FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q: What kinds of services to you provide?
A: We provide pet care in your home when you are away on travel, mid-day dog walking services for clients that are gone all day and non-emergency pet taxi services to/from the vet, groomer, daycare/boarding or other agreed-upon location. We also provide complementary home security/yard services, such as: minimal indoor/outdoor plant watering, bringing in the mail/newspaper, alternate lights/blinds, fill bird feeders/bird baths and curb-side trash/recycle pick-up. Additional fees may apply for excessive plant watering or other time-consuming services. Please call our office at 703-436-9490 to discuss your specific needs.
Q: What kinds of animals to you provide care for?
A: We provide services to dogs, cats, fish, rabbits, birds and other small caged animals.
Q: Do you provide services for aggressive dogs?
A: We reserve the right to refuse care for a pet on a case-by-case basis that may be deemed dangerous as it puts the pet sitter/walker at risk. We will ask that you divulge any known aggressive behavior toward other animals and/or humans prior to scheduled visits/walks.
Q: What are your service areas?
A: Our service areas include the Kingstowne, Hayfield, Rose Hill, Manchester Lakes, Fort Belvoir, Mount Vernon, Springfield and limited services in parts of the City of Alexandria. If your area is not listed here, please contact us at 703-436-9490 to see if we service your particular area.
Q: Do you require an initial consultation?
A: Yes, we require an initial consultation for all new clients before the first set of scheduled visits, as well as electronic signature of our Terms and Conditions on the Time to Pet Client Portal. During this consultation we will ensure that all pertinent information regarding your pet(s) and home has been collected and keys are tested. There is no charge for an initial consultation with the owner and a $15 charge to meet the pet sitter/walker upon request.
Q: How much do you charge for a multi-pet household?
A: We charge $3.00 for each additional dog or up to three (3) additional cats. Households with only small caged pets (i.e., rabbits, guinea pigs, birds and fish) will usually be charged the 20- or 30-minute pet sitting rate. For dog and/or cat households, there may be no additional charge for small caged animals and/or fish tanks depending on the level of care needed. Please call our office at 703-436-9490 to discuss your specific needs.
Q: Do you administer medications?
A: Yes, we can administer oral medications, insulin injections and subcutaneous fluids. Most medications can be administered at NO CHARGE if taken with food or can be done within the contracted time allotted. Additional charges may be incurred if administration requires additional time. For excessively shy cats and dogs, a “trial run” may be suggested when you are not at home, but prior to leaving town, to ensure that the sitter will be able to administer medications while you are away. Normal pet sitting fees for “trial run” visits will apply.
Q: Are you trained in pet first aid/CPR?
A: Yes, all pet sitters and walkers are required to complete pet first aid and CPR classes through PetTech, Inc.
Q: What happens if my pet gets sick while I am out of town?
A: In non-emergency situations, we will attempt to contact you (or someone you have given authority to make decisions on your behalf) to discuss the situation before taking your pet to the veterinarian. In an emergency situation, we will attempt to contact you as soon as possible after appropriate pet first aid/CPR has been administered to help stabilize your pet’s condition and/or while en route to the nearest 24-hour emergency veterinarian hospital. During the initial consultation, you will be asked to provide the name of your preferred veterinarian and emergency 24-hour veterinarian hospital, as well as a total diagnosis and treatment dollar limit per pet.
Q: What happens if my assigned sitter/walker cannot provide care for my pet?
A: Should your assigned sitter/walker not be able to perform the assigned duties due to illness or emergency, we will arrange for another qualified pet sitter/dog walker to fulfill the responsibilities. Every attempt will be made to contact you regarding this situation.
Q: What happens if I am unable to return home due to a catastrophic event?
A: Prior to your departure, you will be asked to provide us with the name, address and phone number of a person(s) or organization that will take custody of your pet in the event of catastrophic or untoward circumstances that prevent you from returning home. You will also be asked to provide the name, address, phone number and relationship of an authorized decision-maker(s) to make decisions regarding your pet on your behalf should your global location or catastrophic or untoward circumstances prevent you from being reached.
Q: Are the people working for you employees of Sampson Smiles Pet Care?
A: Yes, all the sitters/walkers are employees, not independent contractors, and are trained in accordance with our policies and procedures.
Q: What are your key policies?
A: We ask that you provide two (2) sets of keys—one set for the pet sitter/walker and one set to be kept in our office as a backup. For pet-sitting clients, we recommend that you allow us to keep your keys for future services, but if you wish to have us return your keys after each set of visits, there will be a $15 pick-up and $15 drop-off charge, or we can return your keys by mail to a designated address. Keys will not be left in your home on the last visit so that we will have access to your home if necessary. We will only accept a garage door opener in addition to keys due to a potential power outage or malfunction.
There is a charge of $35 per hour plus the costs incurred to employ a locksmith to gain entry into your home due to the malfunction of the lock or your failure to provide a working key.
Q: Do you provide services to gated communities and apartment buildings?
A: Yes, we will provide services to gated communities, as well as apartment buildings with restricted access, as long as we are provided with the appropriate access code, key card, FOB or any other device(s)/process necessary to gain entry into your community/building. This device(s) MUST be provided BEFORE the scheduled visits/walks, as the sitter/walker will not be asked to wait for an opportunity to “piggy back” with another car. In addition, the sitter/walker must be given access to a parking space or be provided with a parking permit prior to your departure or the first scheduled mid-day dog walk. A pick-up and drop-off fee of $15 each will be charged if we are asked to pick up an access device(s) or parking permit prior to your departure (or first scheduled walk) and/or drop it off upon your return (or after the last scheduled walk).
Q: How long are your visits?
A: We can provide 20-, 30-, 45- and 60-minutes visits for pet sitting and mid-day dog walking based on your specific needs and our schedule availability.
Q: What are your office hours?
A: Our office hours are 8 a.m. through 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. All reservations must be made during this time frame. Only emergency messages for active pet-sitting jobs will be returned outside of these business hours. All other messages will be returned the next business day.
Q: What are your hours of operation for pet sitting?
A: Pet sitting visits will be conducted between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., seven days/week, 365 days per year. Morning dog visits will be conducted between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m., and evening dog visits will be conducted between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. Mid-day pet sitting visits will generally be conducted between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. depending on the time of the a.m. visit.
Cat sitting visits can be more flexible and will be conducted based on the number of visits requested.
Scheduling priority will be given to pet(s) requiring time-sensitive medications (i.e., insulin injections).
Q: What are your hours of operation for mid-day dog walking?
A: Walks are conducted between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Q: Do you come at a specific time each day?
A: Although every effort is made to come at the same time each day, we cannot guarantee an exact time due to traffic or other unforeseen incidents. At the time of the initial consultation, we will discuss a mutually agreed-upon time range for each scheduled visit that best suits the needs of your pet. This time range is no more than an hour, or a half hour for puppies, seniors and time-sensitive medication administration.
Q: What payment methods do you accept?
A: We currently accept checks and cash. A handling fee of $25 will be charged on all returned checks. A finance charge of 1.5% per week will be added to unpaid balances after 30 days. Checks should be made out to Sampson Smiles Pet Care LLC.
Q: When is payment due for pet sitting services?
A: All payment for pet sitting is due before your departure date either at the initial consultation or left in a designated area in your home prior to departure.
Q: When is payment due for mid-day dog walking?
A: Clients using our services on an as-needed basis, or less than 12 regularly-scheduled walks in a calendar month (i.e., one to two walks per week), will be billed at the end of the calendar month for walks conducted during that month and is due upon receipt.
Q: What is the Monthly Discount Plan?
A: A 10% discount is given to mid-day dog walking clients who need 12 or more walks per calendar month for at least two (2) consecutive months. Please call our office at 703-436-9490 to learn more.
Q: Do you provide as-needed mid-day dog walks?
A: Yes, walks can be provided on an as-needed basis during the mid-day dog walking hours of operation of Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and are based on walker availability and cannot be guaranteed. Walks needed outside of these hours are considered a pet-sitting service and may be subject to last-minute reservation fees.
Q: Do you require a minimum number of visits per day for pet sitting?
A: Yes, see below:
Cats: To ensure the proper monitoring of your cat’s safety and health, a minimum of one visit within a 24-hour period is required for all cat clients.
Dogs: A minimum of two 30-minute dog visits will be required within a 24-hour period. 20-minute pet sitting visits for dogs (i.e., potty breaks for seniors and puppies) must be combined with at least two 30- 45-, or 60-minute visits within a 24-hour period.
Q: How can I make a reservation?
A: Requests for new services, cancellations or changes to scheduled services and general communication to our office should be done any of the following ways:
Schedule tab in the Client Portal
Text: 703-436-1718 “text message only” phone number
Call the office at 703-436-9490
All new service requests will be confirmed with the client within 24 hours of receipt (or the next business day if received outside of the office hours of Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.) Acceptance of new service requests are based on sitter/walker availability; therefore, reservations should be made as much in advance as possible, particularly during the high-volume summer and holiday seasons.
Q: Do you use any kind of scheduling software?
A: Yes, we use a very comprehensive and secure program called Time to Pet for maintaining client and pet information and scheduling. Time to Pet also includes a client portal, and all new clients will be sent a Welcome email and portal instructions from Time to Pet to gain access to the portal. You will be required to review and electronically sign our Terms and Conditions prior to gaining access. In the portal, you will be able to request new reservations, cancel/change services, view scheduled services, revise client and pet information, send/receive messages to/from our office and view invoice information.
Q: Can I make a reservation through my sitter/walker?
A: No, all reservations must be made through our office.
Q: What are your cancellation policies for pet-sitting reservations?
A: Non-Holiday and Non-Summer Time Periods:
8 or more days’ notice for cancellation prior to reservation: FULL REFUND GIVEN TO CLIENT.
4-7 days’ notice for cancellation: 50% OF TOTAL FEE REFUNDED TO CLIENT.
3 or fewer days’ notice for cancellation: NO REFUND GIVEN TO CLIENT; FULL RESERVATION FEE WILL BE CHARGED TO CLIENT.
Over Major National Holidays and Summer Period Between May 1-Sept 10 or Pet Sitting Reservations Longer than 20 Days in Length:
15 or more days’ notice for cancellation prior to reservation: FULL REFUND GIVEN TO CLIENT.
7-14 days’ notice for cancellation: 50% OF TOTAL FEE REFUNDED TO CLIENT.
6 or fewer days’ notice for cancellation: NO REFUND GIVEN TO CLIENT; FULL RESERVATION FEE WILL BE CHARGED TO CLIENT.
Q: What if I return home early or need to depart later than planned?
A: Reservations are made to plan for sitter availability; therefore, early returns will not be refunded. Late departures are subject to the cancellation policies above.
Q: Do I need to contact you when I arrive home?
A: Yes, we will ask you to contact us by calling the office at 703-436-9490 or texting us at 703-436-1718 upon arriving home. If we are unable to confirm your arrival home within 12 to 24 hours after your scheduled return, a visit will be made to your home to ensure the safety and continued care of your pet. You will be charged the current rate for a standard 30-minute visit regardless of whether or not you are home.
Q: What is your cancellation policy for mid-day dog walking?
A: A message must be sent to our office by 8 a.m. on the morning of the scheduled walk to avoid being charged for that day’s walk (refunds are not provided under the Monthly Discount Plan). The best methods of communication are listed below:
Conversation tab in the Client Portal
Text: 703-436-1718 “text message only” phone number
Call the office at 703-436-9490
Q: What is your policy on terminating a monthly mid-day dog walking contract?
A: Clients are required to provide two (2) weeks’ notice to discontinue walking services. If two (2) weeks’ notice is not given, payment is required for what would have been the total of two (2) weeks’ regular walks at the full rate, unless termination is due to blatantly poor care/service from the walker for any reason.
Q: Do you conduct mid-day dog walking services on the holidays?
A: Yes, with the exception of the federal holidays listed below. In addition, due to the high volume of pet sitting during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, walks will only be provided for clients who are unable to be home during the days surrounding those holidays.
New Year’s Day
Q: Do you charge for last-minute reservations?
A: Yes, a $30 last-minute fee for any reservations that need to be set up with brand new sitters or walkers in less than 72 hours. We cannot guarantee the availability of our sitters for last-minute reservations.
Q: What are your severe weather policies for pet sitting services?
A: In the event of severe weather or a natural disaster, we will use our best judgement in caring for your pet and home. During the course of the initial consultation, you will be asked to provide a contact person(s) (neighbor, family member or friend) who is willing to take custody or provide temporary care of your pet should the sitter be unable to provide services due to inclement weather.
Q: What are your severe weather policies for mid-day dog walking services?
A: Mid-day dog walks will not be conducted if the City of Alexandria schools are closed due to severe/inclement weather. However, walks will be conducted as usual regardless of delayed openings.
Q: What do you do when there are extreme temperatures outside?
A: In the event of extreme temperatures or severe and hazardous weather conditions, our sitters/walkers will be directed to provide a potty break and spend the remainder of the visit playing with your pet indoors. These weather conditions include: temperatures exceeding 95 degrees, temperatures below 10 degrees, torrential or freezing rain, hail and when lighting is present.
Q: What will you do if my pet displays unexpected aggressive behavior while I am out of town?
A: Should we be unable to provide the necessary agreed-upon duties due to unexpected displays of aggression after pet sitting has begun (growling, bearing teeth, nipping, etc.), we will contact you immediately to discuss alternative care for your pet for the duration of your absence. The confirmed reservation payment amount is non-refundable.
Q: What if I get a new pet?
A: All additional pets, whether permanent or temporary, or any other changes in the originally agreed-upon scope of work (i.e., time range of visits, feeding, medication administration) will need to be discussed with us prior to the next set of scheduled visits/walks. A consultation meeting will need to be scheduled at no additional charge with the owner or a $15 charge with the assigned sitter/walker, if requested, at your home to meet the new pet and to ensure all revised care instructions have been collected. We reserve the right to deny services to the additional pet for any reason (i.e., history of aggression or biting).
Q: Are you willing to job share?
A: We prefer to be the sole caretaker of your pet(s) while you are out of town to enable us to take full responsibility of your pet(s) and be able to more closely monitor their health, safety and happiness while you are away. If you do wish for pet care to be split between us and a family member, friend or neighbor, you will be required to complete the Job Sharing Agreement prior to your departure indicating the contact information for those individuals and a clear outline, for all parties, who is responsible for what and when. We have the right to refuse services when job sharing is involved and will be agreed upon on a case-by-case basis.
Q: Do you charge extra for holidays?
A: Yes, a $25 one-time flat fee added for pet-sitting services scheduled during the following holidays:
Memorial Day weekend (Friday through Monday)
Independence Day week/weekend (TBD)
Labor Day weekend (Friday through Monday)
Thanksgiving week (Wednesday through Sunday)
Christmas/New Year’s (approximately December 20 through January 1)
Q: Do offer services for unsupervised outdoor access, such as dog doors?
A: Yes, with limitations. We are willing to provide services on a case-by-case basis for pets that are accustomed to having access to a fenced-in backyard via a dog door during the day. All dog doors must be closed at night. We will NOT provide services in the following situations:
Living exclusively outside
Kept exclusively in a garage
Cats allowed to roam free (except in the case of feral colonies)
Q: Do you use retractable leashes on dog walks?
A: No, in order to keep your pet safe and under control, we do not use retractable leashes. You will be asked to provide a non-retractable leash, but if one is not provided, the sitter/walker will be instructed to use a company-issued leash.
Q: Are dogs always kept on leash when walking?
A: Yes, in compliance with local leash laws, all dogs are kept on-leash when not on your property or in the absence of a fenced-in yard on your property. In order to maintain the maximum control and safety of your dog, we do not provide off-leash activities in designated dog parks.
Q: What happens if I forget to leave enough pet food or other supplies while I am out of town?
A: There is a $30 restocking fee, plus the cost of supplies (you will be provided with a receipt).