Dog breaks a thing at dogsitter's. Now what?
April 29, 2016 3:51 AM   Subscribe

I agreed to look after a dog for 24h. Got paid but the whole deal was informal. The dog broke my laptop (cheapo, thank heavens) while goofing around and being playful and loveable. Local (Dutch) laws about this are messy and eg insurance companies in previous cases seem to disagree on who's liable. What to do?

The laptop was on a side table and the dog knocked it on the floor. The screen died beyond repair.

Emotional facts clouding my thinking: the dog in question is neglected and understimulated to the point of problem behaviour (which was plain to see, but I also heard confirmed by a mutual acquaintance.) I would love to have him here more often just to be sure he's not left alone for whole days and is getting enough love, care, training and exercise. I want to avoid a big fight about this for that reason but OTOH, the cost of a new laptop is not insignificant to us right now.

The owner says he will consult a lawyer friend and get back to me. He seems to suspect me of lying about this, which... I'm trying not to take personally. Sigh.

The dogsitting was arranged via Pawshake but since he needed to pay in cash (due to credit issues?) the booking wasn't done through the site, so whatever their rules are, I guess they don't apply here. I'm not a professional petsitter.

I'm pretty sure whatever home insurance we have won't cover a penny. Don't know about his but having glanced at legal precedents, they'll probably balk, too. So it'll be down to me and/or him reaching into their pocket. Dutch law says the owner's liable for the damage caused by dogs even when they're not present, but even an informal petsitting arrangement makes it murky, and it has been argued both ways.

Help me think through this! What's fair? How should I approach this? What would you do or how have you settled similar disagreements?
posted by sively to Human Relations (23 answers total)
 
What's fair?

Honestly, in my book the dog's owner should not be on the hook for this at all. You left your laptop within the dog's reach, and then the dog damaged it in the regular course of being a dog. Dogs are going to dog and it's the human's responsibility to keep valuables out of the dog's reach.

How should I approach this?

As a valuable, expensive lesson to be more careful with your possessions. (No judgment at all from me - last month my dog knocked my laptop into the bathtub and it shorted out - but that was 50% my fault for watching Mad Men in the bathtub and 50% my fault for letting my big oaf of a dog into the bathroom while my $1200 laptop was balanced precariously next to the tub.)
posted by schroedingersgirl at 4:10 AM on April 29, 2016 [118 favorites]


I don't think this is a law issue per se. And this is more of a US take on the situation, informed by my countless hours of watching The People's Court and Judge Judy.

Animals can't form intent, so it's not the animal's fault. Basically dogs are gonna dog. So things that get broken by an animal have to be chalked up to "The person didn't take adequate precautions to keep a rambunctious animal from causing damage."

You were charged with the dog's care. As a pet sitter, you're technically someone who purports to have expertise in handling animals and should be managing the animal such that it's not bouncing all over the house leaving broken crockery in its wake.

I'm sorry, but this one is on you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:11 AM on April 29, 2016 [32 favorites]


I don't understand why any home insurance you have won't cover it? It is accidental loss... Might not be worth filing but you should investigate your insurance options. That's what it's there for.
posted by pearlybob at 4:18 AM on April 29, 2016 [5 favorites]


I might not involve insurance for a couple of reasons:

1. Your deductible may be higher than the cost of replacing the computer

2. Since you were pet sitting, it's an occupational loss, not a homeowners loss.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:22 AM on April 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


Agree with above assessments that it's your fault. If you have contents insurance with accidental damage cover, can you just put in a claim for that? "Laptop was accidentally knocked onto floor". Bare in mind that if it's a cheapo one, making a claim may not be great in the long run due to the excess and your premium will probably go up.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:22 AM on April 29, 2016


Pearlybob, in previous cases home insurance companies have argued that the owner of the pet is always liable for damages caused by it (by Dutch law) and thus refused to cover.
posted by sively at 4:25 AM on April 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sively, does the owner not have Aansprakelijkheidsverzekering? They should cover, in that case, or?
posted by frumiousb at 4:36 AM on April 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Your inboedelverzekering would likely cover this, maybe with an eigen risico of 100 euros or something like that. No need to tell them about the dog. Anything that breaks inside the house no matter what reason will be insured (at least that's how I understand how insurance works here but I might be wrong).
posted by Kosmob0t at 4:44 AM on April 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


If this happened to me I would never imagine even mentioning it to the dog owner. It's got nothing to do with him.
posted by kbanas at 5:39 AM on April 29, 2016 [11 favorites]


I don't think the owner should pay anything. You left it out, and the dog owner could not possibly know or influence what your house is like. What if you'd chosen to leave a fabrige egg out on your table, and a dog pushed it over and it broke?
posted by ethidda at 5:40 AM on April 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


Even through the loud gnashing of my teeth, I hear you guys. I was probably subconsciously motivated to punish this guy for the shabby way he's been treating his dog. It's hard to do right by someone you dislike! (Although I have to say, my whole life I have always unquestioningly paid for any damages caused by my pets. I'll adjust that assumption from now on, too.)

I will look deeper into the insurance aspect of this, though.

Thanks everyone!
posted by sively at 6:00 AM on April 29, 2016 [10 favorites]


The owner says he will consult a lawyer friend and get back to me. He seems to suspect me of lying about this, which...

Welcome to the Dutch and their manner of dealing with legal issues. Everyone seems to have a "lawyer friend" to consult when things get [a little off] nasty. Nobody trusts anybody else telling the truth very much either, and if it's only when you cancel a kopje koffie togethertje because you've got a cold.

Ok, that said...
I'm pretty sure whatever home insurance we have won't cover a penny.
What prevents you from calling them and asking? Don't wait for the 'lawyer friend' to come and sell you some lawyerfriendy stuff that you likely can't trust to be true. Find out what your rights are.

Ok, and THAT said, IF your insurance doesn't pay,
The laptop was on a side table and the dog knocked it on the floor.

if I was dog sitting an under stimulated goofy dog, i would pock my valuables away, hands down. Own your part of the responsibility in this. It sucks, agreed.
posted by Namlit at 6:02 AM on April 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


What prevents you from calling them and asking?

I am not an insurance expert, nor am I Dutch, but I have heard of cases in the UK where someone called their insurance company and asked "hey I damaged this thing, is it worth me making a claim?" and then didn't make a claim, but the insurance company recorded the accident anyway and put their premium up despite no claim being made. It makes sense from an insurer's POV after all, if you've had one accident you're likely to have more. So be careful.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:48 AM on April 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Although I have to say, my whole life I have always unquestioningly paid for any damages caused by my pets. I'll adjust that assumption from now on, too.

I think the damages should be the responsibility of the person responsible for the animal. If your pets are in your charge when they damage something, it's still on you. If someone else is watching them, then adjust accordingly. And if the pets in your care are consistently damaging others' property, that seems like something you should pay attention to, because this shouldn't be a theme in your life.
posted by Kriesa at 7:13 AM on April 29, 2016 [8 favorites]


Well, I paid for the phone cord my rat chewed through 23 years ago, the curtains my cat tore 12 years ago, and offered to pay for cleaning the rug my puppy shat on 2 years ago, all while in the care of others. So it's hardly a theme, just a thing you sign up for when you have pets. At least that's what I thought, until now.

I just don't want any other answers getting too sidetracked by the idea that I'm habitually irresponsible with pets. Carry on!
posted by sively at 7:55 AM on April 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you were paying someone to care for your rat, etc, it would really be their responsibility to take care of those charges. If a friend or acquaintance was doing you a favor by caring for the animals and it wasn't their "job" caring for pets, I would say it your responsibility.
posted by ReluctantViking at 8:12 AM on April 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Kindly, from the dog owner's perspective... The cost of a dog sitting has now ballooned to the cost of a laptop because the dog sitter (you) were careless with something expensive. The owner is being very calm and polite. Do not expect to hear back about the laptop or have them contact you again for dog sitting. I reckon they'll be inclined to simply stay away from you from here on out.

Hey.... Your judgement about this dog and dog owner is both unfair and overstepping boundaries. You can't hope to stay in this dog's life and get paid for dog sitting services because you judge the dog is neglected. Typically, people don't hire folks who think poorly of them. Ditto involving a mutual acquaintance, because now you have gossiped about this person you are expecting to pay you, too. Gossip always gets back to people.

I think you can salvage this by publicly taking responsibility for your laptop (tell the dog owner directly + casually mention to the mutual friend that you realize its your responsibility and you feel badly you mentioned it at all) and then cross your fingers no one mentions or repeats your judgey gossipy comments.
posted by jbenben at 8:12 AM on April 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


a thing you sign up for when you have pets. At least that's what I thought, until now.

Absolutely. And as the person charged with the care of the pets, you are the ones responsible for what they do during that time. So you paying for the things you paid for and the dog owner not paying for the laptop are actually consistent applications of the same principle.
posted by jessamyn at 8:28 AM on April 29, 2016 [9 favorites]


Well, I paid for the phone cord my rat chewed through 23 years ago, the curtains my cat tore 12 years ago, and offered to pay for cleaning the rug my puppy shat on 2 years ago, all while in the care of others.

To me, those seem like different situations from this, because the animals actively did a thing to those particular items, two of which were attached to the household landscape and could not have been removed easily.

In this case, the dog didn't actively take the laptop in his mouth and drop it; the laptop was an unfortunate bystander to rowdy dog behaviour, and could have been removed to a safer place. If he had knocked a glass of water over with his tail, would you also have felt that was the owner's responsibility, or yours for having left the glass within tail's reach?
posted by redsparkler at 9:35 AM on April 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


To me, those seem like different situations from this, because the animals actively did a thing to those particular items, two of which were attached to the household landscape and could not have been removed easily.

While different, I still think the caregiver was responsible. Rats chew. Either watch them closely or confine them; otherwise, expect to find something chewed. Cats claw things, especially in unfamiliar surroundings. That risk is kind of built in to cat-sitting. Puppy pooping is a toss up depending on how old the puppy was and if the pet sitter had reason to believe that he was fully house trained and hadn’t left him too long without an outdoor break. But I’d still say that risk goes with agreeing to pet-sit.
posted by Kriesa at 10:03 AM on April 29, 2016


Do you have to tell the insurance company exactly how the laptop fell on the floor?
posted by rpfields at 12:44 PM on April 29, 2016


Act of dog. Sorry.

Also sorry to hear that the owner of this dog is an asshole. I understand your desire to somehow take revenge on him. Unfortunately, it sounds like even if you succeeded, the dog would probably take the blame (however that manifested itself).

Maybe work out an arrangement where you keep the dog as payment?
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:25 PM on May 2, 2016


I am not a lawyer, and I am absolutely not a Dutch lawyer.

I think, morally, you should be compensated for your laptop at least in part. Putting a laptop on an end table is not inherently risky, and since you were asked to dogsit for a full 24 hours, it would be expected for you to bring your personal property to the workplace. Owning a pet is not a right (I am not familiar with Dutch laws). Asking someone, clearly informally, to watch a dog should mean that the pet's owner is still responsible for the pet, only except in cases where the sitter is negligent or the inciting factor. Morally, in my estimation, this is not different from a dog chewing up the dogsitter's shoes in the middle of the night: The dogsitter was not negligent with respect to their property, and the dog did a dog thing.

What concerns me is that this arrangement was made outside of the website. Being the somewhat suspicious person I am, it seems to me that the pet owner knew that the dog was unpredictably rambunctious, and deliberately sought out informal hires of pet sitters in order to evade any responsibility for damage caused.
posted by clorox at 2:10 AM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


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