Angie's List: A pet sitter can provide peace of mind when you travel

Keeping pets safe at home can be worth cost

TAMPA - Like many of us, Peter & Erin Rusthoven consider their pets part of the family. So when they travel and can't take their dogs with them, they rely on a quality pet sitter to keep their dogs safe and comfortable at home. "I think for us it gives us a peace of mind when we are out of town that they are being well-cared for and again that the house is being looked after," said Peter.

In a recent Angie's List poll, 80 percent of the respondents said they have pets in their family. Who is going to care for your pet when you are traveling is a big decision. "Are you going to board your pet or have a pet sitter?" said Angie's list founder, Angie Hicks. "The nice thing about a pet sitter is that your pet gets to stay in their own environment. Also, you get someone who is checking in on your house for security reasons and in case something goes wrong like a busted pipe."

Becki Bradford is a pet sitter who had that very scenario play out at one client's home. "The client had just had a kitchen remodel done and had a built-in ice maker put into the island. The ice maker developed a leak inside the cabinetry of the island so it wasn't noticeable in the kitchen itself, but a drip began through the ceiling of the floor beneath them, and we caught that fairly quickly so the damage was limited. But had we not been there, it would have caused a lot of damage as it was an expensive repair already, but it took out a lot of the ceiling below and the structure was starting to get wet and mold in just the 24 hours between our visits."

The cost of a pet sitter can range from anywhere to $15 up to $50, depending on how much they are going to do and how long they are going to stay. "An average visit might be 20 or 30 minutes but some people prefer to have their pet sitter stay overnight," Hicks said.

For pet owners like the Rusthovens, the piece of mind can be priceless. "In addition to her obviously caring for the dogs, she's also checking the house, bringing in our mail, watering plants, those types of things. Plus, they love her," said Erin.

Highly rated pet sitters on Angie's List, the nation's leading provider of consumer reviews, caution pet owners to thoroughly review any animal sitter they plan on inviting into their home. They say prospective clients who take the proper steps to find a good cat or dog sitter can avoid coming home to empty water bowls, puddles of urine, sick pets or laundry baskets used as litter boxes.

Angie's List Tips: Hiring a Pet Sitter:

  • Check referrals and references: Ask for references and then follow up with them. Ask what kind of pet they have, what services were provided, how long they've been clients and any other pertinent questions that relate to the service your pet will be getting.
  • Is the sitter bonded and insured? Ask to see a certificate of insurance.
  • Ask about employees: If the company employs more than one person, ask if the same person will be caring for your pet every day. Many larger companies use several different employees for the same client, so your pet may see a different person every day. Make sure you understand what happens if that pet sitter is suddenly unavailable. You need to know that they've got a quality backup plan in place.
  • Ask about training: Find out how employees are trained. A good pet care company will have a formal training program to ensure quality control and consistency. Do they have first aid training so they'll know what to do in an emergency?
  • In-home visit: Have the pet sitter visit you and your pet at home before making a hiring decision. Make sure you and your pet are comfortable with the sitter you hire. Ask whether the sitter you're meeting is the only sitter who will be entering your home while you are away.
  • How are costs determined? Most professional sitters charge between $15 and $50 per visit, depending on the distance traveled, length of the visit, and duties required. Visits can range from as little as 20 or 30 minutes to staying in the house overnight.
  • Inform the sitter: Clearly communicate your pets' needs, including daily routines, medical issues and emergency plans. Be specific as possible.
  • In case of emergency: A professional sitter should have an emergency protocol in case of an emergency with your home or pet.
  • Read the fine print: Understand the services the sitter will provide, including frequency of visits. Make sure you're comfortable with the sitter's plans for taking care of your pet.
  • Stay updated: Pet owners and sitters should discuss communication plans in advance. How will the pet sitter keep in contact with your while you're away? Provide the sitter with a list of emergency contacts and service providers of anyone who has access to the home.
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