Unite. 

The Pet Industry Coalition was formed in response to the lack of standards and regulations in the pet care industry. The PIC is comprised of several prominent dog walking companies that have banned together to standardize an otherwise unregulated industry.

Educate.

We are dedicated to educating and helping other companies abide by local and federal laws/ordinances. The PIC believes that doing things lawfully does not have to mean being put out of business.

Advocate.

Join us in our mission of advocating for uniformity and fair and equal business practices.

 
 
 
 

Our Mission

The Pet Industry Coalition was founded by five prominent pet sitting and dog walking companies looking to create high-quality practice standards and an even playing field in what is currently a largely unregulated industry.

In today’s market, large, multi-million dollar players are gaining traction, taking opportunities from small hard-working businesses. Not only that, but these companies are also shining a spotlight on the pet care industry – and not in a positive light. For these companies to make the most money, they are employing independent contractors rather than employees. This brings into question: are they following the law as far as how they train and manage their workers?

Until now, many dog walking and pet sitting companies have flown under the IRS radar, operating in an employer-employee structure but classifying their workers as ICs. There are some business owners who simply do not know the differences, but there are also companies who knowingly misclassify their workers thinking they are too small for the IRS to flag, while other companies are willing to take the risk.

As these national pet care companies attract negative attention for their costly mistakes, the IRS is taking note of our industry. For this reason, it’s important that we are all classifying our workers correctly. The Pet Industry Coalition is here to help you through these tough questions and help you become compliant before the IRS flags your company. Together, we can form a unified bond to keep the quality of care in our industry at the highest level.

Are you Compliant?

To know whether or not you are classifying your workers correctly, think about the following questions:

·       Do you offer training for your staff?

·       Does your staff perform work in accordance with your guidelines?

·       Do you tell your workers where to go?

·       Do you tell your workers what time they need to be at a job?

OR

·       Do your workers own their own companies and contract themselves out to you and/or other companies?

·       Do your workers define their own way of performing work?

·       Do your workers accept and decline jobs, as well as set their own hours?

 
 
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Audit True Story

"I was audited by the Illinois Department of Revenue for employing 1099s instead of employees. They were generous to me and significantly lowered my fines but I still owed $10,000 due immediately.”

— David B, Chicago petcare owner

 

If you are an owner who is intending to create practices that each worker must adhere to, you will likely prepare a how-to manual that details how you would like your company representatives to perform. You may think about having your workers sign a non-compete agreement so that they remain loyal to your company, and you may expect they them to work with you on a continual basis so you can offer your clients a consistent walker or sitter. This is the set up for an employee-employer relationship.

If, on the other hand, you are comfortable with allowing staff to run independently with little oversight, the alternative is to operate similar to that of an agency, connecting independent dog walkers and pet sitters (who operate like independent businesses) with customers for short-term contracts. Each worker would define their own rules as to how the walks and pet sits are performed, and they would be liable for purchasing their own equipment and filing self-employment taxes. This is the set up for employing independent contractors.

The consequence of misclassifying your workers is a pricey one. If after an extensive audit (where you will need to comb through all of your payroll financials) the IRS finds you in violation, you will be liable for three years of all workers’ back taxes, plus a steep fine.

We’re here to help you avoid that costly mistake and ensure that your company is accurately classifying your workers. While there are upfront costs to change over your workers from ICs to employees, the price of misclassification is much greater.

 
 
 

Members-Take Action

Welcome to your personal guide on how to become legally compliant. Whether you just started a business, are well-established or just looking for information on misclassification, we can help. 

Have you been classifying your walkers as 1099s and want to see the potential penalties you face? Check out our misclassification calculator below:

 
 
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THINKING ABOUT STARTING A PETCARE COMPANY?

Congratulations on this momentous step! This is the perfect time to focus on setting up your business in a legally compliant manner. Most new business owners are on a small budget, so it is not always necessary to hire an attorney to go through the proper steps for business formation.

For your convenience, we included the PIC’s recommended business formation steps below:

 
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ALREADY STARTED BUT WANT TO BECOME LEGALLY COMPLIANT?

We know that switching from 1099 contractors to employees is an arduous and daunting process. We are here to help you with a few simple steps.

 
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WELL-ESTABLISHED BUT WANT TO COVER YOUR TRACKS?

We know that change is hard and even more difficult to try to understand how to operate your well-established business differently than you have in the past.

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MisClassification

Interested in more information on employee misclassification? Check out our thorough guide to all things compliance. 

Lauren C-Legal and Business Structure   Lauren started one of  Chicago’s largest dog walking companies  in 2009, Dogs Deserve It, with a focus on accountability, professionalism and legal compliance. She grew the company from 1 employee to boasting over 50 and is looked at as one of the industries’ foremost experts on running dog walking businesses of scale.

Lauren C-Legal and Business Structure

Lauren started one of Chicago’s largest dog walking companies in 2009, Dogs Deserve It, with a focus on accountability, professionalism and legal compliance. She grew the company from 1 employee to boasting over 50 and is looked at as one of the industries’ foremost experts on running dog walking businesses of scale.

Julia R-Pet Industry Marketing & Branding Expert   Julia knows it takes a deep, personal touch to keep dogs and their pet owners happy because she was a dog mom first to one very deserving-of-love guy named Chauncey Billups Vanderhoff. It was this chance to nurture and better his life that steered her towards motherhood. Now she is a mom to another little guy, her son Archie and is expecting her second child this November. She's a pet industry entrepreneur, creating Rover-Time Dog Walking & Pet Sitting in 2012 because she also loves working with responsible pet owners. While she manages the company's overall success, her team of well-trained pet professionals deliver Rover-Time’s services across Chicago.

Julia R-Pet Industry Marketing & Branding Expert

Julia knows it takes a deep, personal touch to keep dogs and their pet owners happy because she was a dog mom first to one very deserving-of-love guy named Chauncey Billups Vanderhoff. It was this chance to nurture and better his life that steered her towards motherhood. Now she is a mom to another little guy, her son Archie and is expecting her second child this November. She's a pet industry entrepreneur, creating Rover-Time Dog Walking & Pet Sitting in 2012 because she also loves working with responsible pet owners. While she manages the company's overall success, her team of well-trained pet professionals deliver Rover-Time’s services across Chicago.

Dana D-Staffing and Human Resources   Dana Dubriwny started Chicago Pet Sitters in 2005, when she recognized a need in the market for quality pet care. Today, Chicago Pet Sitters employs 30 animal caregivers and is recognized as one of the highest-rated mid-size dog walking and pet care companies in the city of Chicago.  With the pet care industry plagued with high turnover, Dana has most recently shifted her focus to employee retention. Through the use of better communication tools to connect her employees out in the field, along with several education and incentive programs to keep her staff engaged, she has seen her turnover rates fall to an all-time low. Dana is now eager to share her employment-success tips with members of the Pet Industry Coalition who may be struggling with turnover.

Dana D-Staffing and Human Resources

Dana Dubriwny started Chicago Pet Sitters in 2005, when she recognized a need in the market for quality pet care. Today, Chicago Pet Sitters employs 30 animal caregivers and is recognized as one of the highest-rated mid-size dog walking and pet care companies in the city of Chicago.

With the pet care industry plagued with high turnover, Dana has most recently shifted her focus to employee retention. Through the use of better communication tools to connect her employees out in the field, along with several education and incentive programs to keep her staff engaged, she has seen her turnover rates fall to an all-time low. Dana is now eager to share her employment-success tips with members of the Pet Industry Coalition who may be struggling with turnover.


 
David B-Small Business Advisor   Growing up in Colorado, I’ve always had a passion for dogs and the great outdoors. In a way, dog walking allows me to combine both into one amazing job! Post-college, I moved to the big city and started my career in finance. After several forgettable years, I decided it was time to follow my heart and leave the financial markets in the rearview mirror. In early 2012, I founded Field Days Dog Walking and haven’t looked back!  I’m also a long-term Associate Board member for a local dog rescue organization, One Tail at a Time. Our board focuses on fundraising efforts, event planning, and outreach. As part of the Pet Industry Coalition, my focus is on small-to-medium sized business operations and implementing software-based systems for human resources and financials.

David B-Small Business Advisor

Growing up in Colorado, I’ve always had a passion for dogs and the great outdoors. In a way, dog walking allows me to combine both into one amazing job! Post-college, I moved to the big city and started my career in finance. After several forgettable years, I decided it was time to follow my heart and leave the financial markets in the rearview mirror. In early 2012, I founded Field Days Dog Walking and haven’t looked back!

I’m also a long-term Associate Board member for a local dog rescue organization, One Tail at a Time. Our board focuses on fundraising efforts, event planning, and outreach. As part of the Pet Industry Coalition, my focus is on small-to-medium sized business operations and implementing software-based systems for human resources and financials.

Katie P-Operations  Katie Pape is the Owner and Founder of a Chicago based Dog Walking company, Windy City Paws, Inc. Founded in 2009, Katie started the company doing all of the dogs walks herself. She now employs 6 office staff members and approximately 75 dog walkers! Windy City Paws has proudly retained a 5 star Yelp and Google rating and won Chicago Reader’s “Best Dog Walker” award in 2017.  Katie is proud to be a Founding Member of the Pet Industry Coalition. She specializes in helping PIC members with any questions and concerns regarding operations for larger pet care businesses. Managing a large staff at Windy City Paws uniquely qualifies Katie to help with staff and office organization and roles.

Katie P-Operations
Katie Pape is the Owner and Founder of a Chicago based Dog Walking company, Windy City Paws, Inc. Founded in 2009, Katie started the company doing all of the dogs walks herself. She now employs 6 office staff members and approximately 75 dog walkers! Windy City Paws has proudly retained a 5 star Yelp and Google rating and won Chicago Reader’s “Best Dog Walker” award in 2017.

Katie is proud to be a Founding Member of the Pet Industry Coalition. She specializes in helping PIC members with any questions and concerns regarding operations for larger pet care businesses. Managing a large staff at Windy City Paws uniquely qualifies Katie to help with staff and office organization and roles.

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Case Studies

Below is a factual accounting from an established business owner that was audited for misclassifying.

“I started my dog walking business in early 2012. In response to consistent growth, I needed to add dog walkers by the end of the calendar year. Without doing much research, I quickly decided to “hire” my first dog walkers as independent contractors. This seemed to be the logical solution: it was commonplace amongst peers, quick & easy to complete (minimal paperwork), and most importantly, it was cost-effective for a new business owner.

Fast-forward to fall 2015 – I have 8 people on my team, all classified as independent contractors. One of them resigned (on good terms) due to an upcoming move to the east coast, and in the meantime, decided to file for unemployment benefits.  As business owners, we all know ICs cannot receive unemployment benefits, but this obviously does not prevent them from trying (filing). Unsurprisingly, her attempt was denied since she resigned, but shortly thereafter, the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) sent me a letter with a lengthy questionnaire about my business operations. After returning the questionnaire, I received a follow-up phone call from IDES essentially confirming my answers were correct & truthful.

Within a couple of weeks, I received the bad news: my business was chosen to be audited by IDES. The in-person meeting was scheduled at IDES’ downtown office and I was required to bring along 3 years of worker pay records, tax returns, complete financial reports, and city license certificates. The auditor went through my papers for several hours and asked for clarification on multiple occasions. He then left the room for thirty minutes or so. He returned with the IDES final determination and rundown of next steps for me and my business.

In summary, IDES determined my dog walkers were/are treated as employees and therefore considered misclassified. Fortunately, my auditor reported the misclassification of workers as non-malicious & unintentional. Had he felt I knew the law and purposefully misclassified my staff, there would have been significant fines attached…and potentially losing the right-to-do business in the State of Illinois. Despite the sliver of good news, the determination still required me to pay all unemployment insurance contribution tax for 3 years plus interest. For new businesses in Illinois, this rate is approximately 4% of all workers’ pay. The interest rate is 2% per month (24% per year), which goes back as much as 3 years for some of the unpaid taxes. Finally, I had 30 days to reclassify my workers as employees by filing the necessary paperwork, setting up the unemployment insurance account with IDES, setting up the state & federal tax accounts for payroll taxes, and getting workers comp, etc.”

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More Case Studies:

Audit: A $60K Mistake That Rattled This Pet Sitting Businesses Structure.

Pet Sitter Audit: Investigation Due To Company Collecting Money, Not The Independent Contractor.

Pet Sitting IRS Audit Costing estimated $25K!

Pet Sitter Audit on Home Expenses and Mileage Reports

What Every Pet Sitter Should Know Before They Have Employees Or Independent Contractors