What does a Pet Detective do?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2019
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Pet detectives are investigation professionals who specialize in cases that involve household pets. One of the more common services offered by investigators of this type is the location and rescue of dogs, cats, and other animals that have wandered away or been stolen from their homes. The use of the latest in surveillance technology is often employed in the task of locating missing dogs and missing cats, and returning them to their frantic owners.

As part of the process, a pet detective will often have a working relationship with any animal shelters located in the general area. This allows the detective to periodically check with the shelters to determine if a lost dog or cat matching the description of a current client has been turned in recently. This can be an important aspect of the investigation, since most animal shelters are only able to provide food and shelter to strays for a limited amount of time before it is necessary to euthanize them. By being in constant contact with shelter personnel, the pet detective can sometimes identify a missing pet and reunite the animal with the owner before this drastic last step takes place.


The pet detective does not just rely on communication with nearby animal shelters. As in any investigation, the detective will hold an interview with the owner and obtain as much information about the missing pet as possible. This can include data such as age, coloring, breed, weight, any distinguishing physical characteristics, and any known likes or dislikes of the pet.

Queries into any favored locations away from the home, such as a favorite route for walking or a park, are also common in the early stages of the investigation. Photographs or electronic media featuring the pet are also collected at that time. The information provided can often give the pet detective valuable clues as to how to proceed with the search.

Modern surveillance equipment is also often employed as part of the search and recovery operation. The typical pet detective will make use of highly sensitive audio equipment that can pick up sounds from an expanded range, making it easier to hear animal noises even if the pets are not within visual range. Infrared vision equipment make it possible to search at night with relative ease, while high power binoculars make it possible to visually survey considerable distances in hopes of locating the missing dog or cat.

In general, a pet detective will charge a flat fee per day, as well as request compensation for any out of pocket expenses that are incurred during the course of the investigation. The search will continue until the detective successfully locates the missing pet, or the owner decides to call off the search. At that time, any fees that are still outstanding are invoiced to the client, who is expected to pay the balance according to the terms and conditions agreed upon at the onset of the investigation.


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Post 3

@umbra21 - There are always going to be people who simply can't afford the time to put up signs though and hunt through the neighborhood for their lost dog. Why shouldn't someone offer their services for this? If you live in a big city and your dog goes missing, there might be hundreds of different shelters that have him or her. Even if you do have the time to walk around for a week looking, you might not know where to look.

It's the same as any other profession. You need to do your research and make sure you are hiring someone who can be trusted. But I don't see why it wouldn't be a good idea in some cases to hire a pet detective. I'd rather have an expert looking for my pet if he was lost.

Post 2

@bythewell - It's a tough call to make, because you could argue just as much that even offering a reward for a lost pet ends up setting a precedent. There have definitely been cases of people stealing animals because they knew that there would be a reward offered and they wanted to collect it.

I think that lost pets should be the responsibility of the owner and the wider community. If I saw a cat that had been on a sign, I wouldn't refuse to help it because there was no reward offered.

Post 1

I'm not sure if it's a good idea to pay someone a flat fee for every day they are looking for the pet. Wouldn't that just give them an incentive to take their time, or even hide the pet from the owners in order to get more money? Wouldn't it be better to just offer a flat fee for anyone who returns the animal, including the pet detective, as that would give them some competition and make them work faster.

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