Consumers group urges caution using app-based, on-demand dog walkers

Much like Uber and Lyft offer on-demand car rides, there are apps that connect dog-owners with dog-walkers. But one consumers’ group isn’t convinced they’re a good idea.

“Are they checking references? Yeah. But, it’s not as if these services insist that they’re hiring experienced dog walkers; that’s not happening,” said Kevin Brasler, executive editor at Checkbook.org. “They say they carefully screen their workers, but we’re not sure it’s true.”

A Checkbook investigative secret shopper applying to work for the apps did offer references that were called, but there was no evidence of further due diligence.

“It’s not as if they’ve made sure these workers have a lot of experience walking pets,” Brasler said.

Companies such as Wag!, Rover, PetBacker and others typically charge about $20 an hour. Customers register online, provide a credit card number and might, for example, be given a keypad lock box for their door so the walker can access keys to get inside the home.

Brasler believes it’s important to have a relationship with your pet’s supplemental caregiver, but said you never know who the app might send without you first meeting or speaking to them.

“You sign on with one of these apps, they supply the workers and you don’t get any say in who’s gaining access to your home or walking your pets,” Brasler said.

Instead, Checkbook recommends exploring offers from friends and neighbors, or commercial services.

Washington Consumers’ Checkbook ranked more than 250 D.C.-area dog walkers. Through a special arrangement, WTOP readers can see those rankings for a limited time.

Consumers’ Checkbook/Center for the Study of Services is an independent, nonprofit consumer organization founded in 1974. It has been an innovator in providing information to help consumers make smarter choices for more than 40 years.

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