Chilliwack family laments leaving puppy with Rover pet sitter after dog escapes and is hit by car

A Chilliwack family's dream vacation is now mostly a nightmare four days after learning their 10-month-old puppy, Frankie, had been hit by a car while running away from the sitter hired through the online platform Rover. 

The white and brown pitbull is believed to be alive but frightened somewhere in Chilliwack after being spotted on the loose Thursday night.

Speaking from Mexico, Kim Levinsky choked back sobs as she described the ordeal.

"This really sucks. I have young kids and they're in love with [Frankie] and this has been very horrible."

Levinsky said the dog sitter called on Monday, Nov. 11 to say Frankie was gone just as the family was leaving to catch their flight to Mexico and only 30 minutes after the dog had been dropped off. 

"We were literally on our way out the door and it was the dog sitter saying it was an emergency, that our dog had jumped over the fence ... and she had seen her get hit by a car."

Kim Levinsky

The family dropped everything to organize friends and family to search for the dog. As the clock ticked down to their departure time, they came to a difficult decision.

"We made the call to still go on our trip," said Levinsky. "We had been planning it for a year and have spent a lot of money. So we're here now, but it's been obviously hard to enjoy with all this happening."

Levinsky said her five-year-old daughter spent the first two days of the vacation crying, while she and her husband have been doing what they can to help organize a small army of volunteers back home.

Believing Frankie to be injured, terrified and hiding, they also hired a pet search expert and bloodhound at the cost of $1,200, with no luck.

Levinsky said Rover has refused to reimburse the $1,200, even though its guarantee states the company "...reimburses members of our community for costs arising from certain injuries or damages that occur during a service booked and paid through Rover."

The company did send posters to the Chilliwack Staples outlet which were picked up and distributed by the dog sitter.

Rover claims to be largest dog-sitting platform in the world, boasting about more personalized care than a kennel, and dog sitters "you can trust" that have been "hand-reviewed and approved by the Rover team."

However, when it comes to liability, like UBER, Airbnb and other gig economy platforms, those offering services on Rover are considered self-employed sole proprietors, not employees of the company. That means the Levinskys may have to sue the dog sitter to recover damages.

The Levinsky's followed Rover's recommendation and did a site visit to the sitter's home in advance of booking the service, finding it suitable for their dog.

But as it turns out, one part of the backyard fence escaped their notice.

"I saw a high fence and I commented to [the sitter] oh good, you have a high fence because my dog is a jumper. And she said yeah it's fine. But I guess there's a part of the fence that we didn't see that is only five feet tall and that's where she escaped."

In a statement, Rover told CBC the sitter's account had been "paused" and "our 24/7 Trust and Safety team will conduct an investigation."

Levinsky said she chose Rover over Frankie's usual kennel because she felt it would be a better experience for the energetic and friendly puppy.

She never imagined how things would turn out.

"Since [Frankie went missing], I've heard other people have had these issues with Rover. So I obviously regret sending her there."