BALTIMORE — Instead of relying on family and friends to care for their pets, traveling pet owners now have a number of businesses to choose from.
In Maryland, there are no regulations requiring pet sitters and walkers to be certified or licensed, so it's up to pet owners to research businesses and individuals before giving them the keys to their home.
Pet owners around the country have reported nightmare experiences from hiring the wrong person. One man in New York invited a woman over to the house where he was cat-sitting. Another male pet sitter made himself a little too comfortable in someone's home.
"He took a picture of himself in my tub in a bubble bath where he had drank my expensive bottle of red wine," said Colleen Covell, a Denver pet owner.
Derek Shroyer's experience was much more traumatic.
"We dropped off a healthy 3-year-old dog and came back and he was dead," said Shroyer.
These pet owners trusted the people who came in their homes and were left feeling violated and heartbroken.
Colleen McDonough, owner of Baltimore-based Barks and Blooms, doesn't want to see this happen to anyone else. She advises pet owners to seek out a company that thoroughly vets their employees.
"In our company, we have an HR department that does initial interviews, initial communications, to see how you communicate, phone interviews, in-person interviews and background checks," said McDonough.
All of their sitters are also bonded and insured.
"If anything is stolen under our watch, of course we always lock your house when we leave, but if anything is stolen, anything is broken, if your dog is bitten, if our walkers are bitten, it just kind of covers the whole gamut," McDonough said.
Despite the explosion in companies now offering pet sitting services , for Quentin Bade, his standard is simply knowing the pet sitter well and leaning on friends and family.
"He is my child. I want to make sure he's getting good care and who I know is going to take care of him will treat him as a child just like I do everyday," Bade said.
Rover.com also requires a basic background check and gives walkers the option to pass an enhanced check.
And while they offer a guarantee to reimburse for damages and costs, individual sitters are not required to be insured or bonded.
Some other things to ask:
- Is the sitter Pet CPR certified?
- Do they have references beyond online reviews?
- What's their previous experience with animals?
Also, be sure to look up their criminal history using Maryland Judiciary Case Search. Click here, read and check the box to agree to the terms and conditions, then search using your pet sitter's first and last name.
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