Skip to main content
Find a Lawyer
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Find a Lawyer

More Options

Pet Sitting Unleashes Potential Liability

By Betty Wang, JD | Updated by Melissa Bender, Esq. | Last updated on

Pet sitting or dog walking may sound like an amazing way to combine your love of animals with your need to make some cash. But you may want to think about potential liability issues that can come back to bite you.

For example, just because you're not the pet's owner doesn't necessarily mean that you aren't responsible if something goes wrong. And if you are the owner, pet sitting can still unleash some unwanted legal consequences if your pet causes someone else to have property damage or bodily injury.

Here are a few scenarios you'll want to keep in mind if you are a professional pet sitter, have a dog-walking business, or are just someone who helps out friends and family:

When Animals Attack

If a pet bites an innocent bystander, both the pet sitter and the pet's owner could potentially be held liable. Generally, animal bites are traced back to the owner of the animal under a strict liability theory. The owner is not always liable, however (for example, if the animal was provoked). In addition, if a pet sitter or dog walker was in control of the animal at the time of the attack, then they may find themselves on the receiving end of a lawsuit for things like medical expenses and medical bills or even vet bills if the pet bites another animal.

When Animals Escape

You generally want to avoid what happened to CJ the chimp, but sometimes, it's out of your hands. A key question to ask when an animal gets loose from a home or kennel is whether it is considered to be wild or domestic. That's because owners of wild animals can be held strictly liable for their animals' acts, regardless of any safety precautions they may have taken; domestic animal owners may not be held to the same standard.

When Animals Die

If the pet dies while a pet sitter is on the job, the sitter could face some liability. This depends, of course, on the sitter's role in the pet's death. If Fido or Fluffy died of natural causes, then you're sitting pretty. But if you were somehow negligently involved in an action that led to your client’s pet crossing the rainbow bridge, you could be in trouble.

When Pet Sitters Are Liable

Some pet sitters get their assignments through a pet-sitting agency, which could make them either an employee or independent contractor of some sort. This means that while vicarious liability could potentially apply, most actions that a sitter performs outside the scope of pet sitting — such as committing a crime like theft, for example — generally fall entirely on the sitter and not on the agency. (Unless an owner can prove negligent training or hiring practices, like failure to conduct background checks.) For pet owners, this is important in figuring out which party, or parties, may be held liable for a pet sitter's acts. For pet sitters they may want to belong to a group like pet sitters international so they are up to date on everything they need to know.

If you own a pet sitting business or pet care business you should consider getting insurance coverage such as liability insurance to give you peace of mind in case something happens in the client’s home, with a piece of personal property, or with the animal you are watching. Talk to your insurance agent to learn about business insurance options with different types of coverage, premiums, and deductibles.

Was this helpful?

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:
Copied to clipboard