Cruelty Charges Against Pet-Sitter Prompt Officials To Issue Warning

TAMPA, FL— Hillsborough County animal control officials are reminding residents to check the background of pet-sitters the same way they would vet potential baby-sitters.

The reminder comes after last week’s arrest of a Tampa resident who ran a pet-sitting service, according to a news release from the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center.

The pet-sitter was arrested June 27 on an aggravated animal cruelty charge after Animal control investigators discovered the sitter had tied a client’s dog in the back yard on a leash so short it caused serious wounds to the animal’s neck.

Animal control officials recommend that residents who are looking for a pet-sitter thoroughly research the business, including searching Hillsborough County’s enjoined list, verifying that the pet-sitter has a business license, checking for references and contacting Hillsborough County’s approved dog trainers to see if they offer a pet-sitting service or can recommend one.

The Humane Society of the United States also offers the following tips:

Start Online

The internet (including neighborhood and community websites) is a great place to start. Professional pet-sitting associations such as the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters and Pet Sitters International list members on their websites. Reading online reviews and even checking out candidates’ Facebook pages can help narrow down your search.

Seek Firsthand Recommendations

Check the bulletin boards at local stores or your veterinarian’s office for ads, then reach out to potential sitters for their references. You can also ask friends, relatives and neighbors for referrals. Or connect with your veterinarian and local humane societies, which may have employees who are part-time pet sitters. Just keep in mind that people with full-time jobs may not have the availability you need.

Prepare For The Interview

Take some time to think through what you want to ask candidates before interviewing them via phone or video chat. Don’t be afraid to have a long conversation; you can get a good sense of someone’s personality and character that way.

Find out how long they’ve been in business, what their level of experience is with your pets’ species and what their backup plan is if something prevents them from coming to your house.

There’s no point in moving forward if you can’t afford their services. At the same time, don’t just go with the cheapest rate; you want a qualified professional.

Ask what specific services they offer—are they comfortable administering medications? Do they have special training or certifications? Are they bonded and insured (which could protect you in certain situations, such as if your dog bites another person while on a walk with the sitter)?

It can also be helpful to pose one or two emergency scenarios to see how candidates respond: What would they do if the air-conditioning breaks on a hot day or your pet starts vomiting?

Get Ready For Meet-And-Greet

Before you book a pet-sitting date, you and your pets should meet the candidate. This will allow you to get to know the person better, flesh out special instructions and observe how they interact with your animal. You may even want to ask a candidate to do a trial walk to see how they handle your dog.

Don’t forget to ask for credentials such as references and copies of their bonding and license. You might also want to get a criminal background check.

Check Your Pet-Sitter’s Actions

The best screening in the world may not prevent you from hiring the wrong person. But you can take some simple steps to help determine whether the person is doing their job.

  • Ask your sitter to leave notes about each visit or share photos with you via text or email.
  • If you have a doorbell camera, check whether your sitter comes at the agreed-upon times.
  • Get a GPS for your dog’s collar to ensure they’re being walked every day.

Red Flags

Here are some potential red flags to look for:

  • Pee puddles, feces or vomit in the house.
  • Untouched treats or toys you’ve left for the sitter to give to your pet during a visit.
  • Failure to provide detailed reports of your pet’s behavior.

Click here for more information.

Leave a Comment