A poodle named Buddy alerted his owners of a fire in their Dover house, allowing all the people living inside to escape without injury.
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
TAMPA - For many of us, pets are part of the family. But when you leave your pets in the hands of a sitter, you trust that your pets are being properly cared for.
An I-Team investigation found some pet sitters are skipping out early, leaving your dogs and cats alone at home.
Using hidden cameras, the I-Team wanted to find out if in-home pet sitters really watch your pets for as long as they claim. We asked several pet owners to set up 30-minute visits with local pet sitters. The visits cost $15 to $23 dollars, depending on the sitter.
Mary Alexander of St. Pete Beach hired "Give Me Your Paw" pet services to watch her two labs for the "approximately-30 minute" visits they describe on their website.
"All I wanted was for her to give them a half-hour of TLC," said Alexander.
When the sitter arrived on the first day, the hidden cameras show she took the dogs out for a walk. But after just 4 minutes, she came back in, filled out a comment card, and took off. The total time she spent at the house was just 10 minutes. The next day, she was in and out in just 8 minutes.
"If someone told me they were going to give me a half-hour massage and they stopped at 15 minutes, I'd be a little angry," Alexander said.
"Give Me Your Paw" pet services refused to answer our questions on-camera. In an e-mailed statement, the owner said she left early because she felt "threatened" by the two dogs.
She claims she was "greeted by charging dogs with aggressive behavior". Our cameras show she took the dogs out for a walk and gave them treats without incident. In 3 comment cards written by the sitter, she never notes any aggressive behavior.
She wrote on one, "They were very good!". An another she wrote, "Starting barking but then when they got settled they were good."
"I don't understand why she shouldn't have wanted to stop and play with the animals if she's an animal lover," Alexander said.
We looked at other home pet sitters as well. For years, Joey Trowbridge has been using Wags and Wiggles sitters to watch her cats: Liam, Lola, and Lucy.
"I travel on business often, so it's kind of a requirement for me," Trowbridge said.
She says her own security cameras caught the employee skipping out early again and again. Instead of the 30 minutes she says she paid for, her video's time stamps show the sitter leaving in 15 minutes, 6 minutes, and in one visit, after just 4 minutes.
"I was like, 'You've got to me kidding me.' This can't be right," Trowbridge said, describing her first reaction to seeing the video.
Wags and Wiggles responded that Trowbridge has been a problem client, and that "her cats and not social cats and did not want to play." They added, "At Wags and Wiggles, it has always been about the proper care and well being of the animals in our care, not about minutes." They also claim they never promised Joey a 30-minute visit.
But their website did state that "All visits are approximately 1/2 hour," and "We guarantee you will get the time you paid for!" Since they were notified of the I-Team investigation, both of those lines have been removed from their website.
The I-Team had our cameras rolling as "Wags and Wiggles" sat for another pet owner in Tampa over two days. In these visits, "Wags and Wiggles" delivered exactly what they promised, walking the dog for a full 30 minutes.
"Alone At Home" pet services in Largo also gave the dog the full 30 minutes of attention they promised.
While it may not seem like much, the pet owners we spoke with said the difference between 30 minutes and 5 is huge.
"These are my babies. They couldn't tell me, "Hey mom, she's spending five minutes here." I didn't know. I had to find out on the security camera," Trowbridge said.
The Better Business Bureau says anyone using a pet sitter should get in writing exactly what you expect your sitter to do, and you should ask for references before you hire someone.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.