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7 Things That Should Be in Any Pet-Sitting or Dog-Walking Contract

Include these elements in your service agreement to protect your business, clients and their pets.

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YOUR COMPANY’S PET-SITTING or dog-walking contract outlines the services you will provide, collects important information about your client’s home and pet-care needs, and indicates any limitations to your liability as a service provider.

Remember, the contract is a legal document. Combined with your business liability insurance, it is the best defense against possible legal claims against your company — so have your contract drafted or reviewed by an attorney and make sure these elements are included:

1. Services you will provide/frequency of visits. Specify feeding, playtime, dog walks, etc., and the number of visits per day or week.

2. Medical and behavioral history. Inquire about any health conditions or medications the pet may need and document instructions provided. Ask about and note the pet’s temperament, including if the pet has ever shown reactivity and/or aggression toward other pets or people, and in what situations.

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3. Pet routines. Take thorough notes about important routines, such as a dog’s typical feeding time or location. Also ask about any special toys or favorite hiding spots (especially for cats!). Be sure to include where the pet food and other supplies are kept and if the client has any special requests, such as leaving the TV or radio on, and at what volume.

4. Home rules. Should the thermostat be set to a specific temperature? Are any areas of the home off limits? For example, may you use their restroom if there for a midday visit? Or for an overnight visit, where should you sleep, and do you have permission to use their Wi-Fi, refrigerator, etc.? Get it in writing.

5. Service fees and payments. List your rates and terms of payment. Indicate if a deposit is due prior to the assignment and/or whether full payment is due at the start or end of the visit(s). Note which forms of payment you accept and how the client will be invoiced.

6. Contact information. Include how you will be able to reach the client, whether they are in town or away, in the event of an emergency. This may be via their cellphone, work phone or if traveling, the number for their resort or hotel. You also should have contact information for at least one local person who can be reached if you are unable to complete a visit or if an emergency occurs. For non-emergencies, note how the client prefers to be contacted.

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7. Social media. Ask if you have permission to share photos or videos of pets on social media and when.

The above list is not all inclusive. Your contract will be customized to your business and can be updated as your needs change. However, one rule applies to all pet sitters and dog walkers: Never accept an assignment until you have a signed contract in hand!

Beth Stultz-Hairston is the president of Pet Sitters International (PSI), the world’s largest educational association for professional pet sitters and dog walkers. PSI offers members resources and support at every stage of their business.

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