Share My Pet founders Lili Wenzel and David Johnson with their dogs Miss Muppet the border terrier and Snout the schoodle. Photo / Supplied
A pet-sharing platform that can be likened to Tinder, pairing dogs and their owners to petless people needing companionship, is growing throughout New Zealand.
Share My Pet, started by Nelson-based couple Lili Wenzel and David
Johnson, has more than 2800 Kiwis paying to use its platform that connects Kiwis with pet owners to forge relationships with the end goal of handing over their beloved pets.
The business was founded in 2018 and has 700 pet profiles listed on its site, about 85 per cent of those are of dogs, although cats, rabbits, llamas, horses, a bearded-dragon and guinea pigs are also listed for short-term care.
Share My Pet says Auckland’s North Shore could be considered the country’s most prolific dog-sharing area of the country, followed closely by Grey Lynn.
It has strong sharing circles across the country, including in Nelson, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown, Tauranga and Dunedin.
Literacy tutor by day, business owner by night, Wenzel says her platform was commonly used by the elderly seeking companionship after their own pets had passed away and students seeking stress-relieving company, as well as families who love animals but were unable to have their own pets due to renting or having busy work schedules.
“Share My Pet is about getting to know the pet owner, getting to know the pet.
“For me personally as a pet owner, I wouldn’t want to hand over my pet to an absolute stranger; I’d want to go on a couple of walks with them, explain how my digs react to certain situations and what their commands are, and really get to know each other so that one day they can have that relationship and the pet sharing can even become overnight,” Wenzel told the Herald.
It is initially free to create a profile about a pet or as a “pet borrower” on Share My Pet, but when it comes to connecting with others it costs $75 for one-year membership.
To “borrow” a pet you need to have a fully-fenced property and abide to the rule of keeping the pet on a lead at all times unless otherwise negotiated with the owner.
“We advise people to contact three to five people in their area and out of that there is a high rate of success. You meet up and match up in the real world and the whole business is built on the principles of trust and open communication.”
Some people had signed up to use the platform to arrange play dates with other dogs, while others use it as a way to keep their pets’ social life rich, says Wenzel.
“In the last two years we’ve seen an exponential increase in membership and usage of the website,” says architect Johnson.
Share My Pet says it facilitates the booking of about 50 doggy dates each week. And between 10-15 people were signing up on average each week.
“It is about forming a relationship with both the pet and the pet owners, their families, and bringing communities together,” says Wenzel.
“Initially when we started Share My Pet we were only thinking about those lonely or bored or energetic dogs that maybe get their one walk a day and could benefit from a second walk or some extra companionship, but one of the first things we realised was how connective it was for all the people surrounding that.”
Wenzel says Share My Pet relies on word of mouth for growth as the business could not yet afford advertising. About 80 per cent of its users are women.
She refers to the business as a “library for pets”.
The founders work on the business in their spare time around working full time, and are able to run the business remotely.
Some dogs on the platform go to doggy day care three times a week and have somebody sharing their pet twice a week, others are shared for holiday care when owners are away.
The platform has some sought-after pets on the site, including Wellington-based Timmy Gill, a “super social” Sydney silky, that has been shared around since the platform launched four years ago and has had three long-term carers.
Nelson-based Indy, a seven-year-old terrier cross, has also done the rounds and Jose the cavoodle, who joined Share My Pet as an 8-month-old puppy and is now 2 years old, is an incredibly well-socialised dog who has been shared with elderly people, families with young children and regularly goes to school.
The platform is popular with mainly smaller crossbreed dogs such a poodle crosses; snoodles and schnauzers and lots of cavoodles, particularly in the Auckland region, as well as Labradors, retrievers, collies, Malteses and the odd rottweiler.
Wenzel says the business took the safety of pets and carers seriously with the dogs listed on the site highly social. Each pet profile is vetted and ensured it clearly specifies if a pet is child and pet friendly, along with any existing medical conditions.
In the four years of operating there had been no safety incidents, except for in one instance when a shared dog had to take a unexpected trip to a vet after being fed bones. Share My Pet encourages its members to have pet insurance.
Wenzel says New Zealand was becoming “more dog friendly” and the pet-sharing movement popular in Europe was picking up in popularity in New Zealand. She has loved that Share My Pet was enabling the love of pets to be shared around.
“I’ve broken into happy tears several times, especially when elderly people are involved – I love the thought of being part of mending a broken heart or helping people’s mental health.”
‘Pet sharing helped my mental health’
Nelson-based teacher Becks Hide has been using Share My Pet for three years, and regularly borrows dogs to bring them into the classroom for her students to enjoy.
The Waimea Intermediate School teacher used to bring her own jack russell into the classroom before she passed away last year, and then began borrowing dogs to bring them in two to three times a week.
Hide has recently got a puppy and brings it to school with her each day, and will in the future list her on Share My Pet.
“It has been an amazing experience for kids in the class,” says Hide.
“It has made a massive difference to a number of students, especially the most vulnerable students in the class.
“It is interesting to watch the dogs that come in, they gravitate to students that need it the most. They don’t distract the students and the students take care and clean up after the dogs when we go for walks.”
When her own dog died, Hide got more involved in looking after other people’s dogs.
“When I lost my jack russell, she was 17 years old, I was devastated and to be able to still be able to have doggy cuddles from other people’s dogs and help them made that time a lot more bearable. My wee dog, she went everywhere with me, so to be able to tap into Share My Pet after losing a dog has helped me through some tough days.”
Hide says Share My Pet had helped her mental health and she had seen the difference the dogs had made for her students, and others using the platform.
“My mental health and the children’s mental health has hugely improved.”
“Lili’s whole concept brought to the classroom the opportunity for the kids to have some time with a dog – it is a fantastic.”