For a long time, the only option available for pet owners who needed to leave the house was a kennel or a friend. Either you had to pay for boarding for the entire duration, or you had to have a friend stay over at your house. Today, on-demand peer-to-peer services like Rover and Wag are disrupting the pet care industry. These services are cheaper, easier, and often have more of a personal touch. Pet owners get photos of their pets while they’re gone and they get to enjoy continuous communications with their dog walker or dog watcher.
However, there’s a dark side to this type of service.
Rover and Wag connect pet owners directly with someone willing to walk or watch their pets. While it tries to connect you with individuals you’ve used before, it can’t always do so. And though these individuals have gone through background checks and training, they’re still essentially strangers and have no particular training regarding pet health emergencies. This is where kennels contest the usefulness of these types of platforms: pets are being taken care of by strangers who may not know how to take care of pets.
Moreover, there’s no actual accountability in the service. If someone’s pet is lost, it’s not anyone’s fault. It’s not Rover or Wag’s fault, because they don’t guarantee the services themselves. It’s not the dog walker or watcher’s fault, because it was an accident (presuming that it’s not possible to prove negligence). No one is accountable and, thus, no one is actually responsible. If a dog is lost on day 1 of a 14 day vacation, there is no entity that is responsible for looking for the dog during that time.
All of this has created some major concerns, similar to the concerns that the taxi industry had when it was disrupted by Uber and Lyft. And while many of these concerns are being driven by diminishing revenue, there are some legitimate ones mixed in. Some would argue that without any type of standards or accountability, many of these peer-to-peer services are only a powder keg waiting to happen. Others would argue that with rating systems in place for individual workers, the problem will eventually solve itself by pushing the best and most trustworthy to the top.
What is difficult to argue is that these services absolutely are starting to take the place of kennels and that kennels may need to adjust or adapt to this new world. Kennels are not entirely blameless in this: not only are they expensive, but there have been many highly publicized cases of animals being killed and lost in kennels themselves. And if regulations don’t work for kennels, who is to say they could work for peer-to-peer services?