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Pet Owners Blame Popular App In Deaths Of 4-Legged Friends

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Many people will turn to apps this holiday season like Rover to find a pet-sitter. But just how well are those sitters screened?

Last August, Lauren Astore and her boyfriend Jason Richardson booked boarding services through Rover, an online marketplace for pet services, for their two Pomeranians while they took a European vacation.

Less than a day into their vacation, one of the dogs died in the care of the sitter.

The sitter then took the dog the crematorium before anyone contacted Astore and Richardson.

"Who would just go send someone like a family member to just burn, you know, without even contacting anyone," said Richardson.

At the crematorium, the dog's body was frozen so the necropsy (an animal autopsy) was inconclusive.

But, it did show that there was nothing wrong with the dog's heart or any of her organs.

"I felt like I'm missing a part of my family," said Astore.

Yasmyn Andrade left her dog, a Chihuahua named Toby, in the care of another sitter this summer.

Less than 24 hours into her vacation, Andrade says the sitter brought Toby to a downtown unenclosed park and let him off the leash. He ran into rush-hour traffic and was struck and killed.

Andrade says she was very specific with the sitter that Toby should never be off leash.

"I felt guilty for leaving him with someone that let him die," she said. "I felt betrayed because I was very clear in my instructions on how to take care of my dog."

Susie Singer-Carter says she was also very clear about her dog, Twiggy's health issues with her Rover sitter. In a text exchange, the sitter said she was comfortable exchanging medication. Twiggy died in that sitter's care.

"I said, 'What happened? Was she breathing heavy throughout the night?' [She said], 'A little bit.' [I said], 'Well, why didn't you call me? I told you if there is any issue, that you could call me. I have family in LA. They could have come pick her up,' " Singer-Carter said.

Attorney Jill Ryther now represents Astore and Richardson. She says she has already settled two separate cases where the dogs also died in the care of a Rover sitter.

"And in both cases, we encountered a very similar hurdle which is Rover wanting to pay hush money and settle these cases quickly and have the client sign a very strict confidentiality policy," she said.

Rover claims that it only accepts 20 percent of potential sitters, and that all new sitters pass a basic background check.

But all four of the individuals CBS Los Angeles interviewed expressed that they felt as though the vetting process isn't strict enough.

"Access to a sitter is great but what good is it if the sitter is incapable of taking care of your pet so much so that your pets are dying," said Andrade.

CBS Los Angeles reached out to Rover and they tell us they only approve 20 percent of the sitters who apply to be on the platform.

The company says it hand reviews every profile but admits that it does not verify any of the claims that the sitters put in those profiles, nor does it meet with the sitters in-person.

The company investigated the cases mentioned in this story. But of the three sitters, only one was removed from Rover. The other two, Rover says, were not to blame in the dogs' deaths.


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