Patti Moran chided us in a recent letter about something we printed in the November issue on finding a pet sitter when you’re going to be away from home:
“I was very pleased to see the article exploring pet-care options for traveling pet owners….However, I was very concerned — and quite surprised — that a publication like yours did not encourage pet owners to seek professional pet-care options or mention the potential risks of using unqualified friends, neighbors, or strangers as pet-care providers.”
This isn’t a casual issue for Patti. She created Pet Sitters International more than 20 years ago to create quality standards for pet sitters. Her organization offers a certificate program for those pet sitters who want an official stamp of approval that they are qualified to take care of other people’s animals. “Anyone can print a business card or hang out a shingle that says he or she is a pet sitter,” Patti commented. But “many providers…are not insured, bonded, or trained in best pet-care practices. Many are also violating zoning laws, ignoring business licenses,” etc.
Pet owners should know what questions to ask before hiring a pet sitter, she says.
The seven most critical ones:
1. Does the pet sitter have the proper business license for your city or state?
2. Is the pet sitter insured and bonded?
3. Can the pet sitter provide proof of a clear criminal history?
4. Does the pet sitter provide client references?
5. Will the pet sitter use a pet-sitting services agreement or contract?
6. Has the pet sitter completed Pet Sitter International’s CPPS Program and/or has he or she 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?
Patti’s organization also recommends that pet owners schedule an initial consultation with a potential pet sitter prior to booking services, and it offers a “Pet Sitter Interview checklist” on its website to guide pet owners in the interview process. The site also lets you search for a pet sitter approved by Pet Sitters International. You just type in your zip code and check off “dog” (their sitters are capable of taking care of all kinds of animals), and the nearby choices come up. There will probably be one in your area; Pet Sitters International has some 7,000 member businesses.
Our bottom line: If you can get a neighbor or close friend or relative to care for your dog when you’re going on a trip, you probably can forego such steps as finding out whether they can provide proof of a clear criminal history (well, maybe unless your relative is a Soprano). But if you’re going to put your dog in a stranger’s hands, the careful consideration recommended by Pet Sitters International makes good sense. For more on Patti’s organization, check out petsit.com.
Happy tails to you,