Is This Service Really "Airbnb for Dogs?"

We’re crowdsharing just about everything these days, so it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that pet-sitting is one of them — nor is it a surprise that it’s doing so well. Pet-sitting service DogVacay, AKA “Airbnb for dogs,” has just secured $25 million in funding, according to Forbes, suggesting it’s a more-than-viable alternative to pet boarding and kennels. The service isn’t new — it’s been around since 2012 — but this latest round of funding brings its total raised up to $47 million. And that, as they say, isn’t nothing.

Like most sharing economy services, DogVacay works by connecting clients with contract workers — in this case, pet owners with pet-sitters — and taking a cut of the profits (15 percent here) when a service is booked. CEO Aaron Hirschhorn first came up with idea after a bad kennel experience: “It was a ten-day trip, the kennel bill was $1,400, and one dog was hiding under my desk for three days afterwards,” he told Forbes (poor pup!). He and his wife subsequently began a home pet-setting business, which grew until it became DogVacay. Through it, pet owners in 3,000 cities can search for and book 20,000 pet-sitters, all of home go through interviews, training, and reference checks before they’re allowed to join.

In spite of its canine comparison to Airbnb, it actually sounds more like babysitter-finding services such as Urban Sitter to me; Maybe that’s just because I tend to view pet-sitting less like a hotel and more like caregiving, though. Admittedly I’ve never used Airbnb, Urban Sitter, or DogVacay, though, so I can’t speak from experience. It might even be more like Uber than anything else (although hopefully minus the surge pricing, because let's face it: It's moved well beyond "slightly nutty" and into "WTF is wrong with you?!" territory).

Hayley Peterson of Business Insider, however, did give the pet-sitting service a try. Last fall, she wrote, she found herself in a position where she had to leave town — and unfortunately, it was a time during which everyone she knew who might be able to take care of her dog, Rupert, was out of town, as well. Her initial DogVacay search “yielded hundreds of potential hosts for Rupert, many of whom were located within a half mile of my apartment,” she noted. After messaging a few of her options through the website (DogVacay doesn’t initially give out hosts’ email addresses or last names — which, Peterson discovered, is partially to make sure hosts don’t book outside of the site, avoiding the 15 percent cut DogVacay takes), she chose a woman named Rebecca. At $50 a night, Rebecca’s price wasn’t as low as DogVacay can be — but given that Peterson knew most pet boarding locations in Manhattan charge a minimum of $80, it was a steal.

Just like that.

Rebecca was flexible enough to adjust for a travel snafu; she sent regular texts with pictures to keep Peterson updated on how Rupert was doing; and overall, the service was a success. “I’ll definitely be using it again,” Peterson wrote. Although it’s been debated whether the company will ultimately be able to generate enough revenue to keep growing, I have a feeling it probably will. Whether you’re into the whole sharing economy thing, though, will probably be the deciding factor in whether it appeals to you. I’m not sure whether DogVacay does cats or other pets, but if they did, I might be tempted to give it a try.

As long as, y’know, my cats don’t try to kill me in my sleep before then.

Images: Giphy (2)