Should pet sitters be licensed, bonded, and insured?

Licensed, Bonded, and Insured! As awe-inspiring as this tagline may be, it’s important to qualify what it means in the context of pet sitting.

When a pet sitter is licensed, it means they are registered with the secretary of state, or they have obtained a privilege license to do business in their local municipality, or both. Now, pet sitters are motivated, caring, and wonderful hairy people, but please understand states do not have a board of professional pet sitters that require them to obtain a license to do business.

This is somewhat counter-intuitive since “licensed” is a term we are accustomed to seeing when we consider doctors, engineers, teachers, real estate agents, psychologists, et cetera. These businesses are licensed by a state-sanctioned authority and have requirements that may include training, years of relevant experience, referrals from licensed peers, and an 8-hour examination to test their knowledge (and patience).

There are several national (and state-level) associations that offer pet sitter certification programs. These are not required, but small business owners that complete a certification process certainly benefit from that training, and kudos to them for demonstrating their competence and commitment to their craft.

Bonds are different than insurance but may be provided with an insurance policy. Bonds are one of those things that seem deliberately designed to be more confusing than necessary (like tax law or Stanley Kubrick films). Bonds are a pledge to provide contracted services when the pet sitter is unable to do so.

For example, if I break my leg and cannot walk a dog. A surety bond is issued to pay for the replacement dog walker, but I have to pay that money back to the bonding company. The dog owner will still pay me for the pet sitting. This is different than insurance because there are 3 parties involved, there hasn’t been a financial loss, and the premiums I’ve already paid to the bonding company are used as surety.

A bond may also compensate an owner’s loss in the event there is a theft by a pet sitter’s employee. The dog owner that uses a bonded pet sitter will be compensated whether the employee is convicted or not.

Apollo is mystified by bonding and insurance

Insurance for pet sitters covers the costs of damage or injury incurred while the sitter is in charge of the client’s pet. Insurance is different than a bond because there are only two parties (the insurer and the insured) in the deal. Also, if the costs of the damage or injury exceeds the premiums paid, the insurance company covers these losses.

Conditions apply of course, and there are so many eventualities, exemptions, and exceptions that insurance policies are probably best described as tedious. It is the rarest of clients that will ask for, and actually read, this wearisome charter.

The Verdict
The bottom line is that a small business that is “licensed, bonded, and insured” is exhibiting a conscientious effort to achieve excellence. Despite the measure of licensing requirements or meticulous details of insurance coverage, pet owners like to know the people working in their home have legally established surety and safeguards, particularly when their beloved pets are involved.

Thankfully, in ten years of pet sitting, I never had to make a claim against my insurance (or bonding) company. Having them in place, however, served to reduce my perceived and financial risk as a small business owner. I only faced two vet visits as a pet sitter. They were for stitching ears bitten in kerfuffles, and both incidents suffered costs that were below my insurance deductible anyway.

Featured photo – Genevieve is wondering, “Is Eric’s Pet Sitting licensed, bonded, and insured?” as she scans the area for squirrels, varmints, and cookies.

One response to “Should pet sitters be licensed, bonded, and insured?”

  1. Joan Baren Del Giorno Avatar
    Joan Baren Del Giorno

    It is interesting that not much has changed from when I started my pet care service way back in the 1980’s. I was one of the first people in the Chicago suburbs to start what was then an unknown business. I tried to get insured but could only get bonded like a cleaning service. The was no “Pet sitters of America” or any other home pet care anything. I wish I franchised. Who knew that this service would become so large and span across the world.

Leave a Reply