Time and time again, I hear horror stories regarding pet sitting and even boarding facilities. It is hard enough to leave your pets, imagine if you came home to a hurt or dying pet… and it was because your pet sitter never visited? Or your boarding facility didn’t keep a close eye on him?
Professional pet sitters see and hear it all. There are times that pet sitting clients have come to me after a terrible experience. Several times clients have told me about a trusted friend or neighbor child that they had watch their pets, but came home to realize their pets were never looked in on.
One of my clients, a sweet black lab I have visited during workdays for quite some time, was taken to a Wichita boarding facility and came home with “happy tail,” an injury where dogs wag their tail against the sides of their kennel so often that the tail splits open. My client was never told and when they brought their dog home and she wagged her tail, blood was everywhere. As a volunteer at Caring Hands Humane Society, I have seen it happen to exuberant dogs, and it is hard to miss. The kennels are splattered with blood. The client didn’t want to have me pet sit over long durations because they were concerned about her being alone (hence my existing day visits while they were at work), but have used my pet sitting services as an alternative ever since their Labrador’s dog boarding experience.
Very recently I met a hesitant new client in Newton that came to me through a referral – their previous “pet sitter” was an older son of a trusted friend that had let their cats go six days before visiting them and the cats. were. mad. They were never able to quite get their cats litterbox trained again.
Truly heart-rending stories make the news, though…
In one article, a trusted friend (not a professional pet sitter) of a Connecticut couple said she wanted to watch their dog for a few months while they were at a hospital for several months. A mail carrier looked in the window because mail was piling up and saw the starved, deceased dog inside. http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/national-international/Woman-Accused-of-Starving-Dog-to-Death-235828931.html
Tech companies have also started investor-funded web platforms that connect pet owners with independent contractors willing to pet sit or dog walk – google “pet sitting app dog dies” or “dog walking app loses dog” for a growing record of negative incidents.
What should you be thinking about when hiring a pet sitter?
What matters about insurance and bonding?
It is important for a professional pet sitter to be insured and bonded. Not only does it protect you, but serious pet sitters gain such assurances early on. Not only that, but who is their company? If your pet sitter disappears, will you be able to contact their insurer? We also found pet sitters or websites they are listed on advertising “Premium Insurance,” but have a $250+ deductible pet owners are responsible before they’ll cover anything! (PS: We don’t do that.)
References and Reviews, anyone?
Although it is useful to call for pet sitting references, keep in mind that they aren’t going to give you the number of someone that was dissatisfied. Look at online reviews not on their own website (Google, Facebook) for the other side of the coin. This is where disgruntled clients go to vent their frustrations regarding dog walking and cat sitting. One angry review may be a fluke, but a string of negative experiences is a very big sign. Often reviewers are linked to their social profiles, so you can also click to get an idea if their idea of great pet care is equal to your idea of awesome pet care.
Pet sitters that have developed relationships within their community are not going to up and leave if they upset clients and have to “move on.” What sort of community outreach are they involved in? You can even reach out to your own veterinarian, groomer, shelter, or all three to see who they refer you to!
Rates & Side Gigs
The old saying, “You get what you pay for,” often rings true with pet sitters. Although Newton pet sitters and Hesston pet sitters are not as expensive as big city pet sitters, they shouldn’t be dirt cheap, either. For reliable dog care and cat care, clients should look for a pet sitter with rates leaning toward a livable income. You can also be on the lookout for pet sitters that advertise a variety of businesses on their pet care business social pages or have multiple side businesses. Leaving home, the peace of mind that your pet’s care is someone’s priority is priceless.
Always have a meet and greet with your pet sitter before leaving. That way you may become better acquainted and he can get to know your pets. It is important during this time to judge how you feel about the dog sitter or cat sitter. Although gut feelings don’t always mean someone is a “bad” person or would be a terrible dog sitter, it DOES mean they are the wrong pet sitter for you. After all, if you don’t feel comfortable with him in your home and caring for your pets, how on Earth will you enjoy your time away???
Your pet sitter should always be a call, email, or portal message away. Accessibility is key for this type of care. If they don’t check their messages daily, how will they know that your daughter is sick and you had to cancel your flight home, meaning you’ll be home a week late?
Solo Sitter vs Employees vs Independent Contractors
If your sitter is solo, be sure you have a backup plan in case your sitter is unable to visit pets – if they are ill, in an accident, etc. You will also need a backup sitter in case they go on vacation and you need them last minute.
If your sitter has staff, are they W2 Employees or 1099 Independent Contractors (IC)? By law, independent contractors cannot be trained or directed by the business, should carry their own insurance and bonding instead of the business, have no worker’s compensation insurance (meaning if they are hurt on your property, there may be liability), and have varying levels of interviewing. Businesses hiring W2 Employees cover insurance/bonding, carry worker’s compensation, pay taxes, and have the ability to in-depth interview, train, and coach caregivers about their responsibilities.
In case you’re wondering: Blue Skies Pet Care went from solo (me, Ashley!) to a small team of employees in 2018. I knew I wanted to continue offering pet services 24/7/365, but couldn’t do that forever… by myself. I considered all of the above when choosing which way to go. In the end, the ability to ensure quality service and protect clients trumped saving money for the business.
Keep these tips in mind the next time you are looking for dog walking or cat care. During my time as a pet sitter, I have heard and seen so much and I know that every pet parent wants their furkids happy and healthy. Blue Skies Pet Care personifies the professional pet sitter with our pet care for animals of all shapes and sizes. We look forward to seeing every pet and want them to be happy, too.
(updated March 3, 2020)