By Pamela A. Keene
When you’re going to be away, you have options about how your pet will be taken care of. You can board Fido with your veterinarian, you can consider making a reservation at a local pet hotel, or you can ask a friend or family member to check on your pet periodically.
There’s another choice and it’s becoming popular across the nation — hire a pet sitter.
“A pet sitter can care for your pet right in your own home, so that the pet stays in a familiar environment,” said Beth Fasnacht, owner of Pet Watch Inc., based in Cumming. Beth is also the founder of the Georgia Network of Professional Pet Sitters, a registry of pet sitters.
“Pet sitters can do much more than just make sure your pet has food, water and is walked regularly or her litter is regularly changed or cleaned,” she said. “Some pet sitting services will open and close your blinds, rotate your lighting, bring in the newspapers and mail and even water plants.”
It depends on the pet sitting service and what the pet owner wants.
“Different people expect different care for their pets,” she said. “When you’re looking for a pet sitter, ask questions about their experience with your type of pet and how they will care for your pet while you’re away. You’ll want to tell the sitter about any special issues with your pet and any specific requests.”
Fasnacht began her pet sitting business, Pet Watch, in 1995 to allow time and flexibility to care for her family. She also realized that with the 1996 Summer Games coming to Atlanta, many residents would be going away, and most likely they would need care for their pets. To benefit both pet owners and pet help Atlanta petsitting companies, she created the Georgia Network of Professional Pet Sitters to help match clients with pet sitters.
Today, the organization provides referrals and offers a common bond among professional pet sitters. She is also active with Pet Sitters International, (www.petsit.com,) a membership organization that offers business support and insurance services for pet sitters, as well as information for the public. “It is an excellent resource for both sitters and pet owners,” she said. “The group hosts annual educational conferences and expos to help pet sitters keep up to date on pet first aid, pet care and even ways to grow their businesses.”
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges that pet owners face is connecting with a pet sitter because pet sitting requires commitment and a love for animals.
“We are always looking for more sitters to help fill the need,” she said. “Hours are flexible and if you love pets and have the right temperament, it’s a great job.”
Pet Watch requires a written application, a background check, a face-to-face interview, then a 3- to 4-hour orientation for each candidate. Fasnacht goes over Pet Watch policies and procedures and offers initial hands-on support as sitters become established. Pet Watch can even take care of administrative tasks and other paperwork for each sitter.
“Many pet sitters work part-time, either because they are retired or they want to supplement their regular income,” Fasnacht said. “We look for people who are responsible, level-headed, have the availability to spend time with the pets they care for and love pets.”
Pet sitting is a shared responsibility between the sitters and the pet owners.
“The services provided are discussed between the pet owner and the sitter, but we also ask pet owners to prepare,” Fasnacht said. “Making sure there’s enough food, treats, kitty litter for the time you’ll be away is understood, but also please leave your contact information, the contact information for your veterinarian and any details about care or medications. Let your vet know the name of the person who will be caring for your pet when you’re gone.
“It’s also important to tell the sitter where your pet’s leash and their carrier is located,” she said. “We always recommend that sitters use a leash, because even though the pet may stay close to the owner, a pet may try to run free with a sitter. Be sure to put ID tags on your pet and update your chip registration information before you leave.”
For more information about pet sitters and Pet Watch, visit www.petwatchtoday.com or call (770) 887-7930.