Pet Sitters Speak Out

Our recent post on pet sitters brought a great response from numerous readers.

 

Two are set out below:

 

 

..."It amazes me how many people consider their pets children yet don't think they have to pay for pet sitting services, especially if you stay at their home.  While being able to stay "for free," when you are taking care of a pet your time is not your own. You have to accommodate the pets' schedule of walks and feedings. I really don't understand why people don't think

pet sitters deserve to be compensated for putting their pets first..."

 

 

..."I am a pet sitter and these are very good tips to give travelers. I also require my pet sitting clients to fill out a veterinary release form authorizing me to seek medical care should the need arise while the owners are away..."

 

You thoughts are still welcome.

Readers React to Pet Sitter Rules

I received some very different comments from pet owners regarding their experiences with pet sitters.

Also, some professional pet sitters joined the discussion.

Some of the comments of one sitter are below:

   "It's nice to see you write about pet sitters. You have great points. I started my pet sitting business seven years ago and I have seen a lot of new pet sitters come and go.  Pet sitting sounds like a lot of fun and it is, but there is a LOT of responsibility. Most of us love our pets like our children. They are family. One thing other than meeting the sitter and feeling comfortable with them is the sitter should have liability insurance.  I have several sitters so we are all bonded and insured.
I do background checks on my sitters too."

Pet sitters should be professional and not a neighbor doing a favor.

What Are The Requirements for a Good Pet Sitter

One of the most frequently asked questions that we hear concerns the use of a pet sitter when traveling.

When you engage someone to care after you pet, you should consider the following:

Your Name;

Your email address;

Your cell phone numbers;

Your travel plans and dates;

The name of the hotel or location you are visiting along with all local email, cell phone and facsimile information;

The name and address of your veterinarian;

The business and cell phone of your veterinarian;

Driving instructions to you veterinarian;

The name and number of a local personal contact for emergency purposes, and

An updated power of attorney for that local contact.

There are many qualified pet sitters. Make sure that yours is one of them.

Hire A Professional Sitter to Protect Your Pet

More and more pet owners are utilizing the services of a professional pet sitter for their pets, rather just asking a neighbor to “check in” on their furry families.

If you choose this route, be sure to provide at a minimum, the following information.

Your Name;

Your email address;

Your cell phone numbers;

Your travel plans and dates;

The name of the hotel or location you are visiting along with all local email, cell phone and facsimile information;

The name and address of your veterinarian;

The business and cell phone of your veterinarian;

Driving instructions to you veterinarian;

The name and number of a local personal contact for emergency purposes, and

An updated power of attorney for that local contact.

Plan ahead and the emergencies will be minimized.
 

Home Pet Sitter Has Full Access to Your Home.

Obviously, the most common situation is to board your pets when you travel, but more and more animal owners want their pets to feel the security and familiarity of their own surroundings.


I recently had a call from a client regarding pet services that come to your home while you are away.
This client wanted information as to what she should expect with the home sitter as far as a request to access the residence.


A contract might contain the following typical language.


Client will provide ______ with two (2) house keys during the initial appointment. If client only provides one (1) key, a five-dollar ($5.00) key-duplication fee will be assessed. Client’s keys will be returned to Client when services provided have been paid in full. Keys will be returned only to individuals designated by Client on this Contract. In the event that it is necessary for ______to employ a locksmith to gain entry into Client’s home due to a malfunction of the lock or other event outside of _______ control, the Client expressly authorizes _____ to utilize a locksmith, and the Client shall be responsible for all costs incurred. _____ will make every effort to contact Client or Client’s designated Emergency Contact before engaging any locksmith services.


As the home sitter will have full, complete and unattended access to your home while your are away, do your homework as to their professionalism, reputation, references, insurance and bonding issues.
 

Are Pet Sitters Licensed?

I am looking for a pet sitter for my two dogs Buster and Billie. I personally know some neighbors that provide this service. I have read some information on your blog and am curious as to the issues of bonding and insurance for the protection of my pets.

Tommy                                                                                                      East Lansing, MI

Tommy, unfortunately most state do not have any specific regulations regarding pet walkers or pet sitters. It is probably not even necessary to have a business license in most jurisdictions.

I found some excellent information for you to review at Petsitusa,com.

They discuss bonding, licenses and insurance:


   Insurance
Pet sitter liability insurance works much like any other insurance. It covers accidents that may affect the client’s pets or property while the pet sitter is on an assignment.


   Bonding
Bonding is most appropriate for companies that hire employees. A fidelity bond (or dishonesty bond) usually insures a business in the event that an employee steals from a client. If this happens, and the employee is found guilty of theft, the bonding company will pay for the stolen items. Many sole-proprietors are bonded, but this is mostly for their clients’ peace of mind.

   Licenses
A business license and a professional license are quite different, and anyone who hires a pet sitter should know what those differences are.


You can read the rest of the article here.


Pet sitters or walkers have a great deal of responsibility for your pets.


Make sure that you know these individuals and are comfortable with their skill levels and concern for your pets.
 

More Pet Sitting Tips

I have written on numerous occasions, here, here and here,  about pet sitting services and critical items that you need to know before you leave your pet with a stranger.

Fur Pals Pet Care offers some additional insight into the issues involved and provides answers to some basic questions as follows:


What services do you offer?


   "We offer in home care for travel or vacations, midday walks, baths and nail clips, massage, reiki, personalized shopping, animal-themed gifts for pets and their people, referrals, errand service, taxi service, animal behaviour consultations, total life cycle assistance - pre-pet, new pet, grief and loss."


What advice do you have for pet owners who are using a pet sitter for the first time?


   "Be realistic and honest about you, your pet and what you expect from the pet sitter. Realize the pet sitter is a service provider like any other service provider and may be able to help you in many different ways. However, they need information, help and so forth from you in order to provide the best care for your pet and the best value to you. Keep in mind too, that both you and your pet should be comfortable.
Anybody can hang out a shingle and say they are a petsitter. Check for certifications in things like animal first aid and animal CPR, insurance, bonding, and business licensure where required. Make sure the company checks the backgrounds of those who they employ or contract to care for your pet. Find out what kinds of pets the pet care providers have as well as the worst experiences they have had with pets and how they handled the situation."


Do you have any expectations of your pet sitting clients?


   "Again, the client being realistic and providing the information, materials and so forth that we need is important. We expect them to communicate with us about what is going on, such as the pet’s health/behavior or behavioral changes, aggression, the animals’ fears or likes, the travel dates, early or late arrivals/departures, if others are looking in on the pets aside from us, emergency contacts being current. We also like to have an idea as to what we should do should the client meet their demise while away. We encourage our clients to book as far in advance as possible but we try to accommodate emergencies as much as we can."


You can see the full site and information of Fur Pals Pet Care ** here.

Since I believe that this is a very valuable tool for pet owners, I will continue to provide information that I think will assist you in your decision for a good pet sitter.


**Pettrustlawblog.com does not endorse or recommend Fur Pals Pet Care in any manner, but offers their advice for your review and consideration.

 

More Pet Sitter Tips

I recently provided some tips for those of you who will be utilizing a pet sitter in the upcoming holiday season.

You can see the previous post here.

Today we continue with some additional tips from ** Pet Sitters International;

   "Does the sitter have a clean criminal history?

   Ask for third-party credentials that verify the sitter has a history of honesty and integrity. Official verification documents will contain current annual dates (within one year) and certified seals. PSI offers its members background checks certified through CastleBranch, Inc. and CertifiedBackground. Remember, the person you choose to hire will have access to your property and your beloved animal companion(s). This documentation can provide the peace of mind you seek when admitting a new pet care provider to your home.

   Does the pet sitter meet with you and your pet(s) in advance? Is there a charge for this in-home meeting?

   Initial interviews allow the pet sitter to meet with you in your home, interact with your pets and discuss services and business policies. These visits are highly recommended for both pet owner and pet sitter. Pet sitters offer this service at no charge, while others charge a nominal fee for their time and travel expenses.

   How much experience does the pet sitter have in caring for your particular type of pet?

   Experience in caring for special needs pets or unusual types of pets is helpful if that is what you need. Pet sitters who have completed PSI’s Accreditation Program have the resources on hand to care for a wide variety of companion animal species.

   Does the pet sitter willingly and happily provide references?

   PSI recommends that all of its members have a list of references for potential clients to contact.

   Does the pet sitter use a service contract that spells out services performed and fees for doing so?

   A well-written contract outlines the details associated with each service the sitter will provide. The contract includes all fees along with the expected amount of time that will be spent with your pet(s). This ensures that both you and your sitter have agreed on and understand the level of service being provided in your absence

   How much time does the pet sitter spend in your home to care for your pet(s)?

   The average in-home visit to care for one pet is 30 minutes, but additional time may be required if you request special services such as dog walking, pet grooming, etc. or have a multiple pet household.

   Does the pet sitter have a Web site that you may peruse?

   Many pet sitters have Web sites to communicate with current and potential clients. It is an excellent way to provide information to pet owners and to offer the option of e-mail communication between owners and sitters.

   What contingency plan does the pet sitter have in the event of inclement weather or natural disaster while caring for your pet(s)?

   Every professional pet sitter should have a written Disaster Plan that addresses natural or man-made disasters, as well as a contingency plan to provide for your pet’s care if anything prevents the sitter from completing the assignment.)

   What does the pet sitter do if medical care is needed for your pet?

Arrangements should be made with your veterinarian and/or local emergency veterinary clinic to allow the sitter to seek medical attention for your pet while you are away.

  How does the pet sitting agency screen and train their pet sitters?

  When a pet-sitting business owner uses staff sitters, a careful employment screening process should be used to ensure that any of the company’s personnel who care for your pet are trained and equipped to provide the high-quality care you and your pet deserve.

   During the in-home interview, does the pet sitter exhibit a positive attitude and seem comfortable and competent in caring for your pet(s)?

A positive attitude goes hand in hand with experience when it comes to in-home pet care. As a result, you can feel at ease and look forward to the in-home pet-care a professional pet sitter provides.

   How will the pet sitter confirm your safe return home for the care of your pet(s)?

   Your pet sitter should call to confirm that you have returned home at the expected time or ask that you call to confirm your return.

   Will the pet sitter provide you with an evaluation or rating form of their services?


   A service rating form is the hallmark of a professional pet sitter who wants to ensure client satisfaction.

   What are the payment terms?

   Some pet sitters require payment in full for first time customers while others require a deposit upon reservation and balance paid at the end of the assignment. There is no industry standard for payment terms, so be sure you understand in advance the terms of the pet sitting business you utilize..."

You have the responsibility for the safety and well being of your pets. Exercise that responsibility.

**Pettrustlawblog.com does not endorse or recommend Pet Sitters International in any manner, but offers their advise for your review and consideration.

Interview Your Potential Pet Sitter

 

As many of us will be way from home for short time periods, as well as on extended travel during the holiday periods, I recently wrote about some basic information that you should provide to your Pet Sitter, before you  turn over your pet and leave your home.

According to their Mission statement, Pet Sitters International is dedicated to educating professional pet sitters and promoting, supporting and recognizing excellence in pet sitting.

They suggest that you carefully interview your potential Pet Sitter as cautiously as you would for a family member.

Among their suggestion are the following tips:


   "Does the pet sitter (or agency) keep regular office hours?

A Professional pet sitter should have a schedule of office hours. A larger business may have additional personnel to answer phone calls or e-mails, but many pet sitters are sole proprietors who use answering machines to field inquiries.

   If you left a message inquiring about services, how soon was it returned?

All phone calls should be returned within 24 hours.

   How much notice does the pet sitter (or agency) need in order to schedule your request for a pet sitter?

Most pet sitters request at least two weeks notice, but may be able to accommodate an occasional short-notice assignment. Sometimes there is an additional charge for short-notice assignments.

   Does the pet sitter (or agency) have established fees for pet care they can quote over the phone and/or in company literature?

A professional pet sitter should have a published list of fees that cover the most common pet-care requests. Fees for special services may be worked out on a case-by-case basis.

   Is the pet sitter bonded and insured?

Ask for proof of coverage. PSI members have access to group rates on policies specifically for pet sitters and are provided insurance cards...."

We will provide some additional tips on this important issue next week.

Provide Basic Information for Your Pet Sitter

 

Many of you will be traveling for extended periods in the next few weeks with the holiday season fast approaching.

If you choose not to take your pets with you, the two logical choices for their care are the use of your veterinarian for boarding or a pet sitter.

You probably already have a set routine with your vet. He or she has all of your contact information and emergency numbers as well as a solid full background and history of your pet’s needs and desires.

However, the pet sitter may not readily have this information.

Generally, they will look to you for the specific instructions as for the care and well-being of our pet.

Be sure to provide at a minimum, the following information.

Your Name;

Your email address;

Your cell phone numbers;

Your travel plans and dates;

The name of the hotel or location you are visiting along with all local email, cell phone and facsimile information;

The name and address of your veterinarian;

The business and cell phone of your veterinarian;

Driving instructions to you veterinarian;

The name and number of a local personal contact for emergency purposes, and

An updated power of attorney for that local contact.

The list of necessary information could well include additional items, but at minimum, the above should be left with the sitter.
 

Pet sitting choices... make it personal


Time for a little getaway… a long weekend …or an extended stay overseas.

At one time or another, all pet owners are faced with a similar dilemma.

What to do with your pet while you are away. While many pet owners regularly travel with their pets, many times this is simply not possible.

Perhaps work is an interference, or there is no adequate pet friendly housing available or long plane flights are either too expensive or simply not a viable option.

When your pet is another member of the family, you need to take the time and effort to know who is responsible for your pet while you are away.

Many pet owners choose the institutional kennel or the pet hospital or facility of their vet. There is a certain amount of trust and comfort in the knowledge that a licensed professional will be available on site or close by in the case of an emergency or illness while you are away from your pet.

However, many individuals turn to a friend or a professional pet sitting service to attend to the needs of their pets in these circumstances.

Unless you know the individual responsible for the care of your pet, you need to some due diligence, before your turn over your loved one to a total stranger that may or may not have any training in the feeding and care of a strange animal.

A professional sitting service should provide you with a complete service agreement that outlines their responsibilities and your expectations, including full emergency contact information, feeding, and exercise and grooming schedules.

PetsitUSA.com provides a beginning list for you to review for your pet sitter. They suggest that you observe your pets’ reactions to the pet sitter as you need to be comfortable with whoever comes into your home to care for them. You can see the full list of suggestions here.


The person that you hire, whether an individual or a member of a professional staff, will be working in your home and taking car of your pet while you are not there.


Few decisions that you make will be more personal or important to you.


Choose carefully.






Prepare for Disaster with your Pets

Hurricanes…tornados…floods…all kinds of trouble

In 2004, when we were hit by the backside of Hurricane Charlie, we suffered power outages and limbs in the yard.

Two years later, Hurricane Wilma was an entirely different story.

In late October of 2005, we were in central Florida on a Friday afternoon and trying to decide what to do. The forecast was for Wilma to make a direct hit upon that coast. So we returned to our home in Southwest Florida… and waited.

On Sunday morning, the weather seers said that it might hit close to our area, but that it would be with minimal force.

Unfortunately, early Monday morning, about 4:00 a.m. Hurricane Wilma, now a full force five monster (only 3 Category Five Hurricanes have made landfall in the United States since records began, Wilma was a Five hurricane at peak intensity and is the strongest Atlantic tropical cyclone on record) sounding like a locomotive, was headed right for our door. It was too late to evacuate…we ducked into the hall way and covered ourselves with mattresses. After some four hours of screaming wind and torrential rainfall it was over.

But then came the aftermath. Almost two weeks of no electricity, spoiled food and clean up and clean up…

On April 9th, Dr. William Gray, of the  Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University made his annual prognostication regarding the upcoming hurricane season that lasts roughly from  June until the middle of November. Dr Gray predicted that 8 major hurricanes would hit the U.S. during the 2008 season.

It is estimated that after Hurricanes Katrina devastated New Orleans in August of 2005, that over 250,000 household pets were abandon and forced to fiend for themselves.


As a response to this disaster, Congress passed the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006, which amends the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to ensure that State and local emergency preparedness operational plans address the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals following a major disaster or emergency.


Disaster will strike all of us at one time or another. We just don’t know when or where. As pet owners, we have the responsibility or planning for the care of our pets during these chaotic times.


According the the American Red Cross, the best way to protect your family from the effects of a disaster is to have a disaster plan. If you are a pet owner, that plan must include your pets. Being prepared can save their lives.


Different disasters require different responses. But whether the disaster is a hurricane or a hazardous spill, you may have to evacuate your home.

 


The Red Cross provides the following information...in the event of a disaster, if you must evacuate, the most important thing you can do to protect your pets is to evacuate them, too. Leaving pets behind, even if you try to create a safe place for them, is likely to result in their being injured, lost, or worse. So prepare now for the day when you and your pets may have to leave your home.


1. Have a Safe Place To Take Your Pets.


Red Cross disaster shelters cannot accept pets because of states' health and safety regulations and other considerations. Service animals who assist people with disabilities are the only animals allowed in Red Cross shelters. It may be difficult, if not impossible, to find shelter for your animals in the midst of a disaster, so plan ahead. Do not wait until disaster strikes to do your research.


• Contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area to check policies on accepting pets and restrictions on number, size, and species. Ask if "no pet" policies could be waived in an emergency. Keep a list of "pet friendly" places, including phone numbers, with other disaster information and supplies. If you have notice of an impending disaster, call ahead for reservations.


• Ask friends, relatives, or others outside the affected area whether they could shelter your animals. If you have more than one pet, they may be more comfortable if kept together, but be prepared to house them separately.


• Prepare a list of boarding facilities and veterinarians who could shelter animals in an emergency; include 24-hour phone numbers.


• Ask local animal shelters if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets in a disaster. Animal shelters may be overburdened caring for the animals they already have as well as those displaced by a disaster, so this should be your last resort.


2. Assemble a Portable Pet Disaster Supplies Kit


Whether you are away from home for a day or a week, you'll need essential supplies. Keep items in an accessible place and store them in sturdy containers that can be carried easily (duffel bags, covered trash containers, etc.). Your pet disaster supplies kit should include:


• Medications and medical records (stored in a waterproof container) and a first aid kit.


• Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure that your animals can't escape.

 
• Current photos of your pets in case they get lost.


• Food, potable water, bowls, cat litter/pan, and can opener.


• Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to foster or board your pets.


• Pet beds and toys, if easily transportable.


3. Know What To Do As a Disaster Approaches


• Often, warnings are issued hours, even days, in advance. At the first hint of disaster, act to protect your pet.


• Call ahead to confirm emergency shelter arrangements for you and your pets.


• Check to be sure your pet disaster supplies are ready to take at a moment's notice.


• Bring all pets into the house so that you won't have to search for them if you have to leave in a hurry.


• Make sure all dogs and cats are wearing collars and securely fastened, up-to-date identification. Attach the phone number and address of your temporary shelter, if you know it, or of a friend or relative outside the disaster area. You can buy temporary tags or put adhesive tape on the back of your pet's ID tag, adding information with an indelible pen.


The Red Cross further advises that you may not be home when the evacuation order comes. Find out if a trusted neighbor would be willing to take your pets and meet you at a prearranged location. This person should be comfortable with your pets, know where your animals are likely to be, know where your pet disaster supplies kit is kept, and have a key to your home. If you use a petsitting service, they may be available to help, but you need to discuss the possibility with them well in advance.


Planning and preparation will enable you to evacuate with your pets quickly and safely. But keep in mind that animals react differently under stress. Outside your home and in the car, keep dogs securely leashed and transport cats in carriers. Don't leave animals unattended anywhere they can run off. The most trustworthy pets may panic, hide, and try to escape, or even bite or scratch. And, when you return home, give your pets time to settle back into their routines.

Planning for disaster is a part of the estate planning for your pet.