The Internet is an amazing place for pet parents. They can meet people passionate about the same breed or dog sport, or learn more about medical conditions that affect their much-loved four-legged companions. And let's not talk about the online shopping for a wide variety of pet products!
However, the Internet has also allowed people to engage with pet minders who may not be as they appear. The Pet Industry Association of Australia (PIAA) is urging people to be wary of unqualified people who offer to mind your pet in their home while you're on vacation. They have offered some guidelines that pet parents around the world should follow before you leave your animal in the hands of a pet-minding business.
Pet-minding businesses are also known as in-home boarding services, and they offer to care for pets (mostly dogs) in their home for a fee. These minders appeal to people because they're often cheaper than a licensed boarding facility and it's nicer to think of a pet staying in a comfortable home rather than in a kennel.
These services can often be found online, where there are websites that will match pet parents with potential caregivers. Pet parents can review minders' profiles and facilities and will be able to read a biography and some reviews by those who have used their services. There may also be a photograph of the minder.
With such private arrangements, there's no need for minders to be licensed or registered and they don't need to show evidence of training or experience in pet care. Unfortunately, PIAA has fielded a number of consumer complaints that prompted them to release a formal statement. In it, PIAA lists several reasons for avoiding the use of a pet minder, including issues around vaccination and hygiene policies as well as how pets are supervised and introduced to others. There may also be concerns about adequate staffing numbers and a lack of a formal contract spelling out the terms of the agreement. This can lead to disagreements and misunderstandings should expenses be incurred, for example, if a pet needs to be seen by a veterinarian.
To avoid the risks associated with using an unqualified pet minder and to keep our furry companions safe, here are three questions that must be asked of anyone offering to mind a pet.
1. Are you insured and licensed?
If a business is licensed, it indicates that they've gone through the necessary processes to operate as a business and agreed to the relevant terms, such as meeting the government's regulations for waste disposal. Insurance is essential to cover the costs should anything happen to a pet in their care. Without insurance, there can be concerns about who pays for veterinary expenses if needed.
2. Can I see where my pet will be staying and meet the people who will be caring for them?
If the answer is no, then a pet shouldn't be left there under any circumstances. If yes, then pet parents should check for potential escape routes such as gaps under the fence. They should also ask about previous pet care experience and be quite specific; a person who has only looked after small dogs in the past may not have the expertise to manage a big boisterous Great Dane, for example.
3. Will there be a formal contract to sign?
Pet parents shouldn't rely on a verbal agreement with a minder. Everything should be put in writing, including dates the pet will be in care, expectations of the caregivers with respect to feeding, watering and medicating, and which veterinarian to contact should a pet suffer illness or injury.
Ultimately, the decision on who cares for a beloved pet is up to the pet parent. Licensed pet sitters or boarding kennels are a popular choice but if an in-house pet-minder is being considered, people should do their due diligence before they leave their dog or cat with them.