Monday, March 23, 2009

Licensed, Bonded and Insured - a must for pet sitters?

Pet sitting buzzwords: Licensed, bonded and insured. Customers are conditioned to asking for these three things, and therefore pet sitters often think they need to include these words in every ad and on their business cards. So what do they mean?

A license refers to a business license. That’s all. Customers often mistake the term “licensed” to mean that a pet sitter is professionally certified and has a certain level of expertise. Not so. Contractors and hairdressers take tests to get professionally licensed. There is no regulatory agency “licensing” pet sitters. You can get training from PSI or other organizations, but there is no official nationwide licensing agency.

Requirements and fees vary from city to city, so I can’t tell you what is required for a business license. Check with your local city offices. Usually you just fill out some papers and pay a fee. You may also need to run a DBA (Doing Business As) statement in the local paper.

Bonding refers to a security (dishonesty) bond. You pay a fee and can tell your clients you are bonded, but you or your employees have to be convicted of a crime for them to get any money. A bond does offer your clients some peace of mind, especially if you have employees. Bonding for pet sitters has gone out of favor, though PSI (Pet Sitters Intl.) still offers it through Business Insurers of the Carolinas. You must be a PSI member to purchase through them.   

A liability insurance policy covers damage to property and injury to pets or people while the home and animals are in your care (referred to officially as “care, custody and control”). This is the most important item a professional pet sitter needs to have. If you lose keys, if the dog bites someone while you are walking him, if you knock over the expensive vase in the entry hall – these are the kinds of incidents that are covered. PSI and Petsitters LLC both offer policies structured especially for pet sitters. Your clients may ask to see a copy of your policy.

I hope this clarifies things for both pet sitters and clients!

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