Janesville53.4°

Sitters offer alternative pet care

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
August 11, 2008
— Maybe you are a nurse who works 12 hours a day in another city, a firefighter who works 24-hour shifts or a family away on vacation.

If you have pets and can’t or don’t want to rely on family, friends or neighbors to care for them, there are professionals ready to handle the job.


Pet sitting services have grown in popularity over the past two decades because they allow pets to stay in the comfort of their own homes, said Lon McGinness of Janesville, who started Pet Patrol 23 years ago with his wife, Sandy.


“It was the new alternative to kenneling,” Sandy said.


Since 1985, Pet Patrol has been providing feeding, watering, walking, play time and litter services to more than a dozen clients in the Janesville area. But during the summer and over the holidays, the number of clients can double.


“Our two busiest times are summer, when school is out, and Christmas, when we get all booked up,” Lon said.


In addition to looking after animals, pet sitters can bring in the mail and newspaper, water plants and make sure the house is secure.


Vacations and work can be more enjoyable when you don’t have to worry about your pets, the McGinnesses said.


Michelle Sherman of Janesville works long hours out of town and said knowing her beloved cocker spaniels are being let out and fed lunch by Pet Patrol is well worth the cost of $10 per visit.


“I could probably let them wait, but I don’t want to,” Sherman said.


Sandy agreed: “With a house dog, we don’t do anything less than two visits a day when the pet owner is gone for 24 hours. Any less, that’s just not right. We had a customer with cats who wanted us to come in every two days. When we got there, there was no food or water. Pets have got to be checked on and taken care of daily.”


Sherman hired Pet Patrol after she and her pets met the McGinnesses and she checked references.


Sandy Milhouse of PupJoy Pet Care, an 8-year-old Janesville business, offered this advice to pet owners: “The greatest thing they can do when hiring a pet sitter is plan ahead, interview the pet sitter just like you would a nanny for the kids, and meet in your home to see how you and your pet feel about the pet sitter. It’s the best way to go.”


Hiring someone who is insured also was a must for Sherman.


Pet Patrol thinks so, too.


“It’s a credibility issue,” Sandy said. “If you’re serious enough about our business, you want to protect yourself and your clients, too.”


Sherman said hiring a pet sitting service is easier than finding others to take care of her dogs.


Milhouse agreed: “A lot of people feel like they’re imposing when asking neighbors or relatives. When somebody hires a professional, they are paying this person to do what we do, and our No. 1 concern is the animals.”


The need for pet sitters has grown, the McGinnesses said.


“Not every animal can go to a kennel because they suffer from anxiety attacks and are prone to getting sick due to the stress of changing their environment,” Sandy said.


“Pet sitting is definitely the way to go,” Milhouse said. “Pets are much more comfortable in their homes.”


PICKING A PET SITTER

Things pet owners should know before hiring a pet sitter:


-- Does the service have at least three good references?


-- Are they insured, licensed and/or bonded?


-- Can the sitter accommodate your pet's daily feeding and walking schedule and your vacation schedule—even during busy travel seasons?


-- Does the service offer seven-day-a-week telephone and e-mail availability?


-- Has the pet sitter had a criminal background check and has he or she received proper training?


-- Will the pet sitter conduct a pre-interview with your pets to observe interactions and establish a comfort level for both you and the pets?


-- Will the pet sitter follow your instructions regarding how you would like time allocated among walking, playing, feeding and cleaning?


-- Does the pet sitter know animal first aid?


-- Does the pet sitting service have backup plan if a sitter has an emergency and can visit your pet?


Source: FETCH! Pet Care

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