Sophoullis Kyriacou, a 54-year-old from Birmingham, needed to take his daughter Nikki to hospital in January this year, so asked friend Victoria Powles to take care of his Pug, Neville (not pictured). Unfortunately, while she was supposed to be caring for the dog, he escaped, and was found dead beside a motorway. Powles has been ordered to pay Kyriacou £1,000 in compensation.
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According to the Telegraph, the county court in Burnley heard how Powles sent Kyriacou a picture of the dog every day 11.15am, to reassure him that the dog was safe and well. On the fourth day she was caring for Neville, Kyriacou received his usual 11.15 photo. However, by that time he claims, Neville had already been missing for over an hour. She only broke the news to the owner nine hours later, and shortly afterwards the dog was found dead near the M65.
The Sun reported that Powles told the court that the dog had actually gone missing shortly after the photo had been sent, and she waited to break the news because she didn't want to bother them in hospital.
However, the court heard that Kyriacou had been horribly upset by the news. He said "I took it to the court as we were so devastated. It wasn't about the money - it was justice for Neville. I brought him up and he was with me all the time. Being a carer for my late wife was hard work, but if you were having a bad day he could make you feel good. For such a small dog he had such a big character - he became my best buddy."
The judge awarded him £1,000.
What you need to know
Dog sitting is an increasingly popular way for people to make money working for themselves. With 24% of the UK population owning a dog, there are plenty of people who work all day, or go away for periods of time, who are prepared to pay someone to look after their pet.
If you make money on the side by caring for people's pets, this case is a useful reminder that you do need to take precautions. Not only do you need to ensure that you are caring for them in a safe environment, but also that you have liability insurance that will kick in if something goes wrong.
There are a number of franchises that will pay for this cover, as well as pet insurance and a vet helpline - in return for a cut of any money you make. However, it is perfectly possible to arrange these things yourself for a fraction of the cost.
If you are caring for animals on a smaller scale, and working on an informal basis for friends, then it's still worth getting insurance. At the very least, you need to agree up-front with your friends how you intend to work. They should see the space where the dog is being kept, and agree things such as whether it will be exercised off the lead, and whether you will send photos of how they are getting on. You also need to agree what will happen if the animal falls ill, and what you will do if there is an accident.
It may seem like a pessimistic conversation to have - especially when someone is about to leave their beloved pet with you - but as this case shows, it's absolutely essential if you are to avoid running into problems if something goes wrong.