel partition and the floor essentially seamless. (See Fig. 1)
Any track in the kennel system should be sealed so as to not let any water in, or should be provided with drain holes, allowing any water out of the track and where it would be directed into a drain. The fewer frames, the better. Having a smooth, uninterrupted wall surface is easier to clean than having a framed panel.
The materials should be resistant to water and resistant to the disinfectant used in cleaning. Aluminum or stainless steel will offer a nicer appearance for a longer time. Tempered glass is becoming popular as a kennel stall front. Some owners even choose sliding glass and aluminum patio doors, as they are available locally, resistant to water and are cheap to buy. Glass must be clean to look nice, so you will likely be cleaning nose prints off the inside of your kennel for the rest of your life! Steel will likely rust once the finish has been scratched off. Even a galvanized finish will be scratched off in short order exposing the steel for rust to form.
Ensure that cattery condos are made of a material that will support the weight of a cat and will be unaffected by water. A melamine finish over particle board will likely fail under the weight of some larger cats, if the thickness is less than ¾”. A better bet might be a glass fiber type enclosure. They are thinner, lighter, stronger and far more water resistant than particle board.
The cat condos should not be so tall that your staff cannot easily reach all areas of the inside for cleaning. The litter compartment of the condo should be easily accessible, and the door should open fully allowing full and easy access for a thorough cleaning. (See Fig. 2)
Hinges and hardware should be easy to clean. Condos on wheels make it easy to roll them out for cleaning the floor.
Study and learn about the equipment that you are planning to buy for your kennel or cattery. You will be spending a lot of money on this equipment, so it should last for many, many years. If your budget is a little short, I recommend buying less items and getting the best quality you can afford. As money becomes available, buy more.
Here are some other things that are, perhaps, unrelated to cleaning but are still worth a mention:
- Having sufficient lighting allows handlers to get their work done right the first time.
- A glass–fiber faced wallboard rather than conventional paper faced drywall will be less likely to breakdown after years of getting wet. This would help to reduce mold as well.
- Keep your equipment close at hand. Whether you are cleaning with a hose, a scrub brush and a drainage system, or if you use a spray wand and a vacuum system, have sufficient connections to make lugging that heavy hose an easier task. The shorter the hose, the easier it will be to move about.
- If using a roll around type vacuum cleaning system, having enough units to allow multiple cleaning operations to take place simultaneously would be a help.
Cleaning can be a chore. But designing the building to make the process a little easier will go a long way to make cleaning your kennel a little less of a chore.
Craig L. McAllester, President, Craig L. McAllester, Inc, is a kennel designer, and the author of the book, Boarding Kennels: The Design Process. He has been designing veterinary hospitals, boarding kennels, animal shelters, police, military, and U.S. HomeLand Security / Boarder Patrol working dog kennels, here in the United States of America, and in other countries around the world, since 2003. Craig may be contacted at 877-234-2301, [email protected] or through www.KennelDesignUSA.com