Sharing pet safety tips, accidents and near misses

There was a heart breaking post that was recently shared on one of the pet sitting Facebook groups. It involved a tragic accident where a balcony was not secured with netting and a small pet fell to their death as a result. It was devastating for the sitter and owner and ,of course, fatal for the pet. This story reminded me that there are many risks involved in pet sitting and that both sitters and owners need to do risk assessments as part of the hand-off or pre-sit conversation to include behaviors and areas of the grounds that could be problematic. Do the pets jump or dig under the fence or do they try to escape when you open the door? Do they lunge at cars when walking? Are there windows without screens that they could get out of. etc.? Inspired by this tragic story, I also think that it would be helpful for us to share any safety tips or lessons learned from accidents or near misses, so that others may also learn and possibly avoid bad outcomes. I have not had anything bad happen on any of my sits. But years ago when I first started volunteering at the shelter, I did have a shelter/foster dog escape from my car when I went to get him out. I had a leash on him and was holding it, but he quickly jumped out of the car, knocked me down and bolted. Thankfully, I was able to get him back without issue. But now, I expect every pet that I am transporting to try to escape and make sure that I have a firm grip on the leash and my feet firmly planted prior to opening the door. Does anyone else have a story or tip to share for the benefit of the group?

7 Likes

Hi @Southernsitter thank you for your empathy and caring consideration of those involved in this incredibly tragic accident.

You do raise a very pertinent question and I’m sure there will be those in our community, owners and sitters who have been taken unaware by the behaviour of their pets and others who will be able to share their experiences for the help and benefit of everyone, especially the pets.

I had a situation with an adorable Lab I was sitting, I had asked all of the relevant questions and was told he was “bomb proof” and being a Lab that’s almost a given .
One afternoon I changed my walking routine and took him out and past a school when the children were leaving for home … I felt him tense as we started walking towards the school exit where children were running and shouting, well it was home time.

He was not at all happy fortunately I was in tune with him and knew the signs of a very uncomfortable dog and took preventative measures to get him away from the busy space.

The next day I was texting his owner with an update and asked if this was something new as she had not mentioned it … “Oh no he doesn’t like children running around him, it’s the noise and suddenness of it, he wouldn’t do anything but I make sure he’s not around them and I never take him past the school in the morning or afternoon” I did tell her that for everyone’s sake, especially his, she needed to make future sitters aware of this and his behaviour around children.
She did and included it his awareness notes.

Again thank you so much for the kindness you have shown in this situation and for creating something positive from a very sad situation.

7 Likes

I read that post too, truly heart-breaking. No tips to add really. On our recent sit in Paris the owners were proactive & told us 1 of the cats might jump out of the window if left open. They had put a netting, but still felt really happy that they warned us, if not we could’ve ended up in the same situation!

3 Likes

we were sitting 2 “indoor” cats who were not allowed out, although we were warned that one would always try to get out through the door as you were entering or exiting. One day he did get out as I was receiving a parcel. He was so quick I never even felt him slip between my legs. Only as I shut the door did I realize he must have made his escape. I managed to get him back after several anxious minutes and with my heart in my mouth - phew!

6 Likes

We have had many “heart in my mouth” moments with indoor cats. We carried out a sitting in a 4th floor apartment overlooking the River Thames with a quick handover. There were many fully opened windows and I asked whether the cat tried to get out. The reply was Oh yes she will walk along the tiny ledge outside for a while then come back in. Thank goodness we asked!

4 Likes

We had a sit with an idyllic little river at the bottom of a large garden in England . But one day one of the two spaniels jumped in, swimming n after a lame duck and disappeared from view. We could not follow the banks as there were gardens on both sides , so my partner went in too in wellies and tartan underwear ( excellent photos !) but could Not follow very far.
Anyway we had a very anxious half hour calling plaintively for the dog and wondering if we should phone the owners ( who had only left that very morning) . But the dog eventually turned up, walking back from god knows where.
Owners’ response when told on return: ‘ Ah, again!’ :))
But anyway it was a lovely sit and all went well after that hairy -and wet-start.

6 Likes

Thank you @Jeanmarc and that’s a Spaniel for you …

I had very similar experiences with my own Springer, also an ex army “failed” sniffer Springer I cared for on three separate occasions once for three months.

No amount of “Woody here!!!” made any impression as I watched his tail disappear across the South Downs, my heart in my mouth. “Oh his recall is excellent” … err not when there is deer scent involved.

I’m a leash on sitter and I only let him off after “bonding” with him for a couple of months in spite of his owner telling me to let him go from the very beginning.

First and last, Woody remained leashed for the duration.

4 Likes

I’d love to see those pictures…

2 Likes

You do raise a significant concern when assuming the care of pets, plants and homes. For me, this is why the welcome guide, a face to face handoff and a good rapport with the HOs is so important. I take this responsibility very seriously and make every effort to have what I call situational awareness.
There are many advantages to doing what we do, lots of excitement to be able to travel, meet people and discover the wonders of the new but we must never lose sight of our most important obligations, the pets, the home and the plants in many cases. Some things are unavoidable.
That being said, my greatest advice is to maintain awareness. Check and double check when opening doors, look at the animal’s (and the plant’s) behaviour. Ask the HO what is normal. Is there any history of anything that we should be on the look out for as @Southernsitter points out.
I also choose to update my HO on the daily unless they specifically have said not too or are unavailable, this allows opportunity both to express any concerns, like this morning for me, one of my kitties had an upset tummy (not uncommon HO said) and then noted that in the pics I had sent, a kitty was displaying trust and comfort with me by being in a particular place. Apparently she doesn’t do that unless she is content. This is reassuring to me and them.
Plant care is often part of the duties so I have an app called picture this that tells me what it is and the care it requires, including anything that is not normal and what should be done. I let the HO know and let them decide what should be done if anything.
Well that was long…
Do your best.

5 Likes

My cat used to disappear from the roof terrace on the fourth floor to the much lower neighbor’s roof, across another balcony and heaven knows where else to come back in through the cat flap on the ground a while later…or vice versa, sitting on the roof terrace and meowing to be let in. All of this used to be normal.
However he stopped doing this for reasons we don’t know. Maybe someone chased him away or a way trough was blocked🤷🏼‍♀️

Now it just happened the other day that he went down to the neighbor’s roof for the first time in months and, because he has gained weight and has a backache which keeps him from jumping, he wasn’t able to get back up again and we had to rescue him from the neighbor’s roof window.

I am almost happy that this happened, because I now built a small netted barrier he cannot get around to prevent him trying to jump down there again.

Still, I wrote about this in the welcome guide, just in case…

Actually I have been working on the guide for two weeks now and I realize that this should not be done in a few minutes. There are so many things popping up in my mind which might be good to know, either concerning the pets or the house and surroundings that you don’t think of right away, because to you these things are normal.

5 Likes