How to protect your pet from negligent sitters and walkers
WARNING. Lack of training and attention can lead to the worst, all without any recourse. Be sure to be vigilant before entrusting the care of your pet. Here are some tips to protect your animal.
When Bethany Anderson was invited into a Manhattan apartment in October 2016, she didn’t expect to be attacked by a dog without warning, reason or provocation.
She allegedly had injuries to not only her face but also psychological residuals. The dog, Marv, happened to be in the temporary custody of a caregiver associated with Dogvacay, which has since been acquired by A Place for Rover (Rover), a web based matching service for consumers interested in pet sitting, boarding and walking services.
Ms. Anderson sued in the Southern District of New York, alleging that she was bitten by Marv due to the negligence of Marv’s owner, Ryan Bratton, and Dogvacay’s Amy Allshouse. “The defendant, Dogvacay, allowed the dog to be kept on the premises with inadequate safeguard, in that the dog was not properly leashed, guarded, attended, muzzled, or otherwise prevented from attacking individuals legally on or near the said premises,” wrote Attorney Raymond Schwartzberg in Anderson’s December 11, 2018 complaint.
Counselor Schwartzberg did not respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit and while Rover Publicist Dave Rosenbaum declined to comment on any specific complaint or legal case, he did disclose that pet sitters and walkers registered with Rover are independent contractors who have passed a background check.
Winnie run over by a car
Under our Rover guarantee, some medical damages would be covered if they were caused by a dog that was being watched by a Rover sitter, however, the specifics of the situation are important,” Rosenbaum said in a phone interview.
Winnie. Nick Moor / Instagram
In another case, dog parents Sara and Nick Moore logged on to Wag! to find a caregiver for their dog, Winnie.
According to the New York Post, the Houston based couple never saw Winnie again because she had been run over by a car and died while on a promenade with a Wag! independent contractor.
“We were devastated about what happened to Winnie. Our dedicated Trust and Safety team worked directly with Winnie’s parents during the investigation and the walker was removed from our platform,” said a Wag! spokesperson, who requested anonymity.
“Wag! is committed to continuously reviewing our internal processes and ways to improve the safety and security of our platform.”
Wag and Rover are businesses operated much like Airbnb and Uber, which exploit the burgeoning gig-economy, a term that refers to a labor market that is based on freelance or short term projects rather than full time employment at one company.
No obligation to train
“Whether it’s baby sitters, elder care, pet sitters or dog walkers registered with online platforms or with mobile apps, they are not considered employees by the courts,” said John Kelly, a personal injury attorney in Phoenix.
Online platforms and apps have no obligation to train their caregivers. Viktor Hanacek / Picjumbo
Instead, gig economy workers are largely classified as independent contractors. As a result, online platforms and apps have no obligation to train their caregivers nor is any employer answerability required.
Just last month, Attorney Robert Tauler filed a lawsuit in Superior Court of California in the County of Los Angeles on behalf of his client Jane Doe who alleges that her emotional support dog, Snoopy, was killed in a hit and run car accident due to the negligence of Rover pet sitter Angelica Bridges.
Snoopy left outside unattended, leading to his death
“Rover spends millions of dollars crafting the façade of a company that cares about animals and its customers, which falsely claims it has a rigorous vetting system for its sitters and falsely guarantees complimentary insurance to its customers,” wrote Mr. Tauler in the complaint.
“In reality, Rover does nothing to vet its sitters and does not offer any meaningful insurance to its aggrieved customers.”
If a problem occurs with an animal, the customer is exposed to not being compensated by an insurance. RK Jajoria / Pexels
Although Mr. Tauler declined to comment, his brief details the accusation that Ms. Bridges reportedly left Snoopy outside unattended, directly leading to his death.
“Animal Control was called to pick up Snoopy’s carcass, which means that Snoopy had already escaped long beforehand, and Ms. Bridges at the time, was not supervising Snoopy,” he wrote.
"We will work directly with all parties involved"
Like Rover, Wag! pet caregiver applicants are screened with a background check. The Wag! spokesperson specified that their background check includes a Social Security number trace, identity verification and facial recognition authentication.
“Every walk on the Wag! platform is insured and backed by the Trust and Safety team, which means that in the rare case of an incident we will work directly with all parties involved,” she said.
Despite media reports and lawsuits, Technology Crossover Ventures (TCV) found that more than 90% of Rover customers have recommended the service to someone elseand according to Rover, 1.4 million pet owners have booked a service.
Yet and still, pet parents are advised to undergo the 6 following extra steps before booking:
It is recommended to take some precautions before calling on the services of a company to take care of your pets. Snapwire / Pexels
- Although not required to do so by pet care services companies, pet parents can request from the walker that he or she share results from a national criminal check, county criminal check, sex offender clearance and global watch list check.
- Talk to three different sitters before deciding on one that’s a good fit. “Our algorithm will surface a list of sitters that we believe may be a good match based on the answers to our questionnaire,” said Rover’s Rosenbaum.
- Discuss expectations and the pet’s temperament with the caregiver in advance. “We provide two checklists so that expectations on both sides are crystal clear,” Rover’s Rosenbaum said. “One checklist is for the owner and the other is for the sitter.”
- Schedule a “meet and greet” with a prospective pet care provider to see if they are the right fit before the caregiver walks, sits or boards the pet. “We want all pet parents to be comfortable with the independent contractor who is caring for their dog through the Wag! Platform,” said Wag!’s spokesperson.
- Review the walker rating and feedback prior to booking a service. “Walks on Wag! are tracked via GPS and, at the end of each walk, pet parents receive a report card with a photo of their dog and a summary of the dog’s behavior and activities,” Wag!’s spokesperson said.
- Read the sitter's profile carefully before booking. We don't edit or delete reviews,” said Rover’s Rosenbaum. “We believe in transparency and want to ensure that consumers are able to see accurate refuse or the sitters they're considering.”
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