Top 10 Things to Look for in a Pet Sitting or Dog Walking Company
Ten things you need to know to keep you and your pets Safe
when looking for a Reliable Pet Sitting or Dog Walking Company
Author, Dorinne Whynott, Owner of Professional Pet Sitting Etc.
Since the economy has been a challenge starting in 2008, many pet sitting companies have gone out of business and left their clients searching for pet care when the need came. On the other hand, many people who had lost their job, thinking pet sitting was an easy way to make money, started offering pet sitting. These are known as Hobby Pet Sitters or Short Term Sitters. They just pet sit until they find something full time or they are doing it as a fun thing, not a serious business. BEWARE and check them out. I have listed the top 10 here, if you would like the FULL list of 30, Click on this link – What to look for in a pet sitter/pet sitting company to keep you and your pets safe.
- I have heard many horror stories – one client told me she thought the sitter was not coming to let her dog out while she was at work. So she changed the locks. After two days, she called the sitter to see how things were and the sitter said everything was fine!!! How could they be fine, she could not get in to walk the dog with no keys.
- I had another person tell me they went away for a week and came home to find the payment gone but none of the food cans were opened for their cats, the food and water bowls were empty and the litter box full !! Cats were okay, thank God, they tore open the box of dry food and had the toilet for water.
- Another told me they had a person coming who was charging half of our prices but this person fell and injured their back on their property. This sitter had NO insurance and now the client’s home insurance is paying out a nice hefty sum.
- Another pet sitting company used ICs (Independent Contractors), the client (who called me and told me what she went through) went on a cruise leaving her small, very scared, terrier mix to be cared for. The sitter was an independent contractor, so the company that the client hired to do the pet sitting, couldn’t tell her what or how to do the job. An IC is a company all by themselves. They are suppose to have their own insurance and be able to do the job. The sitter was in her 30’s and seemed nice but the sitter decided to have a dinner party in the client’s home!! She invited 15 people, used the client’s china (putting in through the dishwasher where the client found it). used all the client’s candles (never replaced) and kept the dog in the basement (the dog NEVER went in the basement). The client was horrified. I told this person that she really needs to tell the company. She replied, that she was too upset and she does not like to make waves.
I hate hearing these stories because then these poor people think ALL pet sitters are bad. It makes it harder for good pet sitting companies. Please, check out the people who will be caring for your most beloved animals.
Website -this shows a professional company that has put a lot of thought into their business.
Be careful of businesses with only a Facebook page. These pages can be made one day and gone the next .
Also see the link at the end for a full 30 things to look for to help keep you and your pet SAFE.
Here are 10 things to look for in a pet sitting company
- First and foremost Is this company legal in every way?
In NH there are certain things that need to be done at the state and federal level, to run a business. DBA’s and sole proprietors must apply for a federal ID number.
I know we are talking pet sitting , where sitters come to the pet’s home but I want to mention here about boarding in someone’s home, be VERY careful to check state and town ordinances. I have heard too many stories where people’s pets were confiscated because a person had too many pets in their home and did not have the proper permits or permissions.
- Is the business trade name registered as a legal business in NH?
You can call the state department and ask if the business name is registered or you can ask to see the certificate of registration. All businesses are required to register their trade name, to legally do business in the state of NH. Logos can also be registered as a trademark/servicemark as well.
- Is the business Insured & Bonded
Any person or business coming onto your property to do anything such as plowing, roofing, landscaping, housekeeping, pool maintenance, etc., should carry their own liability insurance, so that if they get hurt or they damage something it is not claimed against your homeowners insurance which may or may not cover the incident (leaving you to pay if they get hurt). You can ask to see a certificate of liability insurance.
Bonding insurance is basically an insurance stating that a company employee is not going to steal anything from you and if they do, the insurance covers any loss and then you and the company can prosecute the thief to the fullest extent of the law. You can ask to see a certificate of bonding insurance.
- Does this business have a website of its own?
Having a website for the pet sitting business that you will be using is a big sign that this company is professional. Creating a website shows that this person is serious about their company. It shows that they have put alot of thought into their business and have put it in writing for you. Look for lengthy personal history of the owner, history of the company and articles written by the company. Articles will show that this company learns and grows. You want a company that believes in continuing education.
Facebook – having a facebook page for a business is great but a FB page can be created quickly and it cab be deactivated quickly. A website shows longevity. It is not a sure fire way to knowing if a business will be around for a long time but it does show that this person had to put in some time, money and thought.
Another thing about Facebook – it should be under a business name as a business page. Business pages you would need to “LIKE’ them. If it is a personal page posing under a business you would have to “FRIEND’ them. Facebook frowns on this. Plus do you want a business knowing your personal stuff on facebook? It is unprofessional.
Stay away from Listing sights – this is a place that advertises a service, such as petsitting and you place your zipcode in and get a list of sitters in your area. Generally, these sitters do not have a business license, nor a website, nor much experience, etc.
- Is this a full time business, offered 365 days a year?
You want to know that your pet sitting service is going to be there when you need it. Maybe you’ve made advanced reservations to go on a day trip, or business trip or vacation but what about the unexpected overtime, illness, hospitalization, car accident, or death in the family. You need to know that your pets will be cared for whenever you need them to be. One less worry in a world of worries. You want a pet sitting company that is there for you for 100% of emergencies.
Most of all WILL THIS COMPANY BE THERE FOR YOU WHEN YOU NEED PET CARE!!
- How long have you been pet sitting?
This is an important question to ask, because you do not want a new company that may not know what to do in an unexpected situation or that may shut down in a few months or years. Typically most pet sitting companies that do not stay in business shut down from their first year to their fifth year. A pet sitting company, in my opinion, should be in business for at least 5 years or longer, to ensure that they have run into a snag here and there and have practices in place to ensure visits are done and have a plan for emergencies (car breaks, fly, death). Also, to ensure that they will be there when you need them. I have seen many businesses that have been around for 6 and 7 years, fold in this economy from 2008 – 2012.
Many people have told me that they had a sitter, used them for a few months or years, then they called and they never return their call, or the company is on vacation, or their phone is disconnected.
Now you have to start searching and researching a new pet sitter. You want a company that will do all the research for you – police check, training, etc., so you don’t have to. Plus, you want to know if one your sitter becomes ill, needs a vacation, needs a leave of absence, moves away – that there are back up sitters in place to take care of your pets.
Look for reviews and testimonials. Do you see any dates on them? If they are on the website, the person couls have placed them there. See if you can find reviews on the Business Facebook
- KNOW the Owner’s and the business history?
Complete History of owner and Business should be accessible on their website.
A pet sitting company’s website should be able to tell you who the owner is and what animal background they have. These are the people who will be guiding employees in the care of your pets. Even if the pet sitters have experience, it is the owners who must have the experience in order to allow or not allow certain things for the welfare of your pets. You should know what that experience is as well as when the business was started and how it has grown. If you cannot see this, ask questions. Why is it not available? Do they not want you to know? Are they hiding their name for a reason? This information should be readily available to you for the safety of you, your pets and everything in your home.
If you find a pet sitting company with just 1 or 2 people, YOU should be researching them, doing a police background check on them, yourself and I would advise to copy their driver’s license and license plate number if you do not have a large company checking them out.
- Do you have a business phone and can I find your business phone number in the phone book yellow pages or call information under your business name?
With everyone having cell phones. It is getting harder and harder. However, a good business will have a landline at their office.
You should be able to find your pet sitting company in the yellow pages and by calling information. Many pet sitting companies do not have a business phone, they just use their home phone which is frowned upon by the phone company. Or, they may use their cell phone, which may not always work in many areas and it is not found in the yellow pages or in information. You can tell if other companies have a business or personal phone by calling information or the way they answer the phone, if it is a personal phone they may answer by just saying “Hello” or they have a message with the business name and then personal names, using the home phone for double duty. This is unprofessional and can be confusing. Also if you lose the phone number, you can’t call information, etc. This can be a big problem if you are on a trip, lose the phone number, something happened and you need to extend your trip. It is extremely important to be able to call information and get the phone number of your pet sitting company so that you can extend services in an emergency. This is a safety factor.
- Do you have employees or independent contractors (IC) ?
The reason they should have employees is to control the high quality of our pet sitting visits. The reason many pet sitting companies do not have employees has to do with money, it’s cheaper to have ICs because they do not have to pay workmen’s compensation insurance. This added expense of Workers’ Comp. Insurance (WC), taxes and paperwork, is why many companies hire IC’s. If a company values quality of service the added expense was worth it to be able to control the how, why, where, when and what of the company. An IC is a company all by themselves. WC is not required because an IC will get a 1099 at tax-time not a W2. IC’s take care of their own taxes. So, if you hire Company #1, who then sells your reservation to their IC/Company #2, the original company #1, you hired cannot control the service that you receive from Company #2. There are specific guidelines from the IRS that explains what is an employee vs. IC. Plus, why use the pet sitting company if the IC is also a company, just deal with the IC !! Ask if they do W2s for their employees or 1099s?
Laso ask what the company goes through when hiring. Do they have a process to ensure good quality pet sitters? Know this process BEFORE they are allowed to pet sit for you. From interviews, to a application, to calling all employment and personal references, copy driver’s license and Social security card, background checks, etc. . All of this should be done by your pet sitting company to ensure the safety of your pets.
Back ups, back ups, back ups
Many pet sitters will be solo. They must have a back up. I have heard sitters say I never get sick or nothing will happen, I have never had anything happen…….come on, things always happen that we never plan for. That is why we all need a plan. A pet sitter needs to know that if something ever were to happen (she could get into a car accident tonight, what will happen to the pets in her care), a responsible professional will know that she has at least THREE or more, yes, that is THREE or more people to call on in case of an emergency. Why? Because I have had the experience on a few occasions to have to go over FOUR pet sitters deep. We did have a pet sitter get into a car accident, her normal back up was sick with the flu, number 3 was on vacation, number 4 had a full schedule and could do no more.
- Have your pet sitters had a police background history check?
We have found that many companies say they do this but do not, not sure why they would not want to protect themselves and you. Also, 1 – 2 person pet sitting companies will not do this on themselves, so I suggest you doing one on them. You may also want to copy down their license plate number on their vehicle as well. We have a VERY lengthy process of checking on all of our potential hires. It is not easy to become an employee with us. We take the safety of the pets in our care VERY seriously.
The pet sitting company should have an online scheduling system. This system should be available on the pet sitter business website. Not a listing site where that site will take a percentage. The listing site does not have the same bells and whistles as a company because Listing sites can not tell the posting sitters what and how to do things.
For our company – Professional Pet Sitting Etc, Our scheduling systems tell our sitters when to be we here and at what times, it notifies us and the sitters if they are late, it tracks our sitters via gps and much, much more.
I hope this helps you find a great pet sitting company.
There are many of us out there that truly want our companies to be the best for you and your pets.
If you would like to learn more ideas on what to look for in a pet sitting company and how our company stacks up, Read our entire article with the full 30 things of What to Look for in a Pet Sitting Company.
About the Owner/Author
Dorinne Whynott, is a long time animal professional. She is a successful business owner establishing one of the largest pet sitting companies in New Hampshire since 1990. Click to Read her complete History.
Professional Pet Sitting Etc. is a leading business in the pet care field and continues to grow since 1990. It boasts 30+ amazing pet sitters on staff, over 3000 clients in 38 cities from Nashua to Concord, NH. Hundreds of satisfied client testimonials can be found on their website and more 5 star reviews on their Facebook page, Google+ page and more. They have sustained an A+ rating with the BBB and are unmatched in the Pet Sitting Industry in New Hampshire.
Contact us by phone at 603-888-8088
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