CHICAGO - A Chicago woman is warning pet owners who use popular apps to hire dog walkers and pet sitters.
Nia Morgan's dog has been missing for a month after she hired a pet sitter on the Rover app.
"I want people to be aware of the type of people who can be on sites like this," she said.
It was Morgan's first time using the app. In addition to meeting with the woman she hired, she also left her dog with her for a trial run.
"I left on vacation and got these updates from her every single day just saying how he was doing. He was going on walks. He was meeting people. He didn't like this food so she wanted to give him chicken and rice. Just all these very detailed updates," said Morgan. "It wasn't until I arrived back that I realized she had been lying the whole time."
The day before Morgan arrived home, the pet sitter said the dog had gotten loose and run away in Waukegan. The dog was supposed to remain in Chicago. Morgan soon discovered the dog hadn't been missing for 24 hours, but five days, nearly her entire trip. Then, something even more unsettling. She says a Google search of the sitter turned up a criminal background.
"There's a variety of different charges; hostage, robbery, car theft. It's an ongoing list and it's shocking," Morgan said.
FOX 32 reached out to Rover and they provided a statement. Morgan doesn't want the name of her dog released so we are concealing that information in the statement.
"As pet parents ourselves, we join xxx's family in hoping for a swift and safe return home. The safety and wellbeing of the pets in our community is a top priority. This situation is uncommon and we take it very seriously.
"Following our investigation into this incident, we have removed this sitter from our community. All sitters who list their services on Rover must have their profiles approved by a member of our team and pass a safety quiz and background check. We are thoroughly investigating how the background check provided to us by a third party failed to address these troubling issues, and we’re committed to improving our internal process based on the results of that review.
To aid in the search, we have offered a reward, posted in online pet-locating websites, and have been in regular contact with xxx's family, providing our support and best practices to try to bring him home."
The founder of Lost Dogs Illinois, Susan Taney, shared advice for pet owners who hire a pet sitter. She recommends asking for and calling references, as well as drawing up a contract with instructions, updating the pet's microchip information and ID tags, using two leashes, and checking your gates and fences to make sure they are shut and locked before you leave.
Morgan launched a website for people to contact her and report tips on the sighting of her dog. You can find it at bringthepuphome.com.