Pet Sitters International Says 'Reduce Risk and Liability in 2008 by Knowing Your Pet Sitter'

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To help ensure pet owners get the best level of care and security for both pets and property, Pet Sitters International recommends that pet owners start 2008 right by reviewing the credentials of their pet sitter or pet-care provider.

Few people are comfortable letting someone work inside their home without first checking that person's qualifications, background and level of insurance and bonding. Unfortunately, when it comes to hiring a pet sitter, many pet owners ignore this necessary -- and potentially costly -- step. Not taking the time to check references and credentials brings liability and risk that a pet owner could easily avoid.

While most established pet-care professionals provide exceptional care year round, even the most conscientious service providers can encounter mishaps and unavoidable incidents at some point in their careers. Hiring an inexperienced or inadequately insured pet-care provider can result in both heartache and unexpected costs for pet owners.

To help ensure pet owners get the best level of care and security for both pets and property, Pet Sitters International recommends that pet owners start 2008 right by reviewing the credentials of their pet sitter or pet-care provider. Taking the time to find a qualified caregiver for your pet brings added security for your animals, home and possessions. What's more, an appropriately credentialed pet sitter can reduce a pet owner's personal liability should something happen while the owner is away.

David Pearsall is the director of sales and marketing at Business Insurers of the Carolinas, the preferred liability insurance and bonding provider for Pet Sitters International members. He has been insuring and bonding pet sitters since 1995 with coverage that includes care, custody and control for pets and property in the care of pet sitters, whether in the home of the pet sitter, the home of the client or in transit.

Pearsall points out that uninformed pet owners might not think through what could happen while they're away, and often rely on well-meaning neighbors or those under the age of 18 to care for pets. "If you utilize your neighbors and they break something in your home, it may not be covered under your homeowner's insurance policy," says Pearsall. "As for professional pet sitters, their pet-sitters policy should include dog-bite liability, which keeps the pet owner out of the line of liability should something happen. Pet owners should always ask questions of their potential pet sitters."

Pearsall stresses that liability insurance and dishonesty bonding are not options, but requirements for a pet owner's peace of mind. "I look at it as I would any other service providers entering my home or working on my property," adds Pearsall. "I need to know who these people are, what their qualifications are and what kind of insurance and bonding they carry."

According to Pearsall, PSI members' claims experience is better than the overall pet-sitting industry, however, the average claim filed for vet bills and damage to personal property typically ranges between $2,500 and $3,000. In the event a pet sitter is not covered by insurance, the homeowner becomes responsible for those bills and damages unless they choose to pursue lengthy legal action to receive compensation.

"As the world's largest educational organization for pet sitters, we recommend that all pet sitters be bonded and insured," says Patti Moran, president of Pet Sitters International. "Our organization works to position its members as leaders in the profession. That's why we offer accreditation and education for pet sitters along with avenues for obtaining insurance and bonding."

Pet Sitters International offers the pet-owning public a checklist for interviewing a pet sitter to ensure that the pet sitter selected is a good match for an individual's pet-sitting needs. The checklist includes questions relative to the potential sitter's formal training, any criminal history, and contingency plan should she face an emergency while caring for your pets, as well as specifics regarding the pet sitter's liability and bonding coverage. This checklist, as well as other valuable pet tips, is available in the Pet Owners section of the PSI Web site.

To help pet owners find PSI members in their areas, PSI offers its unique Pet Sitter Locator on the organization's Web site.

"Pet owners deserve to have peace of mind regarding their pets and their property while they are away," says Moran. "The best way to achieve that is to take some time to choose the right service provider with the right credentials for the job."

About Pet Sitters International

Established in 1994, Pet Sitters International (PSI) is the world's largest educational association for professional pet sitters, representing more than 7,900 independent professional pet-sitting businesses in the United States, Canada and abroad. PSI prides itself on its ability to provide its members with access to affordable bonding and liability insurance and educational resources such as PSI's Accreditation Program, The WORLD of Professional Pet Sitting magazine, The Pet Owner's WORLD magazine and PSI's annual Quest for Excellence convention.

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