Vanessa Sorace, owner of Zoo Sitters LLC in Cape May Court House, has been named Pet Sitters International's 2012 Pet Sitter of the Year. This award is presented annually to one pet sitter who embodies the passion and professionalism of the pet-sitting industry.
Created by Pet Sitters International (PSI) in 1995, the Pet Sitter of the Year designation is considered the pet-sitting industry's highest honor. The 2012 selection process brought in more than 360 nominations for professional pet sitters across the United States.
Sorace received her bachelor's degree in psychology with a concentration in animal behavior and worked as a zoo keeper, caring for a variety of exotics including monkeys, lemurs, bats, bears and large cats. Her zoo experience included an internship at the Philadelphia Zoo as well as working as a keeper in the Lied Jungle - America's largest indoor rainforest - at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha, Neb.
Sorace said she was looking for a career change and totally switched gears, pursued her MBA to go the corporate route as a national accounts manager.
"Being a zookeeper is really labor intensive and can be quite dangerous," Sorace said. "When I had the opportunity to experience a desk job, I took it. I am definitely a type A person and highly organized so it was right up my alley. I was 100 percent into my job, but my life started to revolve totally around work to the point where I'd miss out on family functions because I was always working. One day I woke up and realized although I loved my job, I really wasn't doing anything that was overly meaningful. Quality of life became very important to me. I sold everything I owned and moved to Costa Rica, where the plan was to open a bed and breakfast."
After a year, Sorace decided to move back to the United States to be near her family in New Jersey. She had grown up in Cape May Point and always loved animals so she decided to combine her two passions, animals and business. Sorace returned home to open Zoo Sitters LLC. She joined PSI in 2007 and obtained her Certified Professional Pet Sitter (CPPS) designation that same year.
"I approached pet sitting in a professional manner," Sorace said. "I wanted to be certified and continue my education about animals so PSI was perfect for me. I am still training and now about to receive my certification as a pet first aid and CPR instructor. I go to Boston this month to finish my training, and I hope to be able to provide classes to the community. It will allow pet owners to be certified in pet first aid and CPR so they can handle pet emergencies."
Sorace said she wanted to have a career that meant something and helped the community.
"That's what pet sitting is to me," Sorace said. "I feel we are truly an asset to the community. People can go on vacations with peace of mind knowing their animals will be well cared for."
Zoo Sitters started small but didn't stay that way for long. Sorace now has five employees and offers all kinds of services including dog walking, vacation pet care, overnight pet care (the sitter actually stays in the house with the pets overnight), farm sitting and geriatric pet care. They serve clients from Sea Isle City to Cape May Point. Because Sorace uses the latest technology, she said she isn't confined to her office and can do some of the pet sitting herself.
Last year, Sorace placed in the top five in PSI's Pet Sitter of the Year Contest.
"I was thrilled to be in the top five," Sorace said. "This year when they called me and said I had won, I was just beside myself. ... It's very humbling."
Sorace will serve as the public face of PSI's more than 7,100 independently owned member businesses and represent the pet-sitting industry throughout 2013. She will be officially crowned at PSI's Quest for Excellence Convention in Winston-Salem, N.C., this September.
Patti Moran, president of Pet Sitters International, said the number and quality of nominations received for the 2012 award is a testament to the increased role pet sitters play in their clients' lives.
"Vanessa's nominations, in particular, highlighted how important her services were to her clients, whether helping evacuate a hospitalized client's cat during Hurricane Sandy or simply providing reliable, quality pet care to enable her clients to travel with peace of mind," Moran said.
Two of Sorace's clients who nominated her were Regina Miller and Jane Brandolini, both from Sea Isle City.
"Zoo Sitters is the best thing to happen to Cape May County in years," Miller said. "I have no reservation about using and recommending them to anyone willing to listen."
Sorace, who owns two rescue dogs, two rescue cats and several large goldfish, said she loves giving clients peace of mind.
For more information on Zoo Sitters call 609-846-4641 or see zoositters.com.
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