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How to find a GOOD pet sitter

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  • How to find a GOOD pet sitter

    In light of recent events, I thought it would be a good idea to post guidelines on how to find a good pet sitter for those of us that have our horses at home. It seems that on the other post many people have had bad experiences with pet sitters. Who do you use, and how do you find a good one?

    I use my trainer when I go out of town. She is excellent, we keep the same schedule and she knows my horses. Sadly, she may be moving an hour away next year so she would not be able to watch my horses any longer. I am upset because I trust her 100%! Now I am wondering who I can use.

  • #2
    I have a lovely couple that have a farm just a few miles away. They were referred to me by my vet. Their daughter also helps them with their small farm-sitting endeavor. They come 2-3X per day and will take care of whatever animals, plants, mail, etc. I ask.

    I also have backups, and backups to my backups, in the form of local friends and relatives, horsey contacts, etc. My vet and farrier always know how to reach me directly and when I am out of town, as do my immediate neighbors (two of whom are competent horsemen/women).

    I cannot say that I have covered all possible contingencies (because to do so would surely anger the Contingency Gods ), but I feel I have the best set-up I can come up with to have the farm and animals under control for the occasional short trip that Mr. CH and I may take.
    Equinox Equine Massage

    In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me invincible summer.
    -Albert Camus


    • #3
      Originally posted by spotnnotfarm View Post
      Who do you use, and how do you find a good one?
      Word of mouth. Ask every horse person/small farm owner you know. Ask at the feed store. Ask the vet. Ask the farrier.

      We found a good one who is in high demand in our area. You have to book her a ways ahead to get her. She keeps pretty busy.


      • #4
        I, uh, never go on vacation

        I do occasionally farm/pet sit, however, and I'd also recommend word of mouth, and asking at the vet.

        Be clear about how frequently and in what way you'd like to receive updates. I've worked for people that only want to think about their vacation, and don't want to bothered with pet news unless it's an emergency, and people that like to get a call every day. Either way is fine with me, as long as I know up front.
        "In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming part dog."
        -Edward Hoagland


        • #5
          I am an insured farm sitter, registered with an equine veterinarian. I sit for private farms, boarding facilities and breeding facilities. Here are some thoughts about getting a very good farm sitter.

          Before calling around, take a look at the labor you yourself have to do to care for your animals, and then put a realistic monetary value on it so you can gauge how much a good sitter will probably charge. Know what you want done, fix it so the job is actually do-able by someone you have never met, and then consider that you may very well have to add a travel charge to the final total. Then assess your comfort level with a stranger running your farm, how often you will want to contact this person, and how you will handle an emergency from a far distance away. Then begin your search.

          The first place to call is your own veterinarian. See if someone is registered with them for this, or if they know of a good client that will do the job. Expand the search to other area veterinarians if need be. This holds each person accountable to the other, raising the odds that you will get the job you want done. If you have a longtime, good farrier, I would then call there next. Then I would look into barns with boarding/lesson/training/show programs and ask the BO if they have someone working for them who they can recommend to take care of your farm. Again, each person remains accountable to another here. If you strike out here and have to search for a private sitter unknown to you, you want professional references as well as the names and numbers of the past few recent jobs he or she has done and then check them out.

          Arrange for the prospective sitter to come to your place when you are there, take a good look at where he/she is to work, and listen closely to what you want done. Expect them to be insured if they are serious about this (bonding in my state is only required if they have employees working for them) and have a contract put together for you to sign. Their contact information should be prominent on it, and be sure to make sure it is current and correct. The contract should have the dates of service required, the number and types of animals being cared for, the number of trips being made to the farm, a space for instructions that should be filled out while you are there, travel charges, deposits, and balances due to be filled out. In my contracts there is a clause allowing me to procure veterinary care from the client's vet or my own if theirs is unavailable for any reason, and releasing me from the obligation of paying the bill. There is also a clause for terms of payment, the percentage tacked on for late pays, and a warning for small claims court for no pays.

          Follow your gut. If you like what you see, the prospective sitter provides good references that check out, and you decide to hire that sitter make sure he/she knows the problems you have had with other sitters that you never want to see again. Then place one more level of oversight onto this if you can, and arrange to have a friend, relative or neighbor stop in and check the place over, including your house, once a day after the sitter has left. This will go a long ways to securing your vacation against the occasional flake that gets the job. Frankly, I would let her know you are doing this, as I have on occasion been spooked by muddy footprints going through the barn or showing up near the sheds, gates or door left open or ajar when I know I closed them, and considered there was someone there who didn't belong there--a terrifying thought to a sitter who shows up in the wee hours of the day or evening and works alone. Also, per a previous thread, don't expect a sitter to know your house has been broken into. They are hired to care for your barn and animals, not your house. They may not even realize someone has had at it with the locks, so should not be blamed for it.

          Before you leave, place a letter on file at the vet's, along with a credit card number, authorizing care and stating the monetary limits you want them to abide by. Double check that your hoses, tanks, tubs, buckets, automatic hay and grain feeders, fences and gates are all in good working order, and leave halters, leadlines, grooming tools, insect repellent, and stable tools within easy reach. Consider leaving a list of emergency numbers and alternate contacts on the wall. Be absolutely clear that she understands everything you want done, and where it all is. Also, if you have a resident black snake living in the hay loft where she will be going for bales of hay, please be kind and let her know that. Ditto if you are kind enough to allow the residential small herd of deer to traverse through your barn to clean up some of the stray hay and get to their grazing area without having to jump over your fences to do it. I have to admit, the black snake coming out from behind the bale of hay in the hayloft scared the crap out of me, but the dirt dropped in the aisle from the deer's hooves (no prints, just dirt) did leave me wondering if someone unwelcome had come onto the farm in my absence.

          If you cannot contact this person, or he/she does not return your phone calls in a reasonable amount of time, it is a major red flag to get someone to check up on the place, or come home.
          "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." Albert Einstein



          • #6
            I prefer "vacation board"

            I will only ever use a petsitter when I know I will only be gone one day or if my husband will still be around during the days/weeks I'm gone. So the horses will never be under the sole care of a petsitter for more then 24 hours.
            This is not because I don't trust people.
            All sort of things can unexpectedly & unintentionally go wrong. The petsitter could have an unexpected family issue popping up, an unexpected healthissue with him/herself etc. and the petsitter may not always be able to replace him/herself at that time.

            When I was still living in England, in the area I lived, it was pretty common for people that kept their horses at home, to send them on "holiday livery" or "vacation board" as they'd call this here. It was a wonderful solution. Vacation board was charged by the day and of course at a much higher rate as regular board, which was totally fine by me. I had peace of mind that the horses were supervised and I had no worries about petsitter mishaps. Mine use to go on vacation board often, they actually enjoyed. Home away from home .
            Here in the US this idea hasn't quite taken off yet, you can find rehab board, but it's seldom you'll see someone advertising for vacation board. It's a shame, coz I'm sure it's a service many would be happy to use.

            The vacation board in England I used, offered stalled at night & turned out during the day (in separate paddock set-ups for the vacationers) and add-ons were possible, such as daily horsewalker or even daily under saddle exercise session (no training of course) or just lunging. I used to take a combo of this, which meant my horses stayed in shape, whilst I was away.

            The barn did of course require a vet's health certificate upon arrival & worming/vaccination history.

            That barn made good money out of holiday goers, it was her main thing. The barn was just south of London. I think in some areas, like here in NJ, where many people have their horses at home, this could be good business, either on its own are as a separate add-on to any boarding barn with empty stalls.


            • #7
              Word of mouth. On the rare occasions I hired a pet sitter for my dogs, I had them call me FROM MY PHONE IN THE HOUSE, to let me know all is well. That way, I know they showed up. They always called, but if they didn't, I had a friend with a key who would've gone over.


              • #8
                I like this holiday board idea! It has possibilities!
                "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." Albert Einstein



                • #9
                  Originally posted by Chief2
                  I like this holiday board idea! It has possibilities!
                  I seriously think that if boarding barns with empty stalls in my area, were to at least list on their websites that they are happy to take holiday goers or even advertise about it at local tackshops, people would use those services. I know I would.
                  Think about it, you will not be dealing with difficult boarders, coz the owners will not be around and you will be renting out those otherwise empty stalls for premium bucks.
                  And if you are concerend about the horses that are going to be brought in, again ask for a vet's health certificate and perhaps a vet reference.


                  • #10
                    I think holiday board makes sense if you have just a few horses, but some of the places I've sat for have had a dozen or more, and at some point, it starts to make more sense to ship a caretaker in than it does to ship all those horses out. Plus any other pets and/or livestock that might need caring for as well.
                    "In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming part dog."
                    -Edward Hoagland


                    • #11
                      Right... holiday board is great if you have a couple of horses, dogs... cats... etc. But what do you do with the chickens and cows et al?


                      • #12
                        Sorry I thought the OP was asking about petsitting for her horses.

                        And yes I do agree, once one starts to have a whole herd of horses, boarding out is not feasible anymore. My thoughts there would be a 24/7 live-in or two sitters, one am & one pm. And friends that swing by to ensure all is okay according to plan.

                        If away I'll board my dog too, only for my cat (& birds) will I use a come & go petsitter, because I feel like my cat is "cat-enough" to survive considering he's an indoor/outdoot cat.

                        I was not saying that holiday boarding is the one & only answer for every situtation, only pointing out that if this were to be more readily available it could be a win-win for 2 parties, the horseowner with limited amount of horses at home and the boarding barn have a few empty stalls.
                        Last edited by Lieslot; Oct. 15, 2010, 12:48 PM.


                        • #13
                          With regard to the holiday board idea, everywhere I have lived and kept horses has hosted numerous stables that offered short-term boarding or stall rental; this seems to be readily available. However, these rates are higher and can get quite costly for even just two or three horses. Then you have the small animals to think about ... will they be boarded out, too? And we also have gardens that may need to be watered and other routine chores.

                          Even paying them a bonus (which I always do because they are so wonderful), my regular farmsitters (and/or backup folk) can take care of ALL that needs taking care of -- including keeping people coming and going on the property so it still looks lived-in -- for a fraction of the cost of boarding two horses plus all the cats and dogs, plus hiring someone to look after the gardens, pick up mail and packages (my work-related deliveries do not stop because I leave town), etc., etc., etc.
                          Equinox Equine Massage

                          In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me invincible summer.
                          -Albert Camus