PASCO CO., Fla.— A Pasco County woman is sending a warning after being robbed by the dog-sitter.
It’s something many of us can relate to. We need someone to watch the dog. Millions of us turn to service apps like Rover. But one family discovered it wasn’t just the dog the sitter took out. She left wearing the victim’s shirt.
Deaf and blind at 16-years-old, Shadow, the family dog, needs a little extra help. When Lisa D’Ambrosio went on vacation she turned to pet-care app Rover. It's like an Uber for dog-walking. The company says a service is booked on Rover every four seconds.
“She made me feel at ease, she made me feel like she was ok," said D'Ambrosio of the sitter.
She hired Sherry Fontan to dog and house sit. She gave Fontan the code to her front door. But just three days later, D'Ambrosio was floored when she checked her cameras.
"She was in my clothes when she left one time. Then I panicked and started looking around some more" said D'Ambrosio.
She then found over $100 worth of clothes, a designer purse, lipstick and more missing. D'Ambrosio says Fontan returned some of what she stole after D'Ambrosio called law enforcement. The Pasco County Sheriff's Office arrested Fontan and charged her with felony grand theft.
“I trusted her—I know I didn’t know her but—I’m trusting anyway and it came off that app. I allowed her into my home to take care of my animals and I come home to this" said D'Ambrosio.
We went to Fontan’s home. But no one in the home wanted to talk. We checked Fontan's criminal record and in 1987 she was put on felony probation for forgery and grand theft.
“I should have done a more extensive background check of my own," said D'Ambrosio "I trusted Rover. I’ve used them [Rover]. I know they do a background check."
A Rover spokesperson tells us that while the two did meet on Rover the booking was done off the site. It's a practice their policy strictly prohibits. Rover says Fontan passed a background check done by a third-party company. But on Rover, there's two levels and two badges: The basic background checks, the sex offender registry, terrorist watch list, and the national criminal database for any disqualifying criminal offenses.
Rover has not answered an ABC Action News inquiry into what they constitute as a disqualifying offense. The enhanced background check manually looks at county court records but only for the past seven years. On the Rover website, it says every pet sitter and dog walker has been reviewed and approved by Rover and that less than 20% of potential sitters are accepted.
A Rover spokesperson gave us this full statement:
At Rover, we understand that a home should be a sanctuary. While this stay was not booked on our platform, we take these types of incidents very seriously. The independent contractor in question had passed a background check conducted by a third party. However, we continually monitor the behavior of users on our platform and take corrective actions when necessary. The contractor never performed any services through our platform and is permanently deactivated.
D'Ambrosio says she can't remember if Fontan had a badge on her profile or what type of badge she had. When she checked for Fontan on the website, her account was already gone. For now, D'Ambrosio says she'll be more careful into who she lets in her home. She doesn't plan to use the app or any similar service again.
“I mean I’ve never been really comfortable letting strangers into the house but now? That discomfort has been taken to a different level," said D'Ambrosio.