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Pet Sitter Safety Month: A Time to Review Procedures
By: Brianna Gunter
If you’re like the vast majority of pet owners, there are times when you need to leave your furry friend in the care of someone else. Perhaps you even watch other people’s animals on occasion. But are you practicing good pet sitter safety?
It’s important to realize that even the best-behaved dog in the presence of his owners may act differently in the company of non-family members. A tragic example of this occurred in Texas in December 2021, when a 22-year-old pet sitter was attacked by the two dogs she was watching and left with life-threatening injuries. According to a subsequent lawsuit, she had met the dogs beforehand with the owner present and experienced no issues.
Though incidents like this are rare, it’s a reminder that pet sitter safety needs to be taken seriously. Whether you’re a pet sitter or a pet owner, there are things you can do to ensure the wellbeing of animals and humans alike.
What is Pet Sitter Safety Month?
May 2022 marks the sixth annual International Pet Sitter Safety Month, a time to bring awareness to a subject many people aren’t aware comes with considerable risks. North Carolina-based Pet Sitters International (PSI) created the month in 2017 to promote safe practices for pet sitters and dog walkers after noticing increasing demand for their services.
“During this important month-long observance, PSI encourages professional pet sitters and dog walkers to review PSI’s safety tips and their own company policies and procedures to ensure they are taking precautions to keep themselves, their employees, and the pets in their care safe,” PSI president Beth Stultz-Hairston told Trupanion in an email interview.
PSI is currently the world’s largest educational association for professional pet sitters. In addition to providing pet owners and pet sitters with important safety advice, they help pet owners find reliable sitters and offer training and certification courses.
“Professional pet sitting is a rewarding and profitable career, but as with any profession, there are basic safety precautions you should take,” Stultz-Hairston explains. “For example, it is important for professional pet sitters and dog walkers to know what types of pet-care assignments they should turn down, as well as the precautions they should take when arriving at a client’s home.”
Pet sitting dangers: some quick facts
- Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show that of the 4.7 million dog attacks that occur every year in the U.S., 800,000 require medical attention.
- Census data shows that the pet care services industry has more than doubled in size since 2006.
- While many pet sitting services (like Rover) offer insurance, they do not cover pet attacks on pet sitters.
6 tips for Pet Sitter Safety Month
Now’s the perfect time for pet owners and sitters alike to review their regular procedures and make sure that everything is being conducted as safely as possible.
1. Meet beforehand
There are a variety of apps these days that make it easier than ever to connect pet owners with prospective sitters. But even with the positive reviews and basic background information, it’s still important to meet beforehand. Do so more than once to help your pet get more accustomed to the person.
2. Only proceed if all parties are comfortable
Everyone involved should be at ease with the situation. This includes the pet owner, pet sitter, and the pet(s) themselves. If any one of those parties is not at ease, things aren’t going to work out.
Keep in mind that just because you’ve met with each other or started scheduling things does not mean you have to go through with a situation you’re uncomfortable with. If at any time you start having doubts or feel that the setup is not the right fit, it’s far better to discontinue things than risk ending up with later regrets.
3. Create a pet sitter safety kit
All pet sitters should have a safety kit on hand that contains basic first aid items and extra pet supplies. As a pet owner, sitters will appreciate you having one ready to go. If you are a pet sitter, preparing this kit ahead of time will show prospective clients that you are professional and serious about keeping their animals safe.
It's also a good idea to include the pet’s medical insurance information in the safety kit, just in case any surprise veterinary care is needed. If you are a pet owner who has not yet protected your dog or cat with pet insurance, Trupanion makes it easy to get a quote.
4. Have a list of emergency numbers
While pet sitters are expected to contact the owners in the event of incidents, there are cases when seeking veterinary attention or contacting emergency services should come first. All pet sitters should therefore be given a list of the following contact information:
- The nearest animal hospital with emergency services
- The pet’s regular veterinarian
- Animal Control
- Neighbors or local friends who can be trusted to help in times of need
- The number of the hotel the pet owner is staying at (if applicable), in case they can’t be reached by cell phone.
5. Consider installing a home security system
Adding security technology to your home could be for the benefit of all parties involved. The Texas pet sitter who was attacked in December 2021 was rescued thanks to the front door getting left open and triggering a home alarm system. In a previous twist of events, California dog owners in 2019 were able to call Animal Control for support after seeing their pet sitter throwing their puppy to the floor on security camera footage.
That said, cameras and alarms shouldn’t be kept secret. Any security systems present in the home should be discussed beforehand, both for ethical reasons and to make sure pet sitters knows how to trigger an alarm if needed.
6. Make sure you’re covered in case of incidents
Before hiring a sitter, pet owners should review their home or property liability insurance. Depending on how extensive it is, it may or may not cover injuries that occur on premise. Of course, the responsibility isn’t just on pet owners, and the “fault” for incidents can go both ways.
If pet sitters work for a service, they may already be covered by some form of insurance. However, it’s important to review the fine print here, as these plans are often sparse and only provide bare-minimum protections. Because of this, anyone who is pet sitting full-time or on a regular basis should consider their own pet care liability insurance policy. In addition to being a life saver for on-the-job incidents, having this in place can help attract new clients.
Pet sitter safety extends beyond May
Pet Sitter Safety Month may only come around every spring, but practicing caution is important year-round. Taking a little extra time upfront to learn the risks, prepare for emergency situations, and ensure pet sitters and animals are a good fit will help bring peace of mind to everyone involved.
Want to become a pro at keeping pets safe? Check out Trupanion’s lost dog prevention tips!
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Welcome to the Trupanion blog. A place to celebrate pets, pet health and medical insurance for cats and dogs.
This blog is designed to be a community where pet owners can learn and share. The views expressed in each post are the opinion of the author and not necessarily endorsed by Trupanion. Always consult your veterinarian for professional advice.