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  • Writer's pictureTara Martin

Why do I need a Professional Pet Sitter?

A Handy Guide To Navigating Your Pets Care


Your pet, just like mine, is part of your family, and requires the same care and attention that you would provide, even when you’re away at work or on holidays. Finding care for your pet has been made a lot easier with the advent of websites that connect pet sitters with pet owners, however, not all companies require the same levels of vetting, certification and insurance. What is Pet Sitting, as an industry? What defines a Professional? Why do I need a Professional Pet Sitter?


I’m going to drop a major bomb first, and then get into these questions in depth, because I am passionate about raising awareness around this fact:


There is no regulatory body or regulations in the pet care industry (pet sitting,

dog walking, training, grooming), EXCEPT for veterinarian services.


You read that right. There is no regulation - no oversight, no organizing body, and nothing keeping the industry in check. Anyone, anywhere, can be a Pet Sitter, and that has led to really scary stories, both from clients of ours and in the news. Please do not get me wrong, I want to see people get into the industry and work with pets, but from the standpoint of doing it with education and standards for care.


Let’s jump into this, starting from the beginning.


Pet Sitting as an Industry

What does Pet Sitting mean?

Pet Sitting is usually defined as “the act of caring for a pet in its own home while the owner is away.” Dog walking is often considered a form of pet sitting, since it involves coming to the pet’s home to provide exercise and companionship.

(excerpt from the Pet Sitters International website, www.petsit.com)


For example, Paws Claws Wings and Things provides the following services as part of pet sitting:

  • Daily visits, 2 visits a day

  • Overnight visits, where a team member stays in your home overnight

  • Care for pastured animals, poultry, outdoor rabbits

  • Exotic care, including small animals, parrots, reptiles and more


Paws Claws Wings and Things also provides:

  • Dog Walking, solo and group walks

  • In-Home Grooming, for dogs, cats, and exotics


Pet Sitting - The early days

There is no clear line as to when the Pet Sitting industry started, but somewhere in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s, a need for an organization was identified, and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitting and Pet Sitter’s International were soon founded. While this was a step in the right direction, membership in either of these organizations was and remains voluntary, not mandatory.


Over the next twenty years, more pet sitters would come together to agree that certification should be a requirement, and the Professional Animal Care Certification Council was founded in 2016.


Each of these organizations has separately created a type of certification for professionals within the industry, but again, this need for this certification is self-determined by the Pet Sitting Professional - not the industry.


So, why should I care about regulations in the industry?

No regulations within the industry means that every pet sitter does their job slightly differently, and while that may seem to be a great way to find what fits your needs, it also means that the requirements to do the job are not regulated. Up-to-date background checks, Pet Sitters Insurance, Pet First Aid, a business license, or even just training with animal handling are NOT standard requirements for all pet sitters. Below is a list of questions to ask, and I have included a printable sheet here.


Questions to ask a pet sitter:


  • Do they have an up-to-date background check? Remember, you are letting someone you have only just met into your home, often when they are unsupervised. A professional pet sitter should be able to provide a copy of their current background check, preferably from the local municipality/city law enforcement agency instead of a private agency. While I am located in Canada, some pet sitters in the states may need to check how to get background checks from their local law enforcement agency.

  • Do they carry Pet Sitters insurance? Pet Sitters insurance is quite different from business insurance. In most business insurance packets, there is a Care, Custody and Control clause that excludes coverage when another person’s property (in this case, a pet), is under the care, custody or control of the insurance holder (pet sitter). In Pet Sitters insurance, this is NOT an exclusion clause, and instead, your pet is protected.

  • Are they trained in Pet First Aid? Did you know, there is basic and advanced Pet First Aid, for dogs, cats and birds!? Although an accident may be few and far between with your own pet, a Pet Sitter should be trained in Pet First Aid, as they are often in contact with hundreds of different pets over the course of a year.

  • Do they carry a business license within your city/municipality? A business license is often required by the city/municipality the Pet Sitter operates in, and has different benefits to the Pet Sitter and Pet Owner. As a business owner, this means that they are conducting their business legally, with the right permits for fire code, licensing, and adhering to the bylaws. As a pet owner, this means that there is accountability, and complaints could be made directly to the licensing body, leading to investigations.

  • Do they have experience, training, or certifications in animal handling? At the most basic level, Pet Sitters are pet lovers, but this does not make everyone capable of providing care to all types of pets. Knowing the difference between a monitor and a lizard (yes, there’s a difference in need and care), or recognizing signs of illness is sheep versus dogs is very important to providing proper care. There are a number of certificates for pet care professionals to choose from, including courses from:

Pet Sitters International

Professional Animal Care Certification Council

National Association of Professional Pet Sitters


Professional versus Side-Hustle

What makes a Professional Pet Sitter?

A Professional Pet Sitter is often someone who does this job as their mainstream income, is upgrading education and skills, and often (but not always) is the business owner themselves. Someone who does pet sitting for friends, family, or fun, often considers pet sitting their “side-hustle”, and their primary job is separate from the pet industry.


Professionals

Professionals carry liability insurance, pursue first aid training, and spend hours updating their skills. Liability insurance protects the pet owner from theft, damages to their home, and injuries to their pets. First Aid training usually includes providing medication (pills and injection), bandaging minor wounds, and providing CPR in emergency situations. The skills required to know the body language of multiple species (dogs, cats, birds, lizards, horses, chickens) comes from hours of education and learning, through courses, studying, and networking with other professionals.


Professionals often belong to organizations that promote professional development, pay licensing and business fees, and work with other professionals to ensure they are paid fairly. It is not uncommon for groomers and pet sitters to communicate when they are looking at changing their prices, in order to ensure everyone is paid a fair wage. Professionals often work with chambers of commerce, networking groups within their municipalities, and other organizations that help to promote other professional services.


But my (neighbour/friend/teenager) can do this?

There have been countless stories of lost or injured pets, homes that were damaged, or worse, and we would much rather you and your pet stay protected when hiring someone. A pet lover's heart may have the best intentions but not the education or experience necessary, so here are some really important questions to ask when considering your pet sitter options.

  • How will they respond to an emergency? Are they comfortable providing CPR, medication or other first aid measures? Can they transport your pet safely to the emergency veterinarian? Will they know how to handle fire, flood or physical damage to your home from environmental factors? These questions are important to ask yourself to ensure your pet sitter knows what you expect.

  • What is their comfort level and experience with your pet type? In the pet care world, there are many species and breeds of pets that require different care, despite being similar animal types. Do they know the body language of your pet, to avoid stress, confusion and injury? Do they know the feeding routines and methods, to protect your pet, and themselves? For example, an improperly defrosted mouse can hurt a snake or monitor lizard, either from being too hot or too cold in spots.

  • What is the back up plan, if they are sick or something happens? Many people who do this work as a “side hustle” work solo, and do not always have someone to cover them if they get sick. Who would you trust to come in and complete the job, if not the person you already hired?


Need for a Professional

Why do I need a professional?

My personal belief is that if your dog can handle a kennel, they may love to go to a dog daycare or kennel. Pet Sitting is perfect for dogs who cannot handle a kennel or daycare, due to stress, reactivity, or other reasons. Young puppies, older senior dogs, and anything in between benefits from a Professional Pet Sitter. Your dog gets to stay in their own home, enjoy their familiar creature comforts, and maintain a routine at home.


Pet Sitting is also important for animals that are not built for kennels or daycares. How in the world would you take a 100 gallon fish tank to a daycare? What would you do with chickens, rabbits, birds, or other animals that are considered prey to wild canines? These are the pets that need a Professional Pet Sitter, as there are no kennel or daycare options for them.


You may have family or friends who will gladly take care of your pets, but every now and then, you happen to vacation with those family members, or those friends are gone at the same time as you. Inconsistency in the availability of those who know how to take care of your pet can lead to changes in how your pet receives care, and when it comes to nervous pets, knowing how to handle their needs is key.


A Professional Pet Sitter, whose entire job revolves around pet care, is often the one stop solution for a mixed-species home. Instead of the cats going to grandma and grandpa, the dog going to daycare, and the fish being left with a feeder, a Professional Pet Sitter can provide care to all of these in the same home.


It is important to note that not all Pet Sitters serve all pets - some have no experience with horses, chickens, and other livestock, while others specialize in reptiles and amphibians. Always check that the Pet Sitter you are hiring has experience with the species you need care for.


I hope that this article has helped you to better understand the Pet Sitting Industry, what it takes to be a Professional, and how to find a trusted Professional for your pets.


Follow Up

Do you have more questions about how to find a Professional Pet Sitter? You can email info@pawsclawswings.com and we can help you!


Would you like to become a Professional Pet Sitter, or increase your education? Reach out to Tara at keesholdings@gmail.com

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