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How pet sitting became a lucrative side business for animal lovers

Companies connect pet parents with people willing to care for their whānau furry members in their absence. Reweti Kohere talks to two pet sitters who are paid to walk strangers’ dogs and feed their cats.

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In 2010, Belgian internet entrepreneur Dries Coucke needed someone to look after his parents’ Labrador, Ibeau, while his father was being treated for lung cancer. Coucke posted his request on the Facebook page of a nonprofit community he previously founded to bring rescue dogs back. He was overwhelmed by the positive response, and from there, a business idea was born. Three years later, along with fellow Belgian internet entrepreneur Tanguy Peers, he launched Pawshake, a platform that connects pet owners with registered pet lovers willing to care for their pets while they’re temporarily away.

Pet sitting is not new to Aotearoa – in addition to solo hustlers or people between apartments advertising their services on community notice boards, Facebook groups and word of mouth, many dog ​​walking businesses dogs offer pet sitting services. A quick Google search reveals Share My Pet (which encourages “sharing” of pets, where no money changes hands), The Pet Nannies and Pet Company, the latter whose team of pet sitters provide “first class care” since 2000. Its last owner, Angie Wu, who took over the business three years ago, likes to know that she provides professional service to grateful owners. “It is better that they find someone professional rather than their friend or neighbor because we have the skills and experience with animals. If something happens, we know what to do,” she said. “We have to do trainings and workshops regularly to make sure our knowledge is up to date.”

The Pet Nannies, based in Papakura, have been operating since early 2017, ensuring pet owners in South Auckland have “complete peace of mind” while they are away. Its small team of professional caregivers know pet first aid, are vetted, and offer their services without alerting people to an owner’s absence — they don’t wear uniforms or drive advertising cars. of the company. Once owners have met their sitter and are happy, they pay for the time spent rather than per animal – a daily 30-minute visit, for example, costs $26, while an hour’s work costs $46. Overnight stays are $95 per day. On her website, owner Jane Holmes admits she does what she does to keep herself from becoming a pet hoarder. “Having been the proud owner of parakeets, rabbits, gerbils [and] lots of cats and dogs, currently our family has a dog and a cat,” says Holmes. “But if I had a choice, there would be many, many more animals here.”

Pawshake, which operates in 20 countries including Aotearoa, says it only accepts 15% of pet sitting applications; applicants are thoroughly vetted by its “trust and safety” team, which includes police checks. Pet sitters can set their own rates and after a no-obligation face-to-face meeting, pet parents can pay anywhere from $15 to take their canine children for a 30 minute walk to $50 for pet sitting or pet sitting services. dog boarding. . A daytime home visit may cost $15, two visits may cost an additional $10. Pawshake takes a 19% discount on all transactions.

With people often being restricted from having a pet when renting an apartment, caring for other people’s pets is a way for renters to get that serotonin boost that only pets can provide while respecting their rental contracts. This was the case for Recent graduate Molly Leggett, who was banned from owning a pet at her flat in Palmerston North while studying veterinary science at Massey University. So she turned to Pawshake, hearing about the company from a friend.

Auckland vet and animal sitter Molly Leggett (Picture: Supplied)

The 24-year-old says she has found pet sitting very convenient for being a veterinarian, and continues to do odd jobs through Pawshake now that she is working full time. Businesses that connect pet owners with sitters are a great idea, she believes, because it gives owners the comfort of knowing their pets are being cared for in a familiar environment, rather than to put them in kennels or catteries. “I could walk into people’s homes where their cats were comfortable, they knew where their food was, and the only stress was maybe a new person coming into the house once a day.”

Pets are great for bringing people together and providing insight into their owners’ personalities and habits. Pet parents often have different views on how much they want sitters to care for their furry loved ones, she says. “Some people have outdoor cats that they just want to feed, they don’t care, while others have cats that are like babies to them.”

Since arriving a month ago, Christchurch pet sitter Conan Outram has found pet sitting to be a valuable asset to his primary investment interest – all the more so. that, like most investors, he has seen his portfolio shrink in recent months. “It’s a bit difficult to get a job when you haven’t really worked for a while, so I can do things myself and get involved,” he says. “And, of course, I really like animals, so that was a good option, I thought.”

Christchurch animal keeper Conan Outram with his late Tibetan Spaniel, Archie (Picture: Supplied)

Outram says he sometimes feels like he connects better with animals than people. “You know that some people have emotional intelligence and they’re really good at reading situations in social contexts? I feel like I have that with animals,” he says. That connection allows him to empathize more easily with animals when encountering them, reading from their body language if they are scared or shy.

Pets have always been a part of Outram’s life – he grew up with dogs, cats, guinea pigs and rabbits, and said goodbye to his 18-year-old Tibetan spaniel, Archie, l ‘last year. Helping to take care of other people’s pets is just another way to keep them in your life. “When you spend so much time around something, it’s hard not to love it. It’s part of your life, it’s like family.

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