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Independent pet sitters: backbone of the industry

by Therese on August 6, 2009

in Pet Care Business News, Pet Sitting

The pet sitting business isn’t new…and generally pet sitting services have been offered by individuals rather than by big corporations or franchise businesses. Independent pet sitters are the backbone of the industry and it irritates me when someone bad mouths them as a whole.

In a press release by Fetch! Pet Care, CEO Paul Mann is attributed with saying the following:

Mann maintains that historically the pet care industry has been dominated by independent pet sitters. Although loving and caring, many of these individuals have run the business as a hobby or don’t possess the systems, processes or procedures to ensure consistent customer satisfaction, which has affected the reputation of the pet care industry.

Independent pet sitters have definitely affected the reputation of the pet care industry. I’ll agree with him wholeheartedly on that. They have built pet sitting into the quality pet care option that it is today. People with pets call on independent pet sitters every day and entrust their pets and home to them, knowing they will receive quality care. Had it not been for the excellent reputation independent pet sitters have built for themselves (and the industry as a whole), there wouldn’t be a pet sitting industry.

Sure, there are pet sitters who aren’t known for their high quality work, but this is true of  pet sitters with all types of business models – independents, franchisees, owners of large multi-sitter businesses – and everything in between. I know pet sitters working for companies with all types of business models and while most have very good reputations, there are some who I wouldn’t have sit for a flea! Again, that’s regardless of the business model.

Saying something bad about the other guy in order to make yourself look good can really make a person (or business) look not so good, and less than professional. Why not simply build yourself up? That’s one thing I’ve never understood about advertising. Personally, when I see one company knock another, it makes me take a better look at the one being bad mouthed. After all, if they’re good enough to bad mouth, they must be some serious competition and worth a second look.

The thing I’d like Mr. Mann to keep in mind is that independent pet sitters built the industry. And unless I’m mistaken, he was one once himself. As an independent pet sitter he laid the foundation for his current business. Does that mean the services his franchisees offer are done with any more care, love, and responsibility than he gave his clients when he was a small business owner. I sure hope not. I know there are excellent franchisees out there (both with Fetch! and others) who give absolutely wonderful care to their clients’ pets. But, I also know for a fact that there are many exceptional independent business owners out there who do as well.

In the end, it’s not just about the business model, and it’s not just about the bells and whistles a company uses in their business – it’s about the individual pet sitters who provide the service. Period!

Update: For another pet sitter’s view on this, see this Animals Reign blog post.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Leslie Ray August 6, 2009 at 11:17 am

As the owner of a professional pet sitting company of almost 10 years, I find it offensive that the statement made by Mr. Mann is such a broad generalization. As the Petsit USA article points out, every business is different. It’s my belief that we should judge businesses and individuals on a case-by-case basis, and not lump anyone or anything together. For example, I could easily decide that I will not provide service to a client with a dog breed that are assumed to be “aggressive”. But, in doing so, I may have dismissed what could have been an excellent client. It’s not proper or advantageous to generalize.

It’s also been a policy of mine not to criticize other pet sitting businesses, as I feel it is unethical and unprofessional. It’s up to clients to do their homework and decide which business is best for them. Mr. Mann is assuming that clients don’t want a “hobby” sitter who operates their business in a very informal, personal manner. But, that may be exactly what the client is looking for. On the other hand, a client could prefer a successful, locally grown family business over a national franchise, or vice-versa.

As a client, I prefer to employ the services of companies that are upstanding and high-principaled. It is unbecoming to make accusatory or demeaning remarks about other businesses.

As a business owner, I work every effort to network with other businesses in my field, and I also make a point of advertising my business in a fair and decent manner. It is all too easy to resort to generalization and defamation when marketing a service or product. I find it a refreshing challenge to promote my business in a way that is positive and constructive, and I feel that my clients (and others) appreciate that kind of an attitude.


Jan August 6, 2009 at 2:17 pm

It sounds a little mean to criticize the competition the way he does. Sort of like the McDonalds franchise saying that the local restaurants don’t the systems and procedures to run their business.


Joan August 7, 2009 at 9:03 am

Hi Therese,

If I didn’t work for FETCH! I’ll probably be offended, but just remember that each own franchisee is run like an “independent” business.

Therese you said it all here: “Sure, there are pet sitters who aren’t known for their high quality work, but this is true of pet sitters with all types of business models – independents, franchisees, owners of large multi-sitter businesses – and everything in between. I know pet sitters working for companies with all types of business models and while most have very good reputations, there are some who I wouldn’t have sit for a flea! Again, that’s regardless of the business model.”

A pet sitting company’s reputation is about the individual pet sitter and it really doesn’t matter if it is a franchise or an independent company 🙂


Therese August 7, 2009 at 10:23 am

Hi Joan,

If I understand you right, you’re saying if you didn’t work for Fetch, you’d be offended by their press release (as opposed to my comments). Correct?

I do get that the franchise operations are run like an independent company to a point. The thing that has most independents upset though isn’t the franchise part of it. It’s the constant attacks on individual business owners – the pet sitters who aren’t associated with Fetch. It comes across as “if you aren’t with us, you’re against us” type of thinking. I’m certain this puts his franchisees in the middle and makes many independents shy away from anything related to Fetch!

And just to set the record straight, we do have some Fetch! advertisers here on PetsitUSA and I’m happy to have them. They’re just trying to make a living like the rest of us, and are doing something they love. It’s just unfortunate the company they bought into uses some of the PR tactics it does.


Cindy Nevarez August 7, 2009 at 11:20 am

I would like Mr. Mann to respond to the many inquiries that I get from potential clients who want to know do I have employees, or independent contractors working for me. These requests are prompted not because they want me to be a big outfit who has such people, but because they want to hire a pet sitter whom they’ll meet at the initial consult, and be assured that person will also be the one to do the sitting. In other words they prefer the small independent sitter. A huge percentage of my clients are in this camp.


Terri Randall August 7, 2009 at 11:27 am

I’ve been a Professional Pet sitter for a long time now and take exception to yet another attack by Paul Mann directed towards myself and my peers in this industry. This is not the first time he’s slung mud at independents! The fact is the vast majority of us do indeed have the processes and procedures in place to maintain an excellent relationship with our clients. Most all of us work very hard to maintain a high level of professionalism and also work with our peers, helping them along the way to get the respect we have worked hard for and deserve.

Then along comes Paul Mann and paints us all out to be hobby sitters that don’t know how to properly run a business and keep our clients happy? Mr. Mann…. I think you’d likely do better in this industry if you stick to advertising your companies virtues instead of trashing not only the largest segment of the pet care industry but those that founded this industry that you now capitalize on. You infer that until you came on the scene, the Pet Care Industry was nothing more than a hobby run by people that didn’t know what they were doing and couldn’t keep their clients satisfied. That Mr. Mann is not only completely false but extremely arrogant of you! Without those of us that came before you, there wouldn’t even be a pet care industry.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe a number of the Fetch! Franchise owners are solely run and operated. So how could they offer any more to their clients than independents can? They can only be in so many pet homes per day just like the rest of us. And it’s not like FETCH! businesses are so saturated in a given area that they can rely on one another.

Many independent pet sitters have a very close local network of sitters that they can draw from. Sitters that they not only know, but sitters that have helped one another over the years to raise the bar or professionalism in this industry. These veteran independent sitters apparently did such a good job of making this a viable, respected, industry that it got your attention and you believed there was money to be made in franchising this industry. If not for these long standing veteran sitters, I have to wonder if there would even be a FETCH!

Professional Pet Sitters have worked long and hard for years to ensure this industry is respected and we have high standards of excellence and proven track records. For you to demean and discount that is wrong and unprofessional. Your individual franchise locations cannot offer anything more than what we’ve been providing our clients now for years. They face the same struggles as we do. I bear no animosity towards the individual franchise owners! I’m sure they are caring, dedicated, qualified people. Your demeaning comments in your press releases are not only untrue and unfair to the independent pet sitters, but they also harm your franchise holders. Because networking is crucial in this business and I think independents might be less willing to refer to one of your franchises knowing that a percent of the money they are sending that way goes toward advertising. Advertising that demeans independent pet sitters.

Mr. Mann- if you truly are committed to raising the bar in this industry, having solidarity and a good working relationship between the independent pet sitting businesses and your various franchise holders, I respectfully suggest you stop the constant disrespectful jabs you put in your press releases and concentrate on the virtues and qualities of your own business model.

Terri Randall
Creature Comforts
Sheridan, WY.
APS List Owner


Miranda Murdock August 7, 2009 at 12:16 pm

I must say Thank You! to the Fetch! franchisee (Joan, right?) who realizes that the way the corporate press releases are worded is offensive, and I wish the individual franchisees would have some discussion amongst themselves AND with Mr. Mann to convey that feeling.

I hope all pet sitters are successful and build a thriving business, but especially the franchisees who have a longer road to being “in the black” since they start out with such a heavy (and in reality, unnecessary) financial burden to begin with (the hefty franchise fee and on-going royalties).

Many independent pet sitters use the same accounting and scheduling programs as Fetch!, since they are available to anyone, at a much smaller cost than buying into a Fetch! franchise. Mr. Mann implies that Fetch! uses proprietary software, when in fact they do not–they use Bluewave, which any pet sitter can purchase. In fact, almost all pet sitters I know use exactly the same procedures and software (or equivalents, since there are many programs out there, such as Power Pet Sitter, Bettawalka, etc.) as Fetch!, and have been doing so for years before Fetch! opened their doors.

Mr. Mann, please, please stop portraying independent sitters as country bumpkins. You are doing a disservice to your individual franchisees, because the bad impression you make does, unfortunately, reflect on them, and affects the way their peers and the public view them.


Leslie Kaufman August 7, 2009 at 8:54 pm

Great comments and of course, great blog entry from Therese. One other item I want to bring to light here is that Mann is equating having $12,000 with quality pet sitting and business ownership – it’s not automatic! There are plenty of businesses in every industry with lots of money who are very poor business people and not experts in their field at all.


Lee Ellis August 7, 2009 at 9:08 pm

I’m another independent pet sitter who has run a successful business for the past 7 years. This is my full time job so there is no hobby involved here, it’s a business first and the perk is I love what I do. I use a BlackBerry, 2 computers, an accounting program, a scheduling program, an email program and I have an accountant deal with the financial part of my business. I’m insured and bonded and have a business license.

Owning a business was never part of my plan; I came into it with a vague idea of what I was supposed to do and it was helped along by people in the “About Pet Sitting” group, which is almost entirely made up of – you guessed it – other independent pet sitters! I’ve since begun a similar group for Canadian pet sitters and we’re just as serious about our profession as our American counterparts.

Right now, I imagine most pet sitters are in the same boat as I am. It’s August, people are on vacation and I’m working 10-12 hour days almost every day. I’m staying overnight at clients’ homes for 18 straight nights on top of that. Does that sound like a hobby to you?


Sherry Hasslacher August 8, 2009 at 4:21 pm

This is the email that I just sent to Yvonne… the woman who did the interview with Paul Mann that was talked about in the link you put under “Update”:

Hi Yvonne!

I wanted to write to tell you that I really enjoy your blog, and I especially like listening to your “Out Loud” sessions! As a pet sitter and dog walker here in Portland, Oregon, I really find a lot of helpful and informative material when I have time to log on and check it out!

I wanted to let you know, though, that I am troubled by a recent segment of “Out Loud” that you did with Paul Mann of Fetch! Pet Care. I just got the time to listen to it, and it was very frustrating. While I do think he has some good ideas about how to run a business, any business- because it seems he has run several, I am a little frustrated about how he always seems to try to denigrate independent pet sitters. I have seen other interviews (in print) with him, and he always makes a point of saying how unprofessional we (as a group) are, and how we lack the same level of business savvy that he has. I have been in business for almost four years now, and many of my fellow pet sitters here have been in business for more than a decade. We are a VERY professional group of people! We are all licensed, bonded and insured. We all have systems in place to provide back up in case of emergencies. We all are quick to respond to our customer’s needs. We return phone calls and emails in a timely fashion. We provide completely personalized service for all of our clients… all of the time. We work with each other to come up with new ideas and innovations to make our businesses the very best that they can be. We are a very communicative bunch! But, more importantly, we assist new people in growing their businesses. We help and support each other. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen pet sitters who have been in the business a long time refer potential new clients to newer pet sitters that they know are just starting out, but deserve some clients because they are doing excellent work. We are a very nurturing and supportive group. This is, I believe, the true mark of a professional. He or she knows that what they have to offer can only be enhanced when they take the time to help others build their industry. A rising tide raises all boats, so to speak.

On the other hand, you have someone like Paul Mann, who it seems thinks nothing of tearing down independent pet sitters, kennel and boarding facility operators and anyone else he can think of that might be competition. He does it on his website, he does it in interviews, and he did it (admittedly a little more softly than he has in the past) on your show! How disappointing! Independent pet sitters built this business… literally from the ground up. For decades, independent pet sitters have been on the front lines educating potential clients about what it means to be a professional pet sitter. I dare say that Mr. Mann would have a much harder road to travel on were it not for the people who came before him and paved the way! People wouldn’t even know what a “pet sitter” is if it were not for all of the independents who have been operating with nothing but professionalism, and the utmost care and attention to detail, for decades!

I also take issue with his assumption that corporate care is better than independent care. I have clients that have been with me from the very beginning… before my business even had a name! I know their animals like I know my own. I know when a cat named Shaggy is grumpy and not eating because it is his Mom’s first day of vacation. I know when a dog named K’uychi is getting riled up just because she can see a squirrel from her favorite window and she needs to be distracted before she tears up some furniture. I even know a few particularly adventurous chickens who all have distinct personalities and favorite treats. In some cases, I know some people’s pets better than they do… because they never see what their pets go through when they are gone.

Now, I could be wrong, but I don’t think that Mr. Mann can guarantee that the same sitters will be with the same animals for every visit for their whole lives. That’s what happens when you run a big business. People get lost in the shuffle. It’s an unfortunate, but inevitable, side effect of being a big corporate business. But, an independent pet sitter can make that guarantee. Easily. And a good independent wouldn’t have it any other way!! I have had clients that I have cared for from their birth. I also have been invited to be with families to say goodbye to clients when it was time for them to leave this world. Independent pet sitters are not unreliable or unprofessional, in my experience. If anything, we are even more committed to the overall welfare of our clients because we have the ability to get to know them so intimately. We are in it for love, but also for “the long run”.

I am a very small business owner. I’m no threat to Paul Mann. But I have to tell you, I don’t feel like the Paul Mann’s of this world are any threat to people like me, either. There will always be people who put their faith in systems, in computers, and in numbers. Those people will hire a company like “Fetch!” But, I work for people who put their faith in individuals, in the human heart and in the love that a professional, independent pet sitter will inevitably have for their pet. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I hope that you will, at some point in the future, be willing to give equal time to your favorite independent petsitter, so one of us can show your readers/listeners the other side of the coin. We may not all be super snazzy with logos and tag lines, but we are an honest, hard working, and above all, professional group of people who shouldn’t have to worry about big corporations trying to take away what we so richly deserve… validation and recognition of our professionalism. If Mr. Mann were smart, he would give us the validation we deserve. That would be the most professional thing he could do. To do anything else just makes him seem small-minded and unprofessional. He does himself and all of us a disservice.

Thanks again for having such a wonderful blog, and all of this Paul Mann business aside, keep up the good work. We’ll be watching!! 🙂

Sherry Hasslacher
Owner – Sherry’s House Pet Sitting & Dog Walking of Portland, OR


Sharon Denison August 9, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Bravo! Some really great posts! It makes ME proud to say I`m associated with you.
Therese, would like to put a link back to this page on my website.
Thanks again, for all you do for APS and its members.


georgia mc intyre August 27, 2010 at 10:33 am

Paul Mann started as an independent himself, so he should show more respect for those of us who are doing it on our own. As I hear from a friend who bought one of his Fetch franchises, his greed has led him to a big mess with his franchise. He has law suits filed against him for fraud in a few states and has been charged with selling franchises illegally in several states.
What goes around comes around.


Fetch Franchise September 2, 2010 at 7:18 am

Paul Mann’s system has Fetch! Franchises closing all across the U.S., losing most or all of their investment.

Most of the Fetch Franchisee owners went into this business for their love of animals. Many bought into Fetch as a way to start a second career after being laid off from their prior professions – Now not only out of business but losing thousands of dollars in the process. More appalling, Paul Mann blames everyone, including the Fetch Franchise owners for the problems this Franchise is facing – which are numerous.

Knowing what I know now, I think all the Independent Pet sitters had it right about Paul Mann.


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