Professional Pet Sitter Week: Finding Pet Sitters & Kennels You Can Trust
by Lynn Stacy-Smith
Back in 2005 when I first moved to Illinois I had to travel for work with just a few days notice. Being new in town, I desperately researched local kennels to care for my black Labrador Babe, and found one that looked promising. I spoke to the owner on the phone, asked her a lot of questions about the facility, how long she had been in business, her experience with dogs, what she did in the event of an emergency, and then I booked Babe’s stay.
The owner was somewhat gruff as I dropped Babe off but I had no other options and I was literally headed to the airport immediately after dropping her off. Plus I was hiring her based on her pet care experience, not her human communication skills.
Two days later I arrived back home and sped to the kennel to pick up my Babe. She reeked of urine, dog smell and something else that was just generally bad and stale. Her dog bed also smelled so badly of urine that I ended up just throwing it out and buying her a new one. I also had to take her to the vet to be treated for a UTI. I was appalled that she had suffered through those conditions for just a few days; I felt like the worst dog owner ever.
As I sat down to write this blog I decided to look on Yelp to see what type of feedback they were getting twelve years later. At first glance there were four reviews, three extremely positive and one with a photo of a dog with sores and lameness. There was also a link that read “Four other reviews that are not currently recommended.”
Of course I clicked that link, and this is what I found:
“I am in shock! I asked about coming for a visit to see where my dog would be and was told no, they don’t allow that! She said I could drive by the property and look in the window! Really!”
“That place scares me. I stopped in and the whole property reeked.”
“My dog came home smelling horrible…. like urine and feces. The whole location always smells horrible. He seems to have a urinary tract infection as he is peeing constantly. He also has been throwing up for two days.”
“When I picked her up she appeared dirty and was limping. After a cursory examination I found feces dried on her fur (not near her rectal area) and red-scaly spots between her toes. The vet determined that she has both a yeast and bacterial infection between the pads of her feet. This is most likely the result of standing in her own feces and urine for an extended period of time. The stench of fecal matter and urine was overwhelming inside the facility.”
So how do you avoid ending up somewhere like that kennel and find pet sitters and kennels who you can trust ? Research, research, research and more research. Fortunately there is far more information that you can find now in 2017 from online sources and connecting with other humans online.
Resources for Finding Kennels & Pet Sitters:
Other Dog Professionals: Reach out to the other dog professionals in your life, like your veterinarian, your dog groomer, your training facility. Not only are they likely to have their own pets who need to be boarded occasionally, but they will probably know other people int he pet care industry.
Facebook neighborhood groups: Most towns and even neighborhoods have Facebook groups that you can use to ask for suggestions on local businesses. You may end up with ten entirely different suggestions or find that the same business is recommended over and over.
Yelp: When searching Yelp, make sure you look at all of the reviews, even the ones like I found that were listed as “not currently recommended.” Yelp gives an explanation about why they recommend certain reviews over others and based on their explanation, I would personally consider all of the reviews posted by dog owners when finding a pet care facility. In my opinion, if someone is inspired enough by a positive or negative experience to create an account and draft their first review, I want to know about it.
Better Business Bureau: The Better Business Bureau website includes business ratings, owner information, how long the business has been open and also has an area for customer reviews and complaints along with the ability for the business owner to address and respond to the complaint. I have not found as much information on here as other sites but it is worth checking. I believe you can tell a lot by the way that a business owner handles complaints.
Angie’s List: Angie’s List lets users grade businesses on price, quality, responsiveness, punctuality and professionalism using the A-F system like you find in academia. You are now able to create a free membership.
Judy’s Book: Judy’s Book consists of user reviews posted directly to the site as well as reviews from other sources. There is also a spot for the best and the worst review, but again when it comes to finding a trusted boarding facility for your dog, I suggest reading every review thoroughly.
Google: Ok, recommending you use Google is not exactly rocket science. Most users only go through the first page of results; for this type of research, my suggestion is to go many pages deep and not only Google the name of the business but the owner’s name and the address as well.
DogVacay: You can search for pet sitters to watch your dog in your own home or in their home, a concept that is growing in popularity more and more. According to the DogVacay information, they have an extensive vetting process and educational courses for their pet sitters and as I spot checked sitters near me they all had rave reviews and five stars (the maximum) with only a few exceptions. You can also find pet sitters who watch your dog in your own home either overnight, go to your home to let your dog outside for potty and play breaks and meals, or for dog walking.
Rover: Just like DogVacay, you can search Rover.com for boarding in a pet sitter’s home, dog sitting in your home, drop-in visits, dog walking and doggie day care in a sitter’s home. You can research ratings, repeat customers, detailed reviews, whether or not the pet sitter has passed a background check, if they have taken Rover.com courses, and if they have access to the Rover.com pet care hotline.
National Association of Professional Pet Sitters: The mission statement of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters is “The only National non-profit professional pet sitting association dedicated to setting the industry standard and championing the welfare of animals.” You can search for pet sitters in your area who are part of the group through their Pet Sitter Locator function.
Pet Sitters International: Pet Sitters International is “a pioneer in the pet-sitting industry and a trusted educational resource for pet sitters and pet owners alike.” You can search for a local pet sitter who is a member of their organization at this link: https://www.petsit.com/locate.
Questions to Ask:
Here are two fantastic must use resources whether you are choosing a pet sitter or a boarding kennel:
Tomorrow I will share my dog care binder and information on why it’s important to keep dog care instruction handy should you have to leave your dogs with a pet sitter.