Beth Stultz, Pet Sitters International
As I read the post, I simultaneously felt my heart sink and my blood pressure begin to rise. Over the weekend, in PSI’s private chat group, a pet sitter recounted a shocking and demoralizing experience she’d had in court the previous week. While at an alimony hearing, she was asked by the judge about her job and she explained that she was a professional pet sitter—to which the judge replied, “No, what do you really do?” As she tried to explain, the pet sitter said the judge waved her hand dismissively, said pet sitting is something high schoolers do and that she needs to get a real job.
While I don’t know the full details of the hearing, if the pet sitter’s job factored into the judge’s ruling or if the judge was a pet owner herself, there is one thing that I do know—without question—and that is that professional pet sitting IS a real job.
The pet industry in the U.S. alone is a $60 billion industry—and reports indicate that the pet services segment, which includes professional pet sitting, garners more than $5 billion each year. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of animal care and service workers is projected to grow 15 percent by 2022, faster than average for all occupations.
PSI’s most recent State of the Industry Survey shows that its pet-sitting member businesses earn an average income of $49,138 (USD) and collectively, PSI pet sitters service more than 700,000 pet-owning households each year.
Since 1994, PSI has worked with tens of thousands of professional pet sitters who parlayed their love of pets and entrepreneurial spirits into viable, profitable career paths. Professional pet sitting is not the work of high schoolers—or family members or friends.
Professional pet sitters are small-business owners—vital contributors to their communities and the local economy. (According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, since 1995 small businesses have generated 64 percent of new jobs, and paid 44 percent of the total U.S. private payroll.)
These professional pet sitters have a business license, pay taxes, are insured, bonded, and trained in pet care and pet first aid. They work 24-7 year round to ensure pet owners can have the peace of mind offered by quality, reliable pet care when long work hours or travel keep them from their beloved pets.
Ask any professional pet sitter who has worked a twelve-hour day dashing between pet-care assignments, only to come home and spend additional hours on bookkeeping, payroll and marketing efforts—this is not the work of a high schooler, this is a REAL job.
Ask any professional pet sitter who has missed holidays with her family, extended pet-sitting visits to ensure an ailing pet was comforted or felt the loss of a client’s pet passing—this is not the work of a high schooler, this is a REAL job.
Or, better yet—ask one of the hundreds of thousands of pet owners who benefit from the services of a PSI professional pet sitter each year.
Ask the pet owner who was alerted by his professional pet sitter that his dog’s behavior at the pet-sitting assignment was unusual and recommended an emergency veterinary visit—which saved the dog from dying from canine bloat.
Ask the pet owner who was able to call her professional pet sitter at 2 a.m. when she learns that her mother—on the other side of the country—had been admitted to the hospital in critical condition and is able to secure pet care as she rushes to the airport.
Ask the family whose professional pet sitter has graciously agreed to sit with them as their 15 year-old cat with late-stage chronic renal failure has to be euthanized.
This is not the work of a high schooler—and professional pet sitting is certainly a REAL job.
Unfortunately, it’s not only this one judge who holds these misconceptions.
I’ve been at PSI for more than a decade now. I’ve heard from well-meaning pet lovers who want to know more about becoming a pet sitter because they would “just love to play with cats and dogs all day.” I’ve spoken with established pet-sitting business owners discouraged by pet owners who want the fee lowered because all they need the pet sitter to do is “check in on the pets.”
I’ve heard pet owners—and even news outlets—use the term “pet sitter” carelessly, referring to anyone—from a family friend to the neighborhood teenager asked to walk the dog—as a “pet sitter.”
But, I’ve also heard from the pet sitters—these professional pet sitters who spend countless hours researching to ensure they are following all local laws and ordinances, these professional pet sitters who consult with attorneys and accountants to ensure their businesses have a strong foundation, these professional pet sitters who join Pet Sitters International to ensure they have access to insurance, bonding and educational resources to best serve their clients.
I’ve met pet sitters who have left successful careers as business analysts, teachers, marketers and lawyers, to start their own pet-sitting businesses. I’ve met pet sitters who have devoted time and money to attend pet-sitter conferences, complete the certificate program and take advantage of ongoing pet behavior and health classes to stay current in a growing and evolving industry. I’ve watched as pet sitters mourned and comforted one another as they honored their clients’ pets that had passed away, finding solace in a group that understood that pet sitters love their clients’ pets as their own.
I invite the judge—or anyone still doubting the validity of professional pet sitting as a career—to spend one day with a professional pet sitter…to come to one pet-sitter conference…to ask one pet owner what her professional pet sitter means to her and her pet.
And, then you will know what those of us at Pet Sitters International know without question:
This is not the work of a high schooler—in fact, professional pet sitting is even more than a REAL job.
It’s a career, it’s a lifestyle, it’s a passion. And thanks to REAL pet sitters who seriously pursue this REAL vocation, it’s a better world for pets and the people who love them!