I bring the latest incidents to your attention now that it’s high season for vacation as pet parents are in a mad rush to find a pet sitter or house sitter to take care of their precious nonhuman family members and possessions.

First of all, a couple of months ago, I found out that an impersonator on Craigslist used my name and tagline, copied materials from my website, and added a few words lifted straight from my original Craigslist post in addition to random animal images that I’ve never used in any of my online content. This person also probably took the Pet Sitters Associates logo from my website. This person also listed dog walking as one of the services, which I don’t offer unless it’s part of overnight pet sitting. The spoofed post had a spelling error (Richie Canyon for Reche Canyon, a nearby nonmain area that I haven’t served so far) and a redundant statement (“overnight pet sitting/house sitting at your home”). As a grammar and spelling geek, that Craigslist post definitely wouldn’t pass my inspection!

This was a rather minor and thankfully an uneventful one, although it could have been problematic. An impersonator could easily post a listing to defraud potential clients, similar to 419 e-mail scams, or even potentially jeopardize the safety of prospective clients—a break-in or worse. My reputation could’ve also been tarnished.

The post was removed after I submitted my report to Craigslist.

Other pet sitters have had their web copy swiped without permission or attribution on other websites. Fortunately, there have been no negative consequences so far.

At the time of writing, professional pet sitters across the country break the news of a Quincy, Massachusetts in-home pet sitter accused of animal cruelty and theft on social media. The pet sitter in question clearly committed a terrible act of aggression, but is it fair to tar all hobby and unpaid sitters with the same brush? Are they somehow more prone to damaging or stealing your property or injuring your pets than professionals?

Unfortunately, a number of professional pet sitters see this incident among many others as yet another opportunity to launch a smear campaign against hobbyists, going so far as to advocate state coercion through the requirements of licensing and other proposed and existing regulations and calling for the shutdown of sharing economy businesses such as the Uber/Lyftlike DogVacay and Rover, thereby restricting the rights of others to make a living as they see fit.

Perceiving a threat to their livelihood from hobbyist competitors, some well-intentioned but misguided professionals spread partial misinformation in their zealous quest to educate consumers.

However, two wrongs don’t make a right. Aggression can’t be solved by aggression. If anything goes awry in business or personal arrangements, it usually involves the lack of common sense and moral compass rather than so-called credentials put forth by the above group of professionals.

What do credentials really mean, anyway?

I’m a language nerd. I love to dig deeply into word origins. Let’s break this one down:

Credential comes from the medieval Latin credentialis, from the verb credere, to believe or to trust. Therefore, having credentials is simply a belief in yourself—a belief that you have the ability and confidence to do your best with the best of intentions. I believe the business coach Erika Lyremark coined this sense of the word. She’s spot on.

That’s exactly the hallmark of a good pet care provider, regardless of “status” or “title” or whether transaction is involved. This moral quality can’t be legislated, certified, licensed, or controlled by any other means or other external entities. Trustworthiness comes from within.

As professionals, we build up our skills and confidence from starting out as hobby sitters or pet amateurs. After all, we are all in it as amateurs in the original definition of the word—lovers. Our love and passion for animals inspire us to do what we’re doing now. That same love also extends to fellow humans.

Keep in mind that there’s a special breed of pet care providers—international house sitters, typically retirees, online business owners, freelancers, and telecommuters. Not to mince words, I hold international house sitters in higher regard than (certain) for-profit US-based pet sitters. Global sitters pride themselves on providing the best pet care and housekeeping services without any financial compensation and “formal” pieces of paper (except contracts or service agreements and travel documents) in exchange for free accommodation and enriching cultural experience. It’s not unusual for them to have long-term assignments, some of them lasting for up to six months, and some of them in remote or rural areas. Most of these sitters even refuse forms of payment when offered. This is because of the legalities in international dealings, and more importantly, these sitters do what they do out of the kindness of their own hearts. They also often finance their house sitting travels out of their own pockets. This is strictly a labor of love for all sentient beings—positive connections with animals and people of all cultures and persuasions.

This is a very different, mature mentality in contrast to the dog-eat-dog, money-grabbing, for-profit, hyperlocal US pet care communities.

To put it simply, professionalism is the attitude and work ethic one brings to the table. In fact, I’m not the only sitter with this sentiment in both the local and international camps of the industry.

Whom do you choose—a professional or a “hobbyist”?

It’s up to you, the consumer. You know what’s best for you. Service providers don’t get to dictate that to you. It all comes down to good faith, a concept any decent, sensible human should understand.

Excellent case in point: the wildly successful, popular, self-regulating eBay where trust reigns supreme without state or other forms of outside intervention. Buyers call the shots and sellers act accordingly, interacting with one another on a voluntary basis.

International house sitting is the equivalent of eBay in the sharing economy. Homeowners and sitters enter into a mutual agreement. While nothing is obviously perfect, the arrangement has been mostly working quite well for many people around the world. It’s no wonder that it has become increasingly common today.

Fortunately, there’s also a local alternative, a new startup called Dogma, a pay-it-forward sharing community of free and paid sitters.

What’s a good pet parent to do when there seem to be bad apples out and about?

  • Carefully weigh the advice and action of every pet care provider. Don’t take everything as gospel. Beware. Be wise.
  • Be vigilant when you shop around for a quality pet sitter online! Do your homework. Do plenty of recon. Ask for references and/or check out reviews or testimonials, although you’ll have to take some with a grain of salt as some negative reviews are a result of incompatibility rather than negligence or deliberate harm.
  • Alternatively, ask for recommendations from people you know or trusted online or offline communities.
  • Always follow your intuition.

The real Artful Dogger is very happy to pencil you in for your pet care needs, so please contact me today!

P.S. I’m currently involved in an exciting documentary project with my colleagues to address the issue on this blog post and to highlight the importance of professionalism in the industry. Animal lovers or pet parents like you can get in on the action, too! Stay tuned for more details. I may cover them on this blog.

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