- Shelly Gonzalez
App-sitters vs licensed facilities?
I try not to blog when I'm feeling an intense emotion... but here we are...and here I go.
TL;DR: Trust no one. Question everyone. There is no special paper that makes someone qualified to care for your pet.
Recently, I have seen a lot of articles that dog (haha, pun intended) the dog walking/ pet sitting apps. You know the ones. These articles tell you about dogs who die in the care of these negligent random people, who have no background in dog care, no skills, no insurance, ect. The articles want you to believe that the people who are providing services on these apps are dog-ignorant and looking to make an easy dollar. These articles want you to stop using the app and to go to your local, professional, licensed, educated dog care professional.
They want you to come to me.
I can dig that. I want you to come to me too. I think I'm awesome. I think I provide a service that's not only better than those app-sitters, but I'll say it- I think I'm better than <has a bank account big enough to sue me for saying their name>. I have built my business around providing something that I don't think you can find anywhere else...
* small groups
* individualized attention
* owner lives on site
* educated care providers
* no fuss insurance
* flexibility in scheduling
* affordable rates
But what I'm *not* OK with is dogging everyone else. So, let's take a moment, to look at some truths, as I believe them, about app-sitters vs. licensed boarders. And maybe we can agree to not make sweeping generalizations about either category.
The fact that you have a profile on an app or your name on a business license says NOTHING about your level of education. Someone can have a profile on an app AND ALSO be a dog trainer, or a shelter volunteer, or someone who works in rescue. Working for a licensed dog daycare or boarding facility does **not** mean you have been provided with dog-related education and if you have, it doesn't mean you put it to use. Trust me on this one.
Arch City Dog Boarding mandates that all employees go through ongoing classes/ workshops on dog body language, behavior, effective cleaning practices, pet first aid and CPR, and customer service. You can see our certificates. They're hanging on the wall.
When I was accepting clients from an app (yeah, I sure did) they provided insurance. There was a deductible, but they did provide insurance. If there was an emergency, there *was* someone at the other end of the phone with a credit card ready to take care of Fidos bills. I am also aware of some licensed boarding facilities that either 1) don't provide insurance and have it in the small print that if your pup is injured while in their care, they're not responsible for those injuries or 2) offer insurance for an additional fee. I don't know the current state of app insurance and there are a lot of licensed facilities that do provide insurance, but it isn't a "must" or "must not" for either category.
All dogs who are clients of Arch City Dog Boarding are covered by our insurance at no additional cost to the owners. It is considered a basic that should be provided to all clients- just like food, water, and attention. If you're leaving your pup in my care, then I am responsible for their care and safety.
Dogs have been injured, killed, or lost in the homes of app-sitters. Sometimes, these tragedies are due to the sitters negligence. Sometimes it's because the sitter wasn't aware of a potential problem with the fence, or the window, or the door, until it was too late.
Dogs have also been injured, killed, and gone missing from licensed boarding facilities. Same reasons. While it is MIGHT be more likely that a licensed facility would have fewer safety hazards due to the licensing process, some states license boarding facilities without any type of inspection. And I mean.... a lot of states....... Missouri requires annual inspections.
Not only does Arch City Dog Boarding have a current license but we also try to ensure that the pups are safe when they're inside or outside. The fence is 6', gates have locks on them, the perimeter has cinder blocks to try to prevent dogs from going under the fence, doors have automatic closers on them, dogs are separated based on size/ temperament, they're physically counted on an hourly basis to ensure everyone is still here and safe, dogs have their own space to eat, and we have cameras.
This is another component of safety. Beyond physical safety, is your pup going to pick up some virus? "App sitters have fewer dogs so my dog wont get "kennel cough." "Licensed facilities have strict cleaning requirements so my dog wont get "kennel cough." You are wrong. On both items. First, your pup can pick any of the viruses associated with kennel cough from many places so stop hating on kennels. Second, the virus can linger on carpet, walls, furniture, clothing, shoes, ect. So your pet sitter who only has 3 dogs can still have the virus in their home. And I have heard stories about how other facilities clean. Short story- incorrectly. It's gross.
Of course we have a phenomenal cleaning procedure- were you expecting anything different? We clean, rinse, and disinfect. Correctly.
And even with everything that I do to try to be the best that I can be- stuff happens. Educating employees doesn't mean that they'll do what's expected at all times. Having insurance doesn't mean you wont have to use it at some point. Putting safety protocols in place doesn't mean a dog wont get injured. Cleaning daily wont mean viruses cant show up.
The bottom line is that you need to do your due diligence when choosing someone or someplace to care for your pet. Personally, knowing what I know today, I don't think I'd feel comfortable with anyone other than a trusted family member/ friend or a licensed facility who was also a member of a professional organization (like the International Boarding and Pet Services Association) caring for either of my pups.
Basically, don't trust anyone. Go. See. Interview people. Read the fine print. Ask questions. Read reviews. Ask for testimonials. Know that the testimonials that they give you will be from their favorite customers. Know everything about your dogs stay. Look at where they will play. Look at where they will go potty. Ask how long they are allowed outside AND how many times AND who else will be out. Not sure of what else to ask? The International Boarding and Pet Services Association made a hand out for that... https://www.ibpsa.com/for-consumers/
Want to know if your preferred option is a member of IBPSA? There's a search page for that (hint, we are)... https://www.ibpsa.com/ibpsa-member-directory/
::steps off of soap box::
Wait.. ::steps back up::
Let me just say, I clearly have a bias. I am highly offended when I hear professionals slam app-using dog walkers/ sitters. I started on an app. That's how I found out that this is a real thing that people do. Once I discovered that people actually pay others to take care of their dog, I looked into what I needed to do to make it legal and legit. I put a lot of blood, sweat, tears, time, money, more time, restless nights, panic attacks, and more time into building my dream. And I continue to do that every day. Does that mean every person on the app is a budding entrepreneur? No. Some are useless. Some are dangerous. But having been on both sides of this coin and seeing/ hearing what happens in different spaces, let me tell you, neither side is a clear winner.