How to Find a Quality, Professional, Pet Services Provider

Dec 31, 2018   Tracey Aston   Hiring a Pet Sitter

As the quote says, “family isn't everything, it's the only thing.” Thankfully, a growing number of families now view their pet as a part of the family. As such, we want the very best for them.  Pet parents research food, training methods, leashes and collars, meticulously search veterinarians and animal hospitals for the best choice for their pet, and some families even throw their furry family members birthday parties and buy them Christmas presents. As family members, finding a quality pet sitter for your furry family member is just as important as finding a babysitter or daycare for your child but when it comes down to it, do you really know what it takes to find a quality professional pet sitter?

A quick internet search on pet sitters will supply enough bone chilling stories to give any anxious pet parent nightmares! Most of these stories come from individuals unfortunate enough to use app-based pet sitters and non-professional pet services providers.  A California pet parent came home from vacation to find out that her dog had been mauled to death by another dog while in the care of a Rover pet sitter.  The heartbreaking articles continue with stories of  lost pets, robbed houses, stolen pets and even pets left to die in hot cars!  Your neighborhood pet lover or teenager is not trained in the proper and safe ways to care for your pet, like this local story about this  pet suffocating while wearing a muzzle!  In addition to the threat these apps pose on our furry family members, they pose a security threat to you and your family as well!  Recently, a dog walking app was responsible for exposing home address and lock box codes! Letting someone unknown into your home is a huge risk, as this person who came home to find a shirtless man covered in lube in her house found out! Visit our blog post for more on the dangers of app-based or non-professional pet sitters. 

Even asking around to friends and other pet parents can leave a well-meaning pet parent reeling. A local woman, who asked to remain anonymous, had been boarding her beloved dogs with a pet sitter for years until finding out the woman was keeping her pets in a garage! The pet sitter would retrieve the pets from the garage, take them inside for staged pictures of them being cuddled or playing, send the pictures to the owners and then return the animals to the garage. The woman became suspicious when she noticed her dogs were coming home with a bad odor and digestive upset.  Without surveillance, this pet parent would have never known what was really going on in what looked like a situation in which her pets were being very well cared for.

With stories such as these, how does a worried and concerned pet parent go about finding a professional quality pet services provider? How are these nightmares avoided?  Pet Sitters International and National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, both have links to find certified, professional pet services providers on their websites. After finding a professional pet sitter, to begin, Pet Sitters International has a checklist for choosing a professional pet sitter.

1.       Does the pet sitter have the proper business license for your city or state if required?

2.       Is the pet sitter insured and bonded?

3.       Can the pet sitter provide proof of clear criminal history?

4.       Does the pet sitter provide client references?

5.       Will the pet sitter use a pet sitting agreement or contract?

6.       Has the pet sitter completed PSI's Certificate in Professional Pet Sitting Program and/or participated in pet-care training, such as pet first aid?

7.       Is the pet sitter a member of a professional and educational association, such as Pet Sitters International or NAAP?

To expand on some things from above, professional businesses must comply with all laws that govern small businesses in the municipalities the cover, which includes paying taxes, business license, if required, and registration with the state. Professional Pet Services providers need to know basic local and state laws for such things as pets being required to have tags if they are removed from the property for a walk, and knowledge of trespassing laws and where pets are not allowed to walk. Professionals have a business license (if their city requires it), are insured and bonded (if there are employees). They have an EIN number with a DBA if they're not doing business under their name. I

A professional pet services provider should have a clear criminal history, and should always be running background checks on any employee they're hiring. This employee should have a clear criminal background check, as they will be given access to clients' pets, homes and personal access codes. The employee should have a good driving record, with vehicle insurance and a current driver's license.  As a professional pet services provider, the employee will spend a decent amount of time driving to and from clients' homes and should a pet emergency arise, they will need a dependable vehicle to transport the pet to a local animal hospital. Professional Pet Services providers should have a plan in place for inclement weather conditions and natural disasters and a vehicle that will allow for safe driving.  Pet Sitters International advises asking your potential professional pet services provider about their contingency plans in the event of inclement weather or a natural disaster.  Pets must be taken care of at all times, and a professional should have a plan of action in place for the safety of your pets.

Professionals will have a service agreement and policies, and will insist upon an in-home consultation, during which time, the pet services provider will be taking detailed notes.  A professional may even request veterinary authorization forms, giving them permission to seek care for your pet in the case of an emergency.

Professional pet services providers take great care with their reputation, as this is the professional pet services provider's livelihood. This is not just part time or a secondary job and many professional pet services providers work 24/7/365. Professionals will have accountability for themselves and their business, and hold themselves to high standards. A professional will have their own liability policies to protect both themselves and their clients.

Always check client references or speak with a current client about the professional pet services provider you're contemplating hiring. Internet reviews are good, but it's an unfortunate truth that these reviews can sometimes be skewed, either by an angry competitor or by having friends and family leaving positive reviews to boost their score.  Word of mouth and talking to current clients is the best way to get an honest opinion on the professional pet sitter. Professional pet services providers take great care with their reputation, as this is the professional pet services provider's livelihood. This is not just part time or a secondary job and many professional pet services providers work 24/7/365. A professional will have a reputation in the community, and their business name is recognized, especially by other professionals like groomers and vets.   Rover sitters tend to do this to make a few bucks, when they have some free time or need to make some quick cash.  Clients aren't even provided with the sitter's last name, let alone any type of business name. A professional will have a reputation for high quality service and care for pets and people.

It's imperative that the professional pet services provider you are considering is trained in pet first aid. No one wants to think of their pet getting injured or having an emergency, but should the unthinkable happen, your professional pet services provider needs to know emergency procedures and pet first aid. If your pet gets excited about a treat and swallows too fast, they can choke.  Does the professional pet services provider know the Heimlich Maneuver for cats and dogs? Do they know that depending on the size and age of the pet, the techniques change?  A laceration could happen from something as innocuous as a tree branch falling in your yard and you pet running into it. Does your pet care services provider know how to provide immediate care for a laceration? Or a broken bone? Do they know how to stabilize your pet before taking them to emergency care? Pet Tech offers certifications for PetSaver™ Training, an 8-hour class including CPR techniques, first aid skills, dental and senior care, as well as health and wellness information for dogs and cats. They also offer CPR & First Aid For Your Pets, a 5+ hour class that includes CPR techniques, first aid skills, and health care and wellness information for dogs and cats. Knowing basic first aid is required but being certified in a class, hands-on, by a professional pet health and wellness trainer is a better reassurance that your pet services provider will be able to care for your pet in the case of an emergency.  Education by reading is a great way to learn, but it's not equal to being trained by a professional with a pet present.

Lastly, many pet sitters are advertising care in their own homes. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture defines a boarding kennel as “any establishment available to the general public where a dog or dogs are housed for compensation by the day, week or a specified or unspecified time. The term shall not include a kennel where the practice of veterinary medicine is performed if the kennel is covered by the provisions of the act of December 27, 1974 (P.L.995, No.326), known as the "Veterinary Medicine Practice Act." The term shall include any boarding facility operated by a licensed doctor of veterinary medicine whether or not this facility is on the same premises as a building or structure subject to the provisions of the "Veterinary Medicine Practice Act." The term shall include any establishment available to the general public that, for consideration, takes control of a dog from the owner for a portion of a day for the purposes of exercise, day care or entertainment of the dog. For the purpose of this term, each time a dog enters the kennel it shall be counted as one dog. This term does not include an establishment engaged only in dog grooming or dog training.”  As such, they are subject to kennel licensing.  “Pennsylvania's dog law, Act 119, was passed in 2008 to improve conditions for dogs in commercial kennels, and help to ensure that pets adopted or purchased in Pennsylvania are healthy. The law established the Canine Health Board to set guidelines for commercial dog kennels. Since 2008, dogs have benefited from larger cage sizes without wire flooring, mandatory exercise periods, and care by trained veterinarians.” In general terms, if anyone brings even one pet into their home for boarding or daycare, they must have a kennel license. An individual can't board animals in their homes without a proper kennel license and inspections. This is for the health and safety of your pets!  Without licensing and inspections, pet parents wouldn't know how the animal is being treated or the conditions they are being kept. If a pet parent thinks a onetime visit is enough, please remember the local woman from above. She visited the home beforehand, she was receiving photographs and updates but after a little digging, she found out how her dogs were really being treated. In addition to the kennel conditions, does the at-home pet services provider know how to keep your animal safe? Do you they what do to if a pet starts a fight with another pet? Or if play gets overly zealous and leads to a serious bite? Do they know the procedures for an escaped pet? Kennel inspections records are available online in the Kennel Inspection Database.

We wish we could take our furry family members with us at all times, but that isn't the case. In your absence, you want the peace of mind knowing your pet is being care for by a certified, trained, professional pet services provider and not a neighborhood teenager or app-based provider. A professional pet services provider will take the time to get to know you and your pet, their schedule and personality, therefore if your pet isn't acting themselves, they will know. An app-based different pet sitter showing up won't have that bond or knowledge. Researching, interviewing and talking with other clients can be a process but when you look into your pet's eyes, isn't it worth it? 

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