How to Start a Pet-sitting Business

by Elle Smith
Walking dogs is just one of many tasks a pet-sitting service may carry out in the absence of the dog owner.

Walking dogs is just one of many tasks a pet-sitting service may carry out in the absence of the dog owner.

dog walkers image by Pix by Marti from Fotolia.com

The pet-care industry is booming. According to a 2011-2012 American Pet Products Association survey, roughly 73 million homes own pets and expect to spend approximately $53 billion for pet-related care in 2012. Of that total, more than $4 billion is projected to be spent on boarding and grooming. If you love animals and enjoy caring for them, starting a pet-sitting business is a way to generate income, spend time with furry friends and provide a much-needed service for pet owners who are on away during the day or on vacation. While vast differences in pets, clients and assignments mean there is no one way to run a pet-sitting business, some common practices can help you get your pet-sitting business off to a good start.

Step 1

Visit your local library to check out books on how to write a business plan, advises Patti Moran, author of Pet Sitting for Profit. Read about general accounting principles and how to raise capital. Pick up some books on small-business marketing, advertising and management.

Step 2

Consider joining a professional pet-sitters association. The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters offers its members continuing education opportunities, certification, and access to liability and health insurance customized for the needs of professional pet sitters, as well as advice on planning and building a pet-sitting business.

Step 3

Consult your district Small Business Administration office. The SBA provides help to small startup businesses in such areas as business and financial planning.

Step 4

Select a catchy, easily recalled name for your pet-sitting business. Create a logo, business cards and stationery to lend professionalism to your venture. Set up a home office. You'll need a computer, printer, office supplies and accounting software.

Step 5

Check at the city or county courthouse for regulations and laws affecting home-based businesses. You may need to obtain a permit or business license to operate legally in your city or town.

Step 6

Set up a business account with a reputable bank. Consult a tax adviser, business attorney or accountant to ensure your business complies with all the requirements a small business must fulfill. Ask an attorney to help you draft a client contract.

Step 7

Purchase liability insurance and a dishonesty bond, and be certain your automobile insurance coverage is up-to-date and will cover any transport of pets that is needed when you are caring for them. Insurance will cover you in case a client makes a claim of damage or loss.

Step 8

Consider networking with other local pet sitters. You will have to have backup help in case of injury, illness or other emergency, because pets of vacationing owners still are depending on you for the care you have agreed to supply. Consider a reciprocal agreement with at least one other reliable pet sitter.

Step 9

Set your rates and describe your services. Pet-sitting experts agree that the basic in-home pet-sitting service should last between 30 to 60 minutes, according to pet-sitting expert Angela Williams Duea. During this time, you may walk dogs, change kitty litter, feed pets and provide medication as needed. You may also want to provide services such as switching different lights on and off, bringing in the newspaper and the mail, watering plants, and performing other needed tasks to make the home looked occupied. Set a separate pricing structure for holidays and overnight visits.

Items You Will Need

  • Reliable transportation
  • Small-business books
  • Logo, business cards and stationery
  • Computer
  • Printer
  • Office supplies
  • Permit or business license
  • Business banking account
  • Tax adviser or business attorney
  • Client contract
  • Liability insurance
  • Dishonesty bond
  • Automobile insurance

References

Photo Credits

About the Author

Elle Smith has been an advertising professional for more than 25 years. Her work for ABC, CBS and Sony Pictures Television has appeared on radio, on air, in print and outdoors. In addition, Smith has more than 20 years experience in marketing, graphic arts, commercial photography and print production, and is a licensed real estate agent with property management certification in California.