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Petsitting and pet boarding can be a great way to earn an extra income, but is there anything you should know before taking on the responsibility of looking after someone else’s pet?
What is petsitting?
When you look after a pet in the owner’s house, you are essentially providing a petting sitting service.
Pet sitters might only look after someone’s pet for a few hours or a full day.
It is the petsitter’s responsibility to ensure that the animal is well looked after, treating it as the owner would, ensuring that it is fed and watered and its toileting needs are met.
What is pet boarding?
Unlike pet sitting, pet boarding occurs when you look after someone’s pet in your own home.
You are still responsible for ensuring that the animal’s needs are met.
It’s likely that by providing pet boarding services, you’ll be looking after the animal for longer than you would as a petsitter. This could be because the owner has gone on holiday, going into hospital or need a period of respite.
Do you need a licence to offer petting sitting or boarding?
If you’re going to offer a pet boarding service for cats and dogs, you will have to apply for a licence with your local council.
There is a cost for this and the length of the licence will be determined by the council, but licences can be granted for 1, 2 or 3 years.
Making an application for the licence doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll be granted one as they will have had to have also passed an inspection and any additional inspections that they might make once a licence is granted.
How much can you charge?
This is the million-dollar question, isn’t it?
You’ll likely have strong competition in your area, many of these will either have websites or have listings on pet sitting and boarding websites.
They are likely to provide a range of information, including their prices.
I did a quick google search and found that pet boarding services charge an average of £35. This is an average based on 13 pet-boarders.
How to start a pet sitting business?
1. Do your research
Knowing you want to start a pet business is one thing, there being a market for it in your area is another.
Research is key in starting any business and just because you feel that this is something that can be done quite quickly, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do some competitor analysis and research into whether you’ll be able to attract customers.
Things to consider when doing your research include:
- Who are your competitors
- What are they charging
- Do they offer any service included in the price
2. Familiarise yourself with the relevant legislation
This can sometimes be neglected but it’s important to familiarise yourself with some legislation before starting the business
- Animals Act 1971
- Dangerous Dogs Act 1991
3. Create a small business plan
You might have never started a business before, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for not being able to put together a business plan.
A business plan shouldn’t be seen as something it is put together purely for the sake of attracting finance from investors, they can be a great way of focusing yourself on the aims and objectives of the business as well as helping you review whether you are achieving these aims and objectives further down the line.
4. Workout your business costs
This is something that you’ll need for the business plan anyway but there are costs incurred for any business, and pet sitting and boarding is no different.
- You’ll need to know:
- What equipment will you need to buy
- Will you need a website
- How much will you allocate to advertising costs
- How much is insurance?
- How far will you travel for business and how much will this cost?
5. Don’t forget your tax!
If you’re running a profitable business the taxman is going to want a slice of what you have earned above £1000 so you’ll need to register for self-assessment.
Tax can be complicated for those that have run a business before, so if this is your first time dipping your toe into the world of business, an accountant might be able to help you by offering useful advice that might also save you money in the long term.
Will you need pet sitting and boarding insurance?
Not only are you going to be responsible for someone’s pet you’re also responsible for making sure their home is secure when offering an at-home pet sitting service.
This means ensuring that doors and windows are locked and if you’re taking the pet for a walk, other animals and members of the public are safe.
Therefore before you’ve even stepped foot in a client’s house or they’ve taken a pet into yours, you’d be well advised to look at obtaining some form of insurance.
Remember, insurance products are there to protect you from events that you hope will never happen, but as we all know some things are out of our control.
Show your trustworthiness
Dog theft has been a major problem and quite rightly people are a lot warier of who they leave their animals with.
Therefore to set yourself apart from others in your area, you could also obtain a DBS check.
While there are two types of checks you’ll only need a basic DBS check, which costs £23.
Understanding the service that you will provide
You might decide that petsitting only forms part of the service that you are going to provide and want to add more services either as part of what you’ll charge or as an added extra.
Dog walking as part of your service might be something that you consider a given, but if you do your research you might find that not all petsitting services or boarding offer this.
Depending on how long you’re looking after someone’s pet, there might be times when you are required to feed them.
If that is the case will you expect that the owner provides the food or will it be that you will provide the food?
Remember that just like us, some animals will have different dietary requirements, so buying food at your local pet shop or supermarket might not be something that you can do in every instance.
While having a love of animals certainly helps, if you’re going to start petsitting or boarding service there are most certainly an extensive list of things that you need to consider before even advertising your service and I hope that this post has helped with that focusing.
Word of mouth is going to be a great help when starting your business so ensure that your service offers something above what is expected and whenever possible use your network to get the word out there that you’re offering the service.