What to Look For in a Pet Sitter
What to look for, and ask, a pet sitting company before hiring.
Hi, I’m Dori,
I am the owner of Professional Pet Sitting Etc.(PPSE), co-founder of the NH Pet Expo. For many, the experience of leaving your beloved pets, your home and all of your worldly possessions for the first time with anyone is a difficult decision. It is easier to select a reliable pet sitting company if you know what questions to ask. I, personally have over two decades of experience in pet sitting, animal care, veterinary technician, obedience, business, counseling and more. I have structured my company to provide unmatchable pet care service. As with life, Murphy’s law is inevitable and over the years as we have run into Murphy’s law, I have changed the way we run our company so that we never run into the same problem again to ensure you and your pets great care.
Since 1990, I have seen hundreds of NH based pet sitters start up their company and die for many, many reasons but the main reason is burn out. Many petsitters start petsitting thinking that this is a fun job and it is, but it is also a lot of work. I am in touch with petsitters all over the world and because there are no regulations on pet sitting, there have been incidents of theft, neglectful pet care, etc., etc. These uncaring pet sitters are giving the profession of pet sitting a bad name.
I love my company and I want to keep NH free of these incidents. Safety of our company, our petsitters, the animals in our care and our clients are always the determining factors of why I choose to do or not to do things in our policies, procedures, services and prices of services. Here are some questions I believe are important to ask a petsitting company. I will be happy to discuss one or all of these suggested question with you, whether it is pertaining to our company or another petsitting company, please feel free to talk with me. I will help you out in any way, to keep you and your pets happy and safe. PPSE meets all the requirements I am about to discuss. No one compares to our service. Very few, if any, one or two person pet sitting companies will be able to do ALL of the suggestions because they are small. This does not mean that they are bad pet sitters in anyway, however, it does mean that we offer you more. I put these together to give some guidelines to help decide what is important to you in a pet sitter.
Thank you for inquiring about our company.
~ Gratefully, Dori
1. First and foremost, is this company legal in every way?
YES, for PPSE. In NH there are certain things that need to be done at the state and federal level, to run a business. DBAs and sole proprietorships must apply for a federal ID number.
2. Is the business trade name registered as a legal business in NH?
Yes for PPSE, you can call the state department and ask if the business name is registered or you can ask to see the certificate of registration. All businesses are required to register their trade name, to legally do business in the state of NH.
Our paw print heart logo is a registered trademark as well.
3. Is the business insured?
Yes for PPSE, any person or business coming onto your property to do anything such as plowing, roofing, landscaping, housekeeping, pool maintenance, etc., should carry their own liability insurance, so that if they get hurt, it is not claimed against your homeowners insurance which may or may not cover the incident. You can ask to see a certificate of liability insurance. To date we have had NO insurance claims.
4. Is the business bonded?
Yes for PPSE, bonding insurance is basically an insurance stating that a company employee is not going to steal anything from you and if they do, the insurance covers any loss and then you and PPSE will prosecute the thief to the fullest extent of the law. You can ask to see a certificate of bonding insurance. Our insurance company is Foy Insurance. To date we have had NO insurance claims.
5. Is this a full time business, offered 365 days a year?
Yes for PPSE. You want to know that your pet sitting service is going to be there when you need it. Maybe you’ve made advanced reservations to go on a day trip, or business trip or vacation but what about the unexpected overtime, illness, hospitalization, car accident, or death in the family. You need to know that your pets will be cared for whenever you need them to be. One less worry in a world of worries. PPSE is there for our clients for 100% of emergencies. Because we have over 30+ pet sitters on staff for the most part we can cover just about anything.
6.How many visits can you do in one day?
We can do 1 to 4 visits a day, morning, mid day, supper and pm. Approximate times for these visits are – Morning – 6am – 9am, mid day is 11am – 2pm, supper is 4pm – 7pm and PM visits are from 7pm – 9pm.
Make sure to ask for approximate times of visits. Many companies do not do am visits before 9am or pm visits after 6pm !!
7. How long are the visits?
It is up to you, we can do up to a 30 minute visit or 60 minute visit or custom length of 2 – 3 hours if we can fit it into a sitters’ schedule. We can do overnights as well in some areas.
8. How long have you been pet sitting?
I have been petsitting since 1990. This is an important question to ask, because you do not want a new company that may not know what to do in an unexpected situation or that may shut down in a few years. Typically most pet sitting companies that do not stay in business shut down from their first year to their fifth year. A pet sitting company, in my opinion, should be in business for at least 5 years or longer, to ensure that they have run into a snag here and there and have practices in place to ensure visits are done and have a plan for emergencies (car breaks, fly, death). Also, to ensure that they will be there when you need them. However, I have seen businesses that have been around for 6 and 7 years, fold in this economy from 2008 – 2013.
Many people have told me that they had a sitter, used them for a few months or years, then you call and they never return your call, or they are on vacation, or their phone is disconnected.
Now you have to start searching and researching a new pet sitter. NOT ANYMORE
We do all the research, police check, training, etc., so you don’t have to. Plus, if one of our sitters becomes ill, needs a vacation, needs a leave of absence, moves away – we have 30+ pet sitters to take their place.
9. KNOW the Owner’s and the business history?
Complete History of myself and Business is on our website.
A Pet Sitting company’s website should be able to tell you who the owner is and what animal background they have. These are the people who will be guiding employees or ICs in the care of your pets. Even if the pet sitters have experience, it is the owners who must have the experience in order to allow or not allow certain things for the welfare of your pets. You should know what that experience is as well as when the business was started and how it has grown. If you cannot see this, ask questions. Why is it not available? Do they not want you to know? Are they hiding their name for a reason? This information should be readily available to you for the safety of you, your pets and everything in your home.
10. Will you furnish business and client references?
Yes, PPSE typically gets referrals from many of the local veterinarians and other animal business in our service areas. I used to work at Hudson Animal Hospital and you are more than welcome to call and speak to the office manager, Pat about me and my company. When asking another pet sitting company, keep in mind that client references are less important than a business reference for the main reason that a client reference can be anyone, a business reference will not refer to another business if their clients are not happy. It would simply be bad business for them. Most veterinary hospitals and animal shelters know who we are. You can also read all of our wonderful client testimonials on our website or check out our Facebook page. There are many client testimonials in comments on quite a few of our posts. We, certainly, would not be in business for this long if many, many clients did not love us (and we certainly love them and their pets, as well).
Our E-Book on our website, also has businesses that will be happy to speak with you. The owners have been Clients !!
11. Do you have a business phone and can I find your business phone number in the phone book yellow pages or call information under your business name?
Yes for PPSE, you can find us in the yellow pages and by calling information. We are also in almost every newspaper in the pet classified column in many cities that we service. Many pet sitting companies do not have a business phone, they just use their home phone which is frowned upon by the phone company. Or, they may use their cell phone, which may not always work in many areas and it is not found in the yellow pages or in information. You can tell if other companies have a business or personal phone by calling information or the way they answer the phone, if it is a personal phone they may answer by just saying “Hello” or they have a message with the business name and then personal names, using the home phone for double duty. This is unprofessional and can be confusing. Also if you lose the phone number, you can’t call information, etc. This can be a big problem if you are on a trip, lose the phone number, something happened and you need to extend your trip. It is extremely important to be able to call information and get the phone number of your pet sitting company so that you can extend services in an emergency. This is a safety factor.
12. Do you have a business checking account, not a personal account, so that when I pay you, I make the payments out to the company name not to a person?
Yes for PPSE, all payments must be made out to Prof. Pet Sitting Etc. No payment is ever made out to a person. This is another way of finding out if the company is truly a registered company along with having a business phone. Also, if a check gets lost, a company check CAN NOT be cashed by a person. A check made out to a company MUST be deposited in the company account. Even though I own PPSE, my bank will not even let ME cash a check made out to PPSE!!
Since only a handful of clients were writing checks, in April 2013, we decided to no longer accept checks when we went to our online registration/reservation program. It has allowed 24/7 access to your personal pet care profile and making reservations has never been easier!
13. Do you accept Mastercard and Visa to make payment easier for the unexpected emergency or extended trip?
Yes for PPSE, we do accept Mastercard and Visa. We have found this to be especially easy for people who need to keep track of business expenses or have a business credit card but also for people with the unexpected emergency when cash flow is low.
14. Is your repeat clientele over 99%?
Yes for PPSE. Usually the only reason a person leaves us is due to moving. At this time we have over 3000 clients.
15. Do you have animal health, care and welfare experience?
Yes for PPSE. I personally have over 30 years of animal related experience and some of our pet sitters have great experience too. Many of our sitters have animal health, care, & rescue experience.
16. Do you have veterinary technician experience?
Yes for PPSE, I personally have vet tech experience along with many of our petsitters. This is vitally important if you ever have a pet that is diabetic, in kidney failure needing fluids, etc. You will need a pet sitter with some medical experience at one time or another. Feel free to read my entire history on my website.
17. Do you give medications to pets requiring it?
Yes, for PPSE, we can give most medications that are prescribed by a veterinarian.
18. Do you have employees or independent contractors (IC)?
PPSE has employees. The reason we have employees is to control the high quality of our pet sitting visits. We are required to pay workmen’s compensation insurance for our employees. This added expense of Workers’ Comp. Insurance (WC), taxes and paperwork, is why many companies hire IC’s. We felt the added expense was worth it to be able to control the how, why, where, when and what of our company. An IC is a company all by themselves. WC is not required because an IC will get a 1099 at tax-time not a W2. IC’s take care of their own taxes. So, if you hire Company #1, who then sells your reservation to their IC/Company #2, the original company #1, you hired cannot control the service that you receive from Company #2. There are specific guidelines from the IRS that explains what is an employee vs. IC. Plus, why use the pet sitting company if the IC is also a company, just deal with the IC !! Ask if they do W2s for their employees or 1099s?
Our employees go through quite the process BEFORE they are allowed to pet sit on their own. From interviews, to a application that takes about 30 minutes to fill out, to calling all employment and personal references, copy driver’s license and Social security card, etc.
Here are only two incidents that has happened in NH (I am aware of many more and this just a small reason why I do NOT use ICs) –
- a pet sitting company who uses ICs, had a reservation for 2 weeks of pet care for a dog. The IC (about 30 years old) went in and cared for the dog but decided she would have a dinner party in the clients’ home !! She used the good china (put it in the dishwasher, it was NOT dishwasher safe), used all the clients’ candles (burned them down to half the size) and the dog was placed in the basement (where the clients NEVER puts her dog and she found the dog when she came home a day early). This was told to me by the client.
- Second incident – a pet sitting company used a 22 year old IC with very little experience and the company owner had little medical experience. The cat was showing signs of dehydration and when the owner came home, the cat had to be rushed to the hospital. The cat was okay, but should have been cared for earlier.
These are just two incidents to remind everyone to know the history and animal experience of the owner and what are the pet sitters – employees who follow specific guidelines and instructions or ICs who do whatever they want!!
19. Have your pet sitters had a police background history check?
Yes for PPSE, I love my company and try to protect it and all of our clients in any way that I can and one of those ways is to do a police background history check on all pet sitters.
We have found that many companies say they do this but do not, not sure why they would not want to protect themselves and you. Also, 1 – 2 person pet sitting companies will not do this on themselves, so I suggest you doing one on them. You may also want to copy down their license plate number on their vehicle as well. Or just use us and let us do all the research and training for you.
20. Do you have a written policy and procedure hand book for your company?
Yes for PPSE, our policy and procedure handbook is 40+ pages long and is gone through page by page before a pet sitter goes on even one pet sitting visit. Our hand book goes into detail of what is expected from our pet sitters, to confidentiality, to non discrimination, to what to do in most situations. It has been reviewed by our company lawyer and insurance company. This is just another way I try to keep my company, our clients, the pets in our care and our pet sitters as safe as possible. Our sitters also train with a senior pet sitter (someone who has been with our company for 5 or more years), before they can pet sit on their own.
21. Is my information kept confidential?
Yes for PPSE, our employees are required to sign a non-disclosure, confidentiality contract. This is to protect all of our clients, especially our high profile clients. Our registered clientele, who use our services range from local veterinarians, vet. techs, lawyers, judges, police officers, high profile people and many, many more.
22. How can you prove that you were at my home?
PPSE pet sitters are required to call in from each home on each visit. Your name, phone number, date and time are displayed on our business caller ID, then the pet sitter must leave me a message that they are at your home and that everything is okay. They are to leave you a note and they are to fill out a daily sheet for our office. 1-2 person pet sitting companies would be checking up on themselves and it would just be their word.
Plus our sitters are required to do a few other things so that I know that your pets are cared for. This is for my peace of mind as well as yours.
For many who do not have landlines anymore, our sitters log onto our site and the gps feature logs in their position !!
23. Do you have an emergency backup system in place of non related pet sitters?
Yes for PPSE, we have over 30+ pet sitters on staff and all petsitters must be over 21 years old. We have a system that if a pet sitter has any problem, illness, vacation, family emergency or a death in the family then the next pet sitter steps in to ensure that the pets are always cared for. This system is over 30+ pet sitters deep.
The reason you do not want related pet sitters for emergency backup such as husband/wife , sisters, mother/daughter, etc. is that if they live together and one comes down with the flu, chances are they both become ill or if one becomes hospitalized then the other will be preoccupied with the other’s illness or if there is a family emergency or a death in the family they are BOTH devastated and cannot fulfill proper pet care. We at PPSE have gone through these problems (Murphy’s law) and learned from these experiences.
With our over 30+ pet sitter deep emergency backup system, your pets will ALWAYS be cared for. Also be careful on the one person or two person pet sitting company, pet sitting inevitably becomes a 7 day a week, 365 day a year, sometime 10 hours or more a day job. This creates a fast burned out pet sitter. Once a pet sitter is burned out, the pet care quality goes down. They will remain burned out unless they take time off and limit their pet sitting, then your pet sitter will not always be there when you may need them, forcing you to go elsewhere for your pet care needs possibly in a time of emergency. Also, if a petsitter says they do have backup, make sure to ask more questions, some backups are 16 years old, plus if it is their partner, their partner may already have a full petsitting schedule!! There are a few small petsitting companies who use our company as their back up.
24. How large is your service area?
PPSE has 30+ pet sitters covering 38 cities. Our petsitters live in the areas they serve so that in most cases, our sitters are only 5-10 minutes away from all of their clients. Pet sitting is to be enjoyable and to have fun with the pets we care for. I do not like my pet sitters to drive more than 10 minutes. We are not in business to drive, we are in business to love and care for pets. I have seen many 1-2 person petsitting companies cover the same size area that we do. This is a recipe for burn out. I have done this in the beginning. Inevitably, I would get two to three visits that I would have to drive 30 minutes in between each visit. This may not sound bad but try that 3 times a day for a while and soon many do not look forward to pet sitting. Then if you have 4-5 visits in the morning, 6 visits mid day, them 4-5 visits at night, it is okay if they are all within 5 or so minutes but try 20 minutes apart. Service quality goes down, the sitter is rushing from visit to visit, it is not fun anymore and takes time away from giving your pet quality time.
25. Do you offer anything FREE?
Yes, PPSE will bring in your mail, newspaper, packages, water a few plants, turn lights on or off, etc., etc. We call these free services courtesies. Be wary of pet sitting companies who offer lots of things free such as free extra time, free interviews, free meet and greets. This may sound great to you, but that is the fastest way for a pet sitting company to go out of business. In any business time is money and then there is gas. A properly run company that will stand the test of time will charge a fee for meet a pet sitter, etc. Usually, large corporations offer free services, such as free interviews, free estimates, etc. These corporations are charging LARGE sums of money to cover the free things they give you, corporations such as roofers or contractors (services ranging from $3000 and upwards to tens of thousands), lawyers (at $150, $200, $300 per hour), mortgage companies (who make thousands and thousands in interest). Also, it is usually new companies who offer free things or discounts on services to build up their clientele.
If you want a petsitting company who has been in business for a long time, has experience, and will be there tomorrow and for decades to come, then choose a pet sitting company with DECADES of pet care experience, choose Professional Pet Sitting Etc.
26. Are all your fees written down?
Yes, all clients receive a written fee range of services is accessible in our service agreement when you register.
27. Does your company offer other pet care services besides pet sitting visits?
Yes, PPSE offers many, many other services. Check out other services on our website. You never know when you will need other services and we give you peace of mind knowing that if the need arises that we more than likely can help you.
28. Are you a member of the NH Pet Sitters Association?
To become a member, the pet sitting company must provide a copy of their business registration, certificates of bonding and liability insurance, 1 business reference and 3 clients references. They must also show us their pet experience and NEVER have a complaint come back to us. The NHPSA was started to create a place to educate pet sitters and the public so that pet sitting would always be safe and to set high standards of excellence in quality in your home pet care.
29. Are you a member of other organizations?
Yes PPSE is member of many organizations, especially for the continued education. Some organizations are American Humane, Humane Society of the US, Assoc. of Pet Dog Trainers, National and International Pet Sitters Associations, and many, many others.
Now that you know a lot about PPSE, you see that no other pet sitting company compares to us. This does not mean that pet sitters or companies that do not meet these standards are bad in any way, it just means that we have improved our company through time and experience to protect you, your pets and our company. I truly love my company and I care for my pet sitters, my clients and the pets entrusted in our care. Again, if you have any questions, concerns or I can help in any way, please feel free to leave me a voice message or email and I will get back to you just as soon as I can.
Thank you for learning more about PPSE and Happy Pet Owning,