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Part Time Pet Parent

By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views

He would want you to hire a professional pet sitter.

The pet industry can be wonderful at times, and misguided at others. My annoyance stems from part time pet parenting services. I am not talking about pet sitters. Professionally certified cat and dog sitters offer great services that allow us to vacation with peace of mind.

What I am opposed to are messages like this one that I got from a publicist: “As you know, the decision to get a dog is certainly a choice many parents wrestle with. Sure the kids would be ecstatic but the responsibility involved can be overwhelming. The latest trend among dog lovers nationwide is collaborative dog watching, and it’s especially beneficial to families who want to test the waters of pet ownership.”

It is true that in most families, the responsibilities of having a pet falls on the parents. Before we adopted our two kittens, we discussed getting a dog. I grew up with dogs. I travel a bit for work. When I take a trip, I visit museums, go to restaurants, and visit many places that dogs are not allowed. I enjoy seeing many of these places.

Crating a dog in a strange hotel room is not my idea of a good time for a dog. If I had a dog, I would hire a sitter to stay at my house. I do that for my cats.

Speaking of Cats

A lot of people are under the misconception that cats are “no maintenance” pets. True, you don’t have to walk them. You do, however, have to spend time with them, brush them, feed them, take them to the vet, and love them. Cats are incredibly social, and need affection and interaction.

I Don’t Want to Share

A dog or cat is not a toy to borrow at one’s whim. I find this offensive. Before we adopted our two cats, I made sure my son would be on board with some of the chores that are appropriate for his age.

The Best Way to Test a Pet

If you want to “test” a pet, you should volunteer at your local shelter, spend time talking to the volunteers and get to know the different pets.

An Expert Opinion

I decided to talk to Gail Buchwald, senior vice president of the ASPCA’s Adoption Center, to get her take on part time pet parenting. Here is what she has to say:

“Dog sharing while a family is on vacation really has to be judged on a case-by-case basis. There are definite concerns with any situation that puts a pet at risk of falling into the care of inexperienced caretakers seeking a short term adventure, or folks who are in it simply for the monetary reward.  The top priority for any pet owner should always be finding competent care for the pet in the owner’s absence. There is the possibility that a participant in a program of this sort is perfectly safe, but there is significant risk involved. As is the case with any professional pet sitting service or care provider, rigorous and intensive research should be done before placing your pet’s safety in someone else’s hands. Interviews and reference checks should always be performed.”

“It is not uncommon for dogs to end up homeless or injured when the pet owner leaves the animal with a caretaker while they are away. We have encountered situations here at the ASPCA in Manhattan where the dog escaped the home where they were being watched in an attempt to find the owner, or the owner never returned to pick up their animal so they were surrendered to our shelter. All pet owners should be advised to keep identification on their pets at all time, with up-to-date contact information of where they can be reached while they are away.”

“Whenever a pet owner enters into an agreement to entrust their animals’ well-being with an unknown party, there is always a significant risk. Whether it be a boarding facility, or especially an inexperienced person who is not even sure if they are ready for a pet, the main concern should always be the safety of the animal.”

To Pet News and Views’ Readers

I know that you would never put your pet in harm’s way. I am hoping that you share this post with others, and let them know that pet renting and part time family pet watching services should be avoided; the best way to find a professional pet sitter is to get recommendations from good friends or from your local animal shelter.



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