Should you pet sit out of your own home?

This is an interesting topic because I suspect most sitters that do this from time to time have been unable to find a statute that explicitly says “you cannot be a pet sitter and have dogs at your house.” However, having just one too many dogs on your residential property may violate a numbered statute regarding noise, poo cleanup, or leash requirements.

If you are interested in pet sitting from your home, consider the following:

-The County, City, or Homeowner’s Association (HOA) may have rules regarding what types of business, or how many animals, may be present in a home. Kennels are generally prohibited in medium and high-density residential zones.

-Check with your state’s Department of Agriculture regarding kennel regulations. They may require an annual fee and have inspection requirements. Moreover, they may require additional equipment or materials not included in a typical home. Some may require different types and ratios of cover (grass, concrete, etc.), specific drainage or discharge requirements, and there will be an animal/square foot ratio to comply with.

A dog door with a fenced in yard keeps puppies busy

-Even if the legal aspects are a match for you, the wear and tear on your furniture, carpets, and clothing will take a toll. Running a pet hotel seems like easy money, but a hairy, smudgy, and over-dogified house may eventually drive you bananas.

-State, County, and City statutes regarding pets and animals are lengthy, referential, and vague. Read them anyway.

-Nosy and fussy neighbors will be a factor on whether this will be a sustainable practice.

Pet sitters in North Carolina face a remarkable and stimulating decision when they consider pet sitting out of their own home. NC General Statutes (Chapter 19A-23 5c) affirm that a “Boarding kennel means a facility or establishment which regularly offers to the public the service of boarding dogs or cats or both for a fee.”

Therefore, these establishments must register with the NC Department of Agriculture (NCDoA) and adhere to regulations which include paying a $75 annual fee and passing NCDoA inspections.

Pet sitters that register their home as a boarding kennel risk having their business shut down (sometimes before they even get going) due to zoning laws.

Here’s the thing: pet sitters, Rover agents, college kids, grandmas, and many other good people pet sit from home anyway. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of people pet sit from home in North Carolina every year because dog owners would rather have their pet stay at their trusted and caring pet sitter’s home than in a kennel.

This is one of those topics where we end up discussing the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. The Animal Welfare Act was set up to prevent criminals from hoarding animals in their home in order to facilitate a profit center. Moreover, legal establishments like animal shelters and pet shops that keep dozens, or hundreds of animals need to be managed pursuant to regulations to prevent disease and injury to those animals.

I also understand that part of being an entrepreneur, business owner, pet sitter, or human being is having good judgment. Consult an attorney when you set up your business and I guarantee they will share this common phrase: “There’s the law, and then there’s what happens.”

The solution many sitters use is to only have 1-4 dogs over at a time. It’s possible to be an excellent caregiver adhering to the spirit of the law without observing every formality associated with registering a business.

As you decide whether to be a dog walker or in-home pet sitter, just know there are risks to each but also know they are both fulfilling and wonderful occupations.

The information provided in the Pet Sitter Compendium is not legal advice. If you have or suspect you may have a conflict with statutes in your state, county, or municipality, consult your attorney.

Featured photo – Puppy Nitro at 4 months, in front of my aunt’s house in Vermont. It was Thanksgiving in 2009 and we hadn’t even thought of pet sitting yet. He would soon be a superstar helper and considered the dog park to be his “second yard.”

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