Another B.C. family is warning pet owners about the potential pitfalls of online-based pet-sitting platforms after their puppy was injured and fled while in care of a sitter.
Chilliwack couple Kim and Dan Levinksy and their two young children left their 10-month-old purebred pit bull terrier with a pet-sitter through the popular Rover platform on Monday while they headed to Mexico for a vacation.
Speaking by Skype from Mexico, the Levinksys said they’d met their pet-sitter ahead of dropping Frankie off, and chosen her because she seemed like a good fit and her dog got along with theirs.
But they said about half an hour after dropping the dog off, they got a call telling them Frankie had jumped the fence and been hit by a car.
“It was very unexpected. We were just on our way pretty much to the car to leave for our trip, we were getting the kids ready, we were all super excited and in good spirits, and we got this call,” said Kim.
“We spent about six hours on foot looking for her before our trip, and unfortunately we did have to leave,” said Dan.
They have posted to local Facebook groups and have friends and family searching for Frankie — but say they’re not satisfied with how Rover has handled the situation.
They say the company has refused to reimburse them for a pet detective, and that they feel like the platform is not taking responsibility for operators listed on its site.
Alicia Pemberton, who was boarding the dog, said she was heartbroken about the situation.
Pemberton said Frankie was playing with her own dog in the back yard when the pair rolled in some dog droppings. When they tried to clean Frankie off, the dog got nervous and bolted, jumping their home’s fence, she said.
“I was pretty surprised, because I asked them if she would do something like that, and they said she’s never done anything like that before,” said Pemberton.
“If someone had told me that, I would have only taken her out with a leash on. But you know, it’s not their fault, they don’t know, it’s their first time dropping their dog off at a sitter.”
Frankie ran into the road, where it was struck by a vehicle, Pemberton said. The dog got up quickly and didn’t appear to be bleeding or have any broken legs — but fled, she added. The driver did not stay at the scene.
Pemberton said she and her partner spent hours searching for the dog, and have since posted in local forums and put up posters around the community looking for her.
She said Rover had also been helpful, offering $100 reward and ordering and paying for the lost dog posters.
“Everyday we go driving and looking,” she said. “I’m a big animal person. I have a dog myself and I wouldn’t want that to happen to him.”
A spokesperson for Rover said the company was taking the situation seriously, describing it as a “rare” occurrence.
“Our primary focus is seeing Frankie reunited with her family,” said the company.
“To aid in the search efforts, we have posted in online forums, engaged local members of our community to help locate Frankie, and are offering a reward for information leading to her being found.
The company pointed to its safety policy, which includes vetting pet-sitters and compensation for vet bills under the case of some injuries.
It added that Pemberton’s Rover account had been “paused,” and that its trust and safety team was conducting an investigation.
But Dan Levinksy says he wants to see more from Rover.
“They’re essentially telling us to deal with it ourselves and go after the people who watched her for reimbursement of any costs incurred,” he said.
“I just feel like if you’re a company who’s offering this kind of service you should have a little more accountability.
“They just washed their hands of it.”
Levinsky said their three-year-old son is too young to be worried, but that they’re having a hard time keeping their daughter’s attention on the vacation and not her lost best friend.
“We’ve kind of gotten her mind off of it now, but she remembers multiple times a day and starts crying and asking,” said Kim.
It’s not the first time a B.C. family has run into trouble using Rover. Back in September, an East Vancouver couple’s dog escaped from a sitter who refused to take responsibility for the incident. The couple said the company apologized and de-listed the sitter.
Frankie has reportedly been spotted several times in Chilliwack since disappearing, and the family is offering its own reward for her return.
They’re asking anyone who sees her not to approach, as she is scared and skittish, and to instead contact the family via Facebook or Chilliwack animal control.