UK’s Only Pet Detective Agency

In the UK there is one pet detective service. It is called Animal Search UK. The business was founded by a former police officer, Tom Watkins. He is dubbed the real-life Ace Ventura after the 1994 pet detective film starring Jim Carrey.

cat at broken window

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

He set up shop in his garden shed in 1999. Initially he began offering services over the phone to pet owners who were distressed by advising them how they could hunt down their missing companion animal. From that modest beginning the word spread about the UK’s sole pet detective service and Mr Watkins started then to employ former police officers to join his official search team. They advertise for volunteers as well. He calls them “pet patrollers”.

Currently there are 59,000 volunteers in the UK who are registered as pet patrollers. They’re willing to scour alleyways, trawl through gardens and wade through garden sheds in their area of operation in response to an alert from Mr Watkins or one of his team. If they are unsuccessful then the effort is stepped up by the official search team being called in.

Missing cat
Missing cat

They are kitted out in proper uniforms and drive a police-like vehicle. The pet detectives are armed with rescue traps, torches and radios. They begin searching at the place where the pet was last seen. People living in the area are questioned in order to provide a picture as to the usual movements of the missing cat/dog.

Knowing how cats can be hard to find when, for example, hiding in a garage, the pet detectives, operating in pairs, use infrared light to help expose the cat’s whereabouts. They also carry a dictaphone with which they play a recording of the pet’s owner call. Usually companion cats and dogs recognise their owner’s voice.

lost cat being cared for by a friend

They also employ other tricks such as sprinkling out the contents of a vacuum cleaner onto the garden to create the smell of the home in which they live. The same sort of effect occurs when the cat litter is placed outside.

In 2015, the Animal Search UK service reunited 17,500 pets with their owners. They’re quite expensive but that is to be expected and I believe that the cost will be accepted by most cat and dog owners. The standard ten-hour search employing two detectives costs £800 plus travel and petrol while the 15 hour search costs £1000.

Celebrities in the UK such as Abbey Clancy, the wife of Premier League footballer Peter Crouch, and Mark Cavendish the British World Series cyclist have used the service.

In summary the procedure that the service uses to find your cat/dog companion is as follows:

  • the day before the search is spent in preparatory work looking at maps of the area and checking whether they will require permission to enter onto land
  • the owner of the pet is then consulted to take details about where her pet was last seen and his/her usual habits
  • recordings of the owner’s voice are then made to play throughout the search process
  • the search begins from the place of the last sighting and then works outwards to include gardens, sheds and outbuildings.
  • Any leads that they are able to pick up are checked out immediately.
  • The search team communicate with radios and phones.
  • Any pets in the area which look like the missing pet are identified in order to avoid false leads.
  • People can leave information anonymously at the service’s call centre in order to provide leads in the search.
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