Sharing among animal lovers

In their 2013-2014 National Pet Owners Survey, The American Pet Products Association stated that 68% of US households have a pet among their family members. And it’s no wonder; pets are fantastic companions. They play with the children and become great teaching tools when tackling responsibility and daily duties, and they can help adults cope with solitude and depression, and even encourage them to get out of the house for a morning run.

With the rise of pet ownership, however, other issues arise; while they make great, reliable friends, pets add to the already long list of responsibilities that we all carry around, and when it’s time for holiday season or a business trip comes up, we find ourselves not knowing what to do with our furry friends.

What is Toby, your friendly Beagle, supposed to do while you spend a week by the seaside? Some owners decide to travel with their pets, but not all hotels are open to having them over, and as much fun as they are, dogs can become an inconvenience when you want to spend two hours admiring paintings in a museum. Many leave their dogs with family or friends, giving them an account of all the things they need to do and hoping they will be up to the challenge. A few pet owners even consider leaving their pets at a kennel, even though this alternative comes at quite a high price and it may turn into a stressful experience for the dog, who is usually kept in a cage for long periods of time.

A rising opportunity

New sharing economy companies such as DogVacay and Rover (in the US), Holidog and DogBuddy (in Europe) and PetHomeStay (in Australia) have spotted a gap in the market and have started offering all kinds of pet-related services. They offer you the opportunity to leave your best friend in the hands of a loving person who will take care of your pet. The benefits are many; for starters, your pet will be staying at the host’s house, which is going to be prepared to meet its needs. It’s hard enough for pets that are missing their owners to have to deal with new people they don’t know, but staying somewhere comfortable where they can run around and play will make the transition a lot smoother. Moreover, many times hosts will have their own pet, which ensures their homes will be suitable for a dog - and that your pet will have another furry friend to play with!

Pet carers usually share day-to-day events with the pet owner, either via email or phone, sending out photos and brief descriptions of what the dog is doing and at what times. Pet owners are updated on the dog’s sleeping and feeding patterns, and informed if any anomalies arise. Hosts are often animal lovers too, and hence go the extra mile to make sure the dog is happy and healthy - if the dog is going through medical treatment, hosts often offer to take it to the vet and follow-up on necessary visits.

Hosts and pet owners find each other on these companies’ websites. Hosts offer their services, which go from hosting dogs - either during the day or for longer periods of time - to walking and training them, and they decide how much to charge. Their pricing usually comes to half the cost of a traditional kennel, which makes this alternative a lot more appealing. Pet owners can browse through the sites, filtering hosts by location, availability, ratings, pricing and range of services. They can also find pet carers who will visit their dogs at home, either to spend quality time with them, do some training or pet-sit them overnight.

In good hands

Many people love their pets as if they were another member of their families. Because of this, platforms offering these services - however convenient - need to be extra careful when accepting applications for potential pet carers, and carrying out thorough background checks on each and every applicant will confirm their suitability and honest intentions. At the same time, most platforms feature a rate and review system that encourages people to write and share their experiences, appreciate the other person’s efforts and establish trust among the users.

These companies are just one more example of how the sharing economy is changing the way we live, spend our money and invest our time. Through their websites, lifelong dog-lovers are able to make some extra money while enjoying their time with other people’s pets, and many of them have become full-time dog-sitters and trainers. By empowering and ensuring trust, the sharing economy nurtures relationships, brings individuals closer and makes it easier than ever for people to both reach out and help each other. At the same time, it enables anyone with an internet connection to become a micro-entrepreneur, build up their own freelance business and find clients in a much simpler and reliable way - and that’s what makes the on-demand economy all the more necessary in today’s world.

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Irene is the person behind Onfido's social channels and blog. She does marketing stuff and gets to spend time on Twitter. At night, she neglects her own online profiles and reads (paper) books.