On a recent hot July afternoon I picked up an urgent email from a long-time client. She had left Sophie, her 12 year old black lab mix, with a dog walker while her family was away on vacation. This dog walker was an employee of their regular dog sitter so they trusted that Sophie would be in good hands.
The dog walker had taken Sophie and a few other dogs to the park on a 95 degree afternoon and somehow “forgot” Sophie in the back seat of her car for 45 minutes. Sophie did not survive this tragic mistake.
Hearing the news of Sophie’s passing prompted mixed feelings of sadness, frustration, and anger. But mostly, it motivated me to launch a public awareness campaign to remind people that it really does matter how and who you choose to care for your pets.
In order to determine the best and most responsible course of action, there are a number of factors to consider.
Outline Your Pet Care Needs
- The number and species of pets in your household will dictate whether in-home care is a necessity or if boarding elsewhere is an option.
- Characterize pets as friendly, social, adaptable to new people and new situations, easily handled and transported, or skittish, anxious, and aggressive with new people and environments.
- Special needs pets may be geriatric with ongoing medication requirements, have mobility issues, or have hearing or vision deficits. They require extra attention and care to keep them comfortable and safe.
- Dogs may be grouped by breed, size, age, activity level, medical conditions, and behavior for various boarding and daycare options.
- The length of time you will be away will vary from long work days or day long events, to overnights, to extended time away for vacation and business.
- Home environments need to be easily accessed and managed by a pet sitter, securely fenced, and have a safe area for dog walks.
- Your pet care budget may dictate whether you select a boarding facility, pet sitter’s home, or custom in home care.
Explore Your Options
- Friends, relatives, and neighbors know your pets, are less expensive, but are not necessarily well trained in animal care.
- Dog walkers offer single or group walks, single or multiple dog group visits to dog parks, and dog camps in fenced yards. Qualifications are not standardized or regulated.
- Professional dog walkers and pet sitters are trained in dog and other pet care, recognize medical issues and know what to do in the case of an emergency. They understand how to group compatible dogs for daycare and multiple dog walking and boarding services. They may have experience and specialized training in caring for birds, rodents, reptiles, and other exotic pets. Some are certified by organizations like Pet Sitters International and The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. The best pet care professionals have high standards for keeping your pet healthy, comfortable, and safe.
- Boarding in a pet sitter’s private home usually provides 24 hour care on the premises, but they may take in multiple dogs. There might be kids and other pets in the household, potential household dangers, and they may or may not have secure fencing, gates, and doorways.
- An in-home boarding set-up is considered a kennel and is usually required to have a state issued kennel license. Licensed kennels must fulfill certain criteria which is enforced with onsite visits by state animal control officers. However, many in-home businesses operate under the state regulatory radar.
- Larger kennel facilities must follow state licensing and animal care regulations, and standardized building codes. They frequently offer day care, dog training, grooming, and overnight care.
Finding Reliable, Qualified Pet Care
While there is no shortage of dog walkers and pet sitters, unfortunately, there is a shortage of laws and certifications that impose a standard of care on this ever expanding field. Word of mouth referrals, neighborhood and local social media pages, online national and local directories, and web searches are good resources for locating pet sitters and other pet care options.
It can be difficult to differentiate between responsible professionals and amateur animal lovers so it is crucial that you interview pet sitters and kennel staff, have pet sitters visit your home to meet your pups and other pets, tour in-home care and boarding facilities, visit parks where dog walkers will be bringing your dog, and check references carefully. Ask questions tailored to your own pet’s needs and your expectations. Your friend’s standards, and their dog’s needs are not necessarily the same as yours. Arrange for a trial home visit, a short visit to a doggie daycare, or a one night stay at a boarding facility before committing to long term care.
Take Them With You
Of course, taking your dog and other pets along with you is a welcome alternative for many. Depending on the type of travel, small dogs are easy to take along. Traveling with cats, birds, and small caged animals can be a little more complicated, but it can be done with certain pets.
There are many pet friendly hotels, stores, parks, and communities across the country. When traveling with pets you need to be aware of the weather, both hot and cold. Be prepared to eat in the air conditioned car or outside on a park bench, with your dog. Check out veterinary hospitals, daycare, and boarding facilities at your travel destination just in case you need to leave your pets for a few hours or overnight.
Find a Successful Match
Whatever your individual pet care needs are, learn about and know your options so that you will feel comfortable with who is taking care of your beloved pets. Most importantly, be sure your pet’s are in a care situation where they will be happy, healthy, and safe.
For a more in depth look at Choosing Safe Reliable Pet Care, click here for the full detailed article.
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