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Popular dog walking app faces growing concerns about safety

Posted at 11:40 AM, Oct 15, 2018

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Consider it a warning for dog lovers looking to find a sitter or walker for their furry friend. 

"You can't just blindly trust things, you have to use common sense," said Sgt. Roger Ware with the Overland Park Police Department. 

That's advice Ware gives to others but also follows himself — especially when it comes to his 3-year-old border collie, Rico. 

"Border collies require lots of work. They're great dogs, they're active, but if you don't exercise a border collie, you get what you deserve," Ware said. 

Earlier this year, Ware was having health issues, and Rico's schedule got turned upside down. Not wanting everything in his house to become a chew toy, Ware downloaded the Rover app. 

"First it shows you people with good ratings, which I like," Ware said. 

Then the app shows you people who are nearby and fit your dog's needs. When Ware logged onto the app, it turned out that Rico's potential dog walker was just two doors down from him. 

"I didn't know my neighbor walked dogs, so for me it was easy," Ware said. 

It's not always that simple for other dog lovers, especially those who need a pet sitter overnight. Near Tampa, one woman said her pet sitter stole from her, and the incident was caught on camera

"She was in my clothes when I left one time. Then I panicked and started looking around some more," Lisa D'Ambrosio said. 

D'Ambrosio found more than $100 worth of clothes and makeup missing from her home and contacted police.

While D'Ambrosio and her dog sitter did connect on the Rover app, the booking was done off the site, which is something the app does not recommend. 

In Denver, one woman said she got a message while on vacation that her dog had died. 

"Saying sorry, a mastiff completely mauled your dog and killed him instantly," Elaine Conoly said. 

Rover apologized through an email and also took the sitter off the app. 

41 Action New reached out to Rover, and a spokesperson said the company does "general background checks" on dog walkers and sitters. Less than 20 percent of people are approved to list their services on the app, according to the spokesperson. 

Rover also stated it has more than 200,000 dog walkers and sitters in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom. In Kansas City, more than 16,000 owners, walkers and sitters have joined Rover. 

Ware, the Overland Park police sergeant, still recommends the app to others but encourages people to get to know the person before letting him or her into your home. 

"It took a load off of me that I felt like I wasn't meeting my dogs needs while I was ill," he said.