Rover and Wag — mobile apps that connect pet owners with pet sitters, dog walkers and boarders — are often referred to as the Airbnb or Uber of pet sitting services. These industry disrupting apps share more than business models, they also present a number of safety concerns associated with trusting strangers from the internet. Here’s what a pet owner should know about using technology to care for furry family members.
How do Rover and Wag work?
Rover and Wag connect pet owners with dog walking, pet sitting and boarding services. They’re similar in many ways, but there are a few key differences concerning pricing, policy and privacy. With Rover, pet owners receive more information and have more power to choose, while the Wag system makes it easy to allow someone to take care of your dog and access your home without meeting them face-to-face or even learning much about them.
How Rover works
- Owners can use Rover.com or the Rover app to search for help with their pets.
- You enter pet information and requested dates, and Rover creates a browsable list of potential service providers.
- Provider profiles include reviews, prior pet experience and details like whether or not they own pets, have a fenced-in yard, or allow visiting dogs on their furniture.
- Service providers set their own rates, so fees vary.
- If a pet owner is interested in moving forward with a particular pet sitter/walker, there is an app-facilitated process that encourages a pre-booking meet and greet.
- Pet owners and sitters are expected to communicate via the Rover app leading up to and during the stay or service.
How Wag works
- Wag places a greater emphasis on immediate, on-demand walking services.
- Wag users enter the pet’s information, date and time requested, pick-up location and information on how to access the home. Then, Wag assigns a walker, sitter or boarder. (For non-recurring walks, you can’t pick the specific person, similar to booking an Uber.)
- Prices are set by Wag, so there are flat fees depending on factors like dog breed, size and length of walk.
- Once a walker picks up your dog, you can follow along with their movements via GPS through the Wag app.
- If you have a good experience with a service provider, you can mark them as a Preferred Walker to increase your chances of a re-assignment, but it’s not a guarantee.
- You can use either WagWalking.com or the Wag app to book, but the website doesn’t have all of the functionality that the app does.
Are Rover and Wag safe to use?
It’s natural to be nervous about placing a beloved pet in the hands of a stranger. The impressive growth of these apps suggests that many people have good experiences, but it’s unclear exactly how many do not.
Rover has been around since 2011, and according to its website, it has booked millions of services in 14,000 cities from over 200,000 pet sitters. Wag began on-demand walking services in 2015 and now operates in 110 different cities. Accidents do happen, and it would be hard to imagine that such a large volume of pet services could transpire without any kind of incident.
Unfortunately, an increasing number of pet owners attest that caretakers found on Rover and Wag have been unreliable, negligent and even cruel. CBS News spoke to 14 families who allege that their pets were killed in the care of Rover or Wag sitters; users of both apps said the companies asked them to sign a non-disclosure agreement covering the incidents and/or their settlements. Similar stories are reported by Vox, Outside, The Daily Mail, KTVUand others.
In late 2018, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) began investigating and monitoring Wag due to a pattern of customer complaints of negligence and items missing from homes after Wag sitters were there. More than 65 complaints are listed on Rover’s BBB page, but the consumer protection group has not officially launched an inquiry.
How are pet sitting apps responding to safety concerns?
Both Wag and Rover assert that they practice due diligence when screening the professionals listed on their apps, though neither company shares information about the nature, frequency or volume of pet owners’ complaints. In some of the complaints reported above, unhappy customers claim that Rover and Wag failed to carry out their professed security measures, or that these measures were insufficient to properly vet the people in charge of their pets.
According to its website, Rover takes the following safety measures:
- Background checks for all service providers. All walkers and sitters are required to pass a basic check confirming their identity, and that they’re not listed on a sex offender registry, terrorist watchlist or the National Criminal Database. Caretakers have the option of upgrading to an Enhanced check that also includes court records for the preceding seven years, which is denoted by an extra badge on their profile.
- The Rover Guarantee, which provides monetary compensation for certain injuries or damages that occur during a service booked and paid through Rover.
- A 24/7 Emergency Support hotline that caretakers can call if a pet is injured, sick or lost on their watch.
Wag describes similar safety requirements:
- Background checks are required for all dog walkers and sitters. They must also pass a harness/collar test and a situational test about how they would handle common issues that could arise during walks.
- 24/7 emergency hotline for pet owners and caretakers, with GPS tracking during walks.
- All walkers and sitters are insured and bonded.
- Free lockboxes for pet owners to help them safely grant home access to the dog walker.
How should you protect your pets?
Who you trust to care for your pet is entirely up to you. These guidelines will help you exercise good judgment and be confident that you’ve made the right decision.
- Be proactive about building relationships with pet sitters and/or boarding kennels. It’s always best to leave your pet with someone you know and trust extremely well. This is easier to achieve if you have a larger circle, so start by soliciting recommendations from your vet and fellow pet owners. Meet and greet the caretaker ahead of time, and leave your pet with them for trial visits or walks prior to longer sessions and bigger responsibilities. This will help you have safe options even if your first choice isn’t available.
- Use a security camera to keep an eye on things. Even if you know and trust your sitter, a security camera can put your mind at ease. You can see how the sitter treats your pet(s) when you’re not around, if they’re arriving and leaving when they say they are, or if they’re taking liberties in your home that have nothing to do with pet sitting.
- Try using a pet monitor, which is a specialized surveillance camera especially for your furry friends. These indoor cameras stream to your smartphone and have features like two-way audio and on-demand treat dispensing that let you say hello or reward your dog mid-day. Check out our favorite pet cameras here.
- Explore the world of pet wearables. Your dog might already have a microchip that’s scannable at the vet’s office or the dog shelter, but did you know there are GPS tracking devices for dogs? Whistle and Findster are some of the top brands. These devices help you track down a lost dog and let you know how active they’ve been in your absence, so you know whether or not the pet sitter has done their job.