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Why so many pet sitter horror stories in the news?

It’s October and a ~ SPOOKY ~ time of year.

But, it should never be scary to hire a pet sitter or dog walker.

To answer the question of why, lately, there such an influx of horror stories involving pet sitters in the news is not always easy for the pet owner to hear. Being long-time professionals in the industry, we understand the exact reasons and it may not always be what you want to hear, but we feel the truth and awareness is valuable and an important step into improving the overall level of pet-care industry, our Arizona communities, and communities around the world.

Straight to the point, when you hear these pet sitter horror stories on the news and social media, they frequently involve in-home boarding situations. This is when pet owners take their pets to a sitter’s home and that is where they will be cared for.

It’s often that pet owners think this is the best situation for their pets. The feel that having their pet in a home-environment and being free to roam around is the perfect situation to reduce the level of stress, anxiety, and fears that their pet could experience when they are away from the owners. This is a situational type of decision the pet owner must make and it will not always achieve their desired outcome and can even end in disaster.

Every living creature is unique. Just as every person is different, every dog, cat, and every other animal is different, and should be treated as such. Being boarded in a home-environment will not guarantee the reduced stress, fears, and anxiety.

When I make a decision, it is based on the math and my instinct. There are a few different reasons why the math doesn’t add up to make the risk worth the reward. In-home boarding situations are littered with high-risk situations.

 

I have two dogs, Raja and Winston, and they are my family! I am going to reduce the risk as far as possible to ensure that they are happy and healthy when I return.

 

So, let’s go over why in-home boarding situations are high-risk, to us:

NO REGULATION

  • Simply put, there is no regulation the sitter’s home. They do what they want and they control their environment.
    • Is there a weak spot in the fence?
    • Is the fence is low enough where the bigger dogs can jump over?
    • Does their gate stay locked?
    • Do they have a system to enter and leave their home to ensure your pets don’t get out?
    • Are they are physically present with your pets when they are outside?
    • Will other people, who enter their home, take the same exact precautions?
    • Will they have somebody who is not insured and bonded watch your pets for a given period of time?
    • Will they have kids in the environment? Can they supply a high level of knowledge, and do their systems exactly?
  • When “pet-sitters” decide to start boarding dogs inside their home, are they doing it because they love your pets? Is it because they care about you, as the pet owner? Is it because they need some extra cash? Is it because they think it’s easy? Are they running a legit business that’s registered with the state?
  • When I choose to leave Raja and Winston, my family members, under somebody else’s care, I can’t just take the sitter’s word for it. A quick look around their yard won’t suffice, for me. Again, I DO THE MATH! Look at all the risks! This section, alone, is enough for me to rule the in-home boarding option out.

INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS

 

  • FIRST, I’d like to point out that there are some great pet sitters and dog walkers who are independent contractors and are qualified to be doing this work.
  • Most LOCAL COMPANIES are solopreneurs or they have employees as staff members. However, you may find some that also hire independent contractors. The really well-known pet sitting and dog walking companies like Rover.com and Wag.com all have independent contractors.
  • Most pet owners don’t even know that may “pet-sitters” are independent contractors. So, what is an “independent contractor”.
    • An independent contractor is a person or entity contracted to perform work or provide services to another entity AS A NON-EMPLOYEE.
  • Basically, what this means is that any pet sitter who is considered an “independent contractor” is not an actual employee of that business.
    • Rover.com and Wag.com are examples of companies who hire independent contractors. YES, this means that if you have a pet sitter or dog walker from either of those companies, they are an independent contractor.
  • Why would these companies not hire their sitters as employees?
    • Cost
      • These companies, significantly, cut their cost by not hiring their sitters as employees. They don’t have to pay for their sitter’s insurance. They also do not have to abide by minimum wage standards. All these companies do is a weak background check, an easy questionnaire, possibly a first-aid/CPR certification, and provide the sitter with a profile on their webpage to start giving these “pet sitters” jobs.
      • Because these companies do not have to abide by minimum wage standards, they can charge much less for the pet sitting or dog walking job. This also means that their pet sitters and dog walkers are not going to be compensated well for what they are doing. Being that many people are doing these jobs to make extra cash, the math tells me that the quality of work is also going suffer.
    • Liability
      • These companies pay big-bucks to have lawyers write out their contracts so that no matter what happens to your pets, while under the care of one of their pet sitters or dog walkers, they WILL NOT BE HELD LIABLE.
      • It’s understandable why these companies do this. It is because, with it being so easy to become one of their pet sitters and/or dog walkers, there’s going to be a lot of people signing up. There may be some that truly care about you and your pets and are actually qualified to care for them. But, there are also many that are going to be signing up just as a quick way to make some extra cash. Because they can’t really know who is qualified to be a pet sitter and dog walker, and also can’t regulate, IN ANY WAY, how well they will do the jobs, they MUST have the legal protection that they have had set up with their contracts and lawyers. If they didn’t, they would go out of business very quickly.
        • By the way, if something does happen to your pet with one of these independent contractors, I urge you to think about how you will be compensated for your loss. Remember, that pet sitter and dog walker is not being paid like a regular employee of the business and that the business is legally protected.
          • The odds are that you can expect a pre-written email that is sent out whenever you have an issue with your independent contractor pet sitter and/or dog walker. That’s about it!
        • My recommendation is to, again, DO THE MATH!
          • If you there are a high number of pet sitters and dog walkers that can and have signed up overnight, the ratio of good and bad pet sitters and dog walkers will be muddied to an extreme level. In my estimation, the bad and unqualified will significantly outnumber the good ones. This means it will be harder to find the good ones.
          • Also, if these companies have decided to put people in these wavering situations and are spending millions of dollars to bait you into them, DO THEY REALLY CARE ABOUT YOU OR YOUR PETS?
        • AGAIN, when I choose to leave Raja and Winston, my family members, under somebody else’s care, I can’t just make that decision based off a cheap price and a professional looking TV commercial. WAY TOO MANY RISKS, here!

FAMILY DOESN’T ALWAYS KNOW BEST

  • One of the options that come to mind when you have to have somebody care for your pet is to leave them with the family. This may or may not be a good decision. You should ask yourself:
    • Do they have other pets that are the same species as yours?
    • Do those pets have the same temperament as yours?
    • Do they know how to handle a hyperactive pet?
    • Is their living environment safe and secure, always?
      • If they don’t have pets, they may not understand how to create and maintain this type of environment.
    • Etc…
  • Just because they are family, does not mean they will be qualified to care for your pets, even if they genuinely love you and your fur-babies. Remember, you want your pets to be present, happy, and healthy when you return, so they can go home with you.
  • What would happen to your family relationships if they lost your pet or if they didn’t think to remove some harmful chemical and your pet got sick and/or died?
  • For this option, you need to really consider the big picture and make the best decision you can!

To close out this article, I want to make sure I haven’t left you in fear. I simply wanted to bring you, the beautiful pet owner, awareness. I love my dogs Raja and Winston and would do anything for them. We love other pet owners who feel the same. So, for you, here’s some advice that I’d like to leave you with:

  • Consider boarding at a boarding facility or in-your-home pet sitting, instead of in-home boarding.
    • The phone call that you pet isn’t doing so great in a kennel environment is better than the call saying “I lost your dog/cat”.
    • Check reviews of the facility.
    • Do a walkthrough at the facility.
    • Take your pet to the facility, a few times, before you leave. Maybe leave them there for a couple hours and maybe an overnight, just to get them used to the place, before you leave for a long time.
    • Choose a PROFESSIONAL place that is regulated with managers, an involved owner, great caring and loving staff.
  • Use an in-your-home pet sitting solopreneur or a professional company instead of an independent contractor where you board pets in their home.
    • Choose a PROFESSIONAL place that is regulated with managers, an involved owner, great caring and loving staff.
    • Solopreneur’s can be great, but because they are just doing it themselves, they can, unintentionally, end up leaving themselves, you, and your pets vulnerable to bad situations.
      • For example, they may get sick or severely injured and could not make it to your home to care for your pets. They may not even be able to tell anybody, including you, about the dilemma. If they were, and had a family member or friend come to care for your pets, would they have the same ability to give your pets high-quality care?
    • Don’t just assume that because you have a family member willing to care for your pets while you’re away, that it is the best and safest option.
    • If you buy a Kia, do you expect it to be as good as a Ferrari?
      • Of course not… But, it’s a great metaphor of how many pet owners end up searching for their pet care provider. The cheap prices often lead to cheap quality. Ferrari puts extra attention to detail and it raises their vehicle’s overall quality to something that is far superior to the average vehicle. Guess what! Most professional pet sitters who took the time to build their business pay extra close attention to detail and take pride in providing quality services to their community.
      • YES, higher quality pet care does also come with a higher price tag, but for me, Raja and Winston, my fur-babies are worth every penny!

DO THE MATH!

  • Define your goal
    • Mine would be to make sure my dogs Raja and Winston are present, happy, and healthy when I return home.
  • Define your options.
    • List your options.
  • Define what is considered “high-risk”.
    • List everything that could go wrong.
  • Cross off the options where the risks outweigh the reward.
  • Do all your in-person interviews and walk-throughs.
  • What is your intuition telling you?
    • Is the math telling you the same thing?
  • Make your decision!

I hope this article helped inform you about aspects of the pet sitting industry that most pet owners don’t know. I hope it has brought you awareness and you feel more confident about how to make the correct decision. Sure, even with the most top-level pet care, rare and unfortunate situations can present themselves. But, many, if not all, of the horror stories you have heard in the news about bad pet sitters, could have been avoided with some knowledge. Every time I hear about these stories, it saddens and aggravates me, as a professional. I really really wish that our Arizona community and communities around the world never had another pet sitting horror story, ever!

 

Cheers to better pet care everywhere!

 

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