Whether you’re looking for a pet sitter or you are starting up a pet sitting business, becoming educated on the necessity of a contract and all of the information a contract should cover is imperative. For pet owners, leaving their pets in the care of someone else is nerve-wracking. A pet sitter that provides a contract covering the bases of all important information, from legal to pet-related, can provide a sense of comfort for pet parents.
The world of pet sitting has grown way beyond hiring the kid down the street to swing by and feed your pets for many people. Finding a pet sitter with a sense of professionalism is reassuring. It doesn’t matter if you’re a full-time pet sitter or just picking up extra cash, a contract is an important detail you shouldn’t overlook.
Why Is a Contract Necessary for Pet Sitting?
For a pet sitter, a contract protects your income and assets, as well as providing you something to fall back on if you need to be reimbursed by a pet owner. This may not seem like a big deal if all you spent money on was running by the store and picking up a $5 bag of cat litter, but if you end up at the emergency vet with someone’s pet, you’ll need the assurance that you will be reimbursed for a bill that could exceed hundreds to thousands of dollars.
A contract also helps protect the interests of the pet owner by ensuring the pet sitter won’t take advantage of the situation and attempt to get paid more than initially agreed upon. It allows you to lay out your expectations of your pet’s care and how you want the pet sitter to act in the event of an emergency or any unexpected event. A contract also ensures that your pet sitter is dedicated to the job and isn’t planning on taking the money and running, leaving you out of town with no pet sitter at home.
Most Important Aspects to Include in Your Pet Sitting Contract
What you need to include in your pet sitting contract is going to vary from person to person or business to business, but there are a few things that all contracts should include. The first of those being the agreement of the care and pay for the specific pet or pets. You don’t want to show up at a pet sitting job to find there are more animals than you agreed to care for. The specifics of the job need to be in the contract as well, so you’ll need the contract to include if the pets need medications, walks, or just feeding.
Another important thing to include in pet sitting contracts is what needs to be done in the event of both a life threatening and non-life-threatening emergency. A pet owner may not be willing to reimburse a pet sitter for a $500 pet ER visit for a broken toenail and may expect a phone call before getting treatment for something like this. However, a contract should cover where the animal should be taken in a life-threatening situation and how much money can be spent in case the pet sitter can’t get in touch with the owner.
5 Pet Sitting Contract Templates
1. Rocket Lawyer
This contract is great because it has an easy-to-use template that can be filled out with most information online instead of by hand. It can be made state specific, helping to make sure you’re in compliance with contractual obligation laws within your state. This contract is extremely thorough, including specifics on what to do in the event of an emergency and a payment agreement detailing what will be paid before, during, and after the job. The downside to this contract is that it’s 7 pages of legal lingo, which may make it confusing for owners and pet sitters alike.
2. Legal Zoom
This template allows you to go through step-by-step and fill in clearly defined information that is then automatically added into the template. It covers a host of information, including contractually requiring that pets be up to date on their rabies vaccination prior to the pet sitter beginning the job. At the end of the template is a section that allows pet-specific information to be filled in, including microchip information, weight/size, medical history, favorite toys and games, and preferred hiding places of the pet. This is another long contract with lots of legal lingo, though.
3. US Legal Forms
This template is a nice option because it is shorter and more concise than the previous two contracts. The legal lingo is present but toned down, making it easier to understand. The pet information is at the beginning of the contract, making that information easy to find. This contract also allows places for additional charges, like if there are fees for plant watering. It also clearly states that the pet sitter is not responsible for the care of additional pets that were not previously agreed upon. You do have to set up an account to fill this form out online.
4. Legal Templates
This template can be filled out on the website instead of by hand. The best part about this contract is that it’s only 2 pages long with understandable information, making it much easier for pet sitters and owners to take in. It outlines the pet information, expectation of care, and emergency plan, as well as releasing the pet sitter from the liability of pet injury or death if it was outside of their control and releasing the sitter from claims related to pet bites.
5. Time To Pet
The best part about this site is that it offers multiple types of pet care specific templates. The pet sitting template is only one page long, making it the simplest option for pet sitters and owners to understand and go over together. There are also templates available covering medical-specific information for the pet and providing a vet care release so the pet sitter can get care for the pet if needed. There’s even a form for the release of a key to the pet sitter and the agreement of its return to the owner.
What Other Information Should a Pet Sitter Be Provided?
To provide good care to the pets in the home, thorough instructions should be given to the pet sitter. It’s good practice to have a meet and greet prior to the job starting so the pets can meet the sitter and the sitter can understand the layout of the home and where to find the things they’ll need.
It should be stressed that you can’t leave too much information. If there are multiple pets, don’t leave instructions for a pet sitter that just call the pets by name. Provide descriptions of their breed, color, coat length, or any distinguishing characteristics so the correct care is given to the correct pet. Information covering where food is kept, who gets what food, when meals and medications are given, where everyone eats their meals, what to do with uneaten food, precautions about which pets can and cannot go outside or be around each other, and any other information you can think of.
For a pet owner, caring for your pets in your home is second nature because you know your pets, you know where things are, and you have a routine. Your pet sitter does not have practice with your daily routine! They are in and out of a lot of houses and care for a lot of pets. Specific information will help prevent mistakes and help your pets feel more comfortable with minimal changes to their routine.
What About Key Handling, House Rules, and Cancellations?
This is all information that will help avoid problems by knowing ahead of time what these expectations are. When and where the sitter will be provided the key to the house and when and where it should be returned all need to be discussed prior to the job. Nobody wants to be out of town and realize they didn’t leave a key for the sitter!
House rules are a good idea for pet owners to define for the pet sitter. This can be anything from whether the sitter can eat the food at the home to whether they can have company over. If the sitter is house sitting as well, providing restrictions on which rooms they can sleep in or go in and out of, appliances and equipment they can or cannot use, and any other concerns there may be about someone else being in the home.
Cancellations are tricky because they are often out of everyone’s control. Cancellation fees if the owner cancels within X hours of the job can be a good idea if it will leave you in a hard spot. You may also choose to not charge fees for cancellations, so it’s completely up to you.
Do I Need Special Insurance to Be A Pet Sitter or Use One?
Many pet sitters who do it as a side gig don’t carry insurance. However, it can be extremely beneficial in the event of a problem. If you make a mistake during a pet sitting job that leads to an issue, like if you didn’t follow owner instructions and it allowed a fight to break out and a pet was injured, then the liability for cost may fall to the pet sitter and not the owner. With insurance, the expenses would likely be fully or partially covered instead of it being money out of pocket. Insurance coverage may also help you in the event of a lawsuit, but it’s best to thoroughly look into what kind of coverage you can get in your area.
Needing a pet sitter for any reason can cause a lot of anxiety for pet owners. A well-prepared pet sitter will provide a sense of comfort and trust for pet owners, so being organized should be a high priority for pet sitters. For pet owners, it’s important to choose someone trustworthy who will treat their pets as their own. For pet sitters, it’s important to choose jobs that provide a safe environment and thorough instructions.
Ensure everyone has all the information they need before anyone leaves town. This includes emergency contacts, phone numbers, vet information, and all pet and home care info. Contracts can help bring all this information into one place that also discusses the expectations of pay and work. A contract can serve to protect everyone involved, so having a contract all your own, whether you’re an owner or a pet sitter, can make things easier all around.
Featured image credit: RebeccasPictures, Pixabay