Rover is the biggest pet boarding and walking platform, with sitters across North America and Europe. It’s also been crowned one of the best by dog moms and dads.

Its huge database makes it easy for pet parents to find responsible sitters near them on short notice. The Rover Vancouver map shows smiling faces next to happy dogs scattered across the city, ready to be booked. Whether you need a reliable dog walker, a big backyard, or friendly faces for your pup to hang out with while you’re on vacation, Rover has the right person for you. 

When my roommate Sara signed up for Rover Vancouver, her services were in high demand, with new dog sitting offers almost daily. Our house has since become a revolving door of wagging tails!

It’s a pretty good setup: she works from home, has some free time to spare, and loves animals. Best of all, I get to hang out with new fluffy buddies when I get home from work, without having to do the hard parts and the clean-up. Win-win!

Needless to say, Pep & Pup is a big Rover fan. They boast of having “the world’s largest network of five-star pet sitters and dog walkers,” who they claim will “treat your pets like family.” It’s a nice sentiment – and it’s true, for the most part. But admittedly, when you’ve scaled your platform as large as Rover has, with over two million (million!) bookings, a few bad candidates are bound to slip through the cracks.

Pet parents, be cautious: The risks of dog boarding 

Rover is a growing giant in the “gig economy,” the newly popular practice of using a platform to facilitate the exchange of goods and independent contract workers. Hence, Rover is colloquially known as “Airbnb” for dogs.” 

Airbnb doesn’t actually own any properties like Uber doesn’t have any cars. Likewise, Rover relies on gig workers to populate its platform and provide value. Then, they sit back and let the profits roll in.

To be fair, Rover does provide support and value for their users – one of many reasons they are the most favoured dog boarding platform. For instance, they provide pet care reimbursement, have 24-hour support for parents and sitters, equip users with a team of safety experts, and vet each candidate with background checks (no pun intended).

But can we really trust every sitter and these online background checks with our furkids? Looking at the mounting number of lost dog stories popping up across CNN, CBC, and other mainstream news channels… maybe not. Let’s dig up the dirt:

Lost dogs running through the streets of Vancouver are a pet parent’s worst nightmare. These scenarios are surely the outliers, but it is common enough that Rover FAQs address the question, “what if my pet sitter lost my dog?”

Rover claims they will “jump into action.” But, the Brennan family would probably disagree. When Michael Brennan and his family went away for the weekend, they booked Christain Z. to watch their pup, a so-called dog lover with a fenced backyard in East Vancouver. 

One day later, Brennan received a bluntly worded text from Christian Z.: “Sorry, I’ve lost your dog. I won’t be returning any more of your messages.” He was horrified and soon realized it would have been helpful to have Christian Z.’s full name (not required on Rover’s platform for ‘privacy reasons’).

For the next five days, the Brennan family searched for Sami as she ran through Vancouver’s busiest streets. Ultimately, Sami was found. But many ex-Rover users haven’t been so lucky. Rover’s Q&A community has created a disheartening conversation sharing their experiences with lost pets, hurt dogs, and Rover’s lack of support throughout the process. CNN wrote about more of these stories in detail.

The common thread between each story is that pet parents choose sitters they thought were reputable and had great reviews. Perhaps part of the problem is that any friend or family member can write a faux review.

The thing about gig-based platforms is that they take a relatively hands-off approach. For one, pet care providers are given very minimal training, oversight, and/or vetting since they are independent contractors rather than employees. Ergo, the common “bad service” complaint amongst rideshare, food delivery, and hospitality platforms that operate using the same model. 

On the other hand, independent contractors are, by definition, relatively unprotected. While Rover does provide insurance, your situation must fall within their relatively narrow preset parameters to apply. 

Using Rover Vancouver safely

With this in mind, and considering that most Rover users have great experiences on the platform, it can be a good option for pet parents to use – cautiously. 

While the stories told by news outlets and hidden behind NDAs are certainly not the fault of pet owners, the risks of dog-sitting apps can be minimized. For instance, Rover encourages its users to do “meet and greets” before booking a sitter. That way, parents can gauge their pets’ comfort with the sitter, verify the information on the sitter’s profile, and make sure their residence is an appropriate space for pets.

It serves as a worthwhile reminder that Rover cannot guarantee the safety or security of pets, pet care providers, or pet owners. Instead, parents must rely on individual sitters and vice versa. 

Luckily, there are tons of responsible pet lovers on the Rover site – it just might take some extra investigating to sniff them out.