From snakes to
terriers, Barking Club cares for pets
business serves southern Johnson County
Special to The Star
Eddie Valdez admits
that snakes aren't his favorite type of pet,
but he has gotten used to them since starting his
business, the JoCo Barking Club.
Snakes are just one of
the many family pets that the JoCo Barking
Club will sit while pet owners travel or
spend long hours at work.
"About 50 percent of
our business is cats, but we sit dogs, reptiles
and birds," said Valdez. "I initially didn't want
to do snakes, but the smaller ones aren't so bad."
The JoCo Barking Club
represents a growing in-home pet sitting
trend in the United States. According to Pet
Sitters International, the largest trade
organization for the industry, their national
membership has grown from 1,000 pet sitter
members in 1995 to 5,700 members in October.
has been around for awhile, but it has really
taken off in the past 10 years," said Sheila
Smith, public relations specialist for Pet
Sitters International. "The main reason is that
people are showing their pets a lot more
Carrie Bernauer of
Leawood has two dogs, Lucy, a 14-year-old Border
collie, and Lily, a 1-year-old Labrador retriever.
She prefers a pet sitting service to
kenneling her dogs while out of town.
"Having an older dog,
she can't hold it for a long time and the younger
one needs exercise," said Bernauer. "I feel like
they are more settled at home."
estimates 62 percent of U.S. households, or 64.2
million homes, have at least one pet and
that pet owners spend an estimated $31
billion a year on their animals. About 30 percent
of pet owners use a pet sitter while
traveling and 22 percent use a kennel or
Smith said the trend
in providing better care for pets and the
downturn in some aspects of the economy has led to
the boom in the pet sitting industry.
"People get laid off,
and this is an opportunity to start their own
business," said Smith. "There aren't a lot of
start-up costs, and there isn't a lot of intense
training to start."
Smith said they have
eight members in the Johnson County area,
including five in Overland Park, two in Leawood
and one in Olathe.
"I've seen a lot of
fly-by-night operations come and go," said Valdez.
"People don't realize when they get into this
business that we can't go on vacation when other
For example, Christmas
is one of their busiest times of the year, Valdez
"We can't have a
regular Christmas, but it is a small sacrifice
because most days are usually pretty stress-free,"
Concern for his own
animals while he was out of town several years ago
prompted Valdez to start his business in 2002.
Like Bernauer, who is one of his clients, he has
an older and a younger dog.
Valdez researched the
industry online and through Pet Sitters
International. He acquired books on dog breeds and
learned about their traits.
"We have never found a
problem with a particular breed, but we visit with
the animals first so they recognize us," Valdez
For a pet under
25 pounds, the daily rate for each 30-minute visit
is $10. Additional pets are $2.50. The rate
increases to $11.50 a visit for a pet 26 to
Valdez or one of his
three employees will meet with the pets and
their owners before agreeing to sit with them.
They then determine
whether owners need a one-time service while out
of town or if they would like to take advantage of
daily rate discounts, which require a four-day
continuous weekly visit.
The sitters will visit
pets for 30 minutes at a time up to several
times a day. They will play and exercise the
pets, feed and water them and, if necessary,
dispense special treats and/or oral medications.
About half of the JoCo
Barking Club's business requires daily visits to
assist pet owners who work long hours.
The JoCo Barking Club
has about 200 clients and serves southern Johnson
County. They also serve the Waldo and Plaza areas
on the Missouri side.
Finding a pet
International advises that good pet
Are bonded and
Have experience in
caring for pets and are clearly mindful of
the animals' safety and well-being.
describing services and fees.
Visit the client's
home before the first pet sitting
assignment to meet the pets and get
detailed information about their care.