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Sunday, January 15, 2012

How to Choose a Pet Sitter

When it comes to hiring a pet sitter, how do you choose?

For starters make sure the sitter is insured and has references. If you feel overwhelmed by the large number of pet-sitting services that meet these criteria, here are some additional tips to help you narrow down your search: 

1.      What type of service is best suited for you and your pet? Most sitters offer home visits and they will visit your home one or more times per day. Overnight pet sitters sleep at your residence. If you would rather have your dog stay at the sitter’s home, look for someone who offers boarding and tour their home. If the sitter has a problem with this request; think twice about leaving your dog there.
2.      The best way to find a reliable pet sitter is to get referrals from others. Ask your friends and coworkers, or visit online bulletin boards or chat rooms for advice. You can also read pet sitter reviews on the internet; and are two popular review sites.
3.      Beware of marketing gimmicks! A pet sitting service advertising that they’re “licensed,” can be misleading since there is no professional licensing for pet sitters. They’re probably referring to a standard business license – which most cities require for every business.
4.      Can the pet sitter provide written proof that he or she has commercial liability insurance (to cover accidents and negligence) and are they bonded (to cover theft)? A quick internet search of pet sitters in Savannah, GA produced 369 potential candidates, many of whom were college students and I didn’t see ‘insurance’ mentioned on any of the postings I looked at.
5.      Membership in a national pet sitters’ organization like Pet Sitters International (PSI) or The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) is a good start. Both organizations offer certification programs which require individuals to meet certain objective criteria through a course of study and testing. Most reputable sitters belong to at least one such group, since it’s a requirement for obtaining liability insurance. You must assess a candidate’s experience and professionalism for yourself.
6.      If your pets have health problems, look for someone who is familiar with the conditions and their treatment. Many sitters have trained in Pet First Aid/CPR. Certified pet sitters are required to know this. Some sitters have volunteered with animal shelters/rescue groups, where they’ve received training on common medical problems.
7.      Ask what will happen if the pet sitter experiences car trouble or becomes ill? Does he or she have a backup?
8.      Will the pet sitter provide related services such as in-home grooming, dog walking, dog training, and play time?
9.      Will the pet sitter provide a written service contract spelling out services and fees?
10.  If the pet sitter provides live-in services, what are the specific times he or she agrees to be with your pet? Is this detailed in the contract?
11.  How will your pet sitter know when you have returned home and that they are relieved of the responsibility for your pet/s’ care? 

If the above criteria have been met, the final test is your gut. Trust your instincts when choosing a pet sitter. If you get a good feeling after an initial phone call and/or email exchange, make an appointment for you and your pet/s to meet the candidate. If the person shows patience and affection toward your pet/s, and your pet/s like the person in return, chances are you’ve found a good fit!
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