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Not All "Pet Detectives" Are Created Equal
by P.L. Paisley - Lost Pet Advocate
Reprinted with permission 


I see many different ads for companies and people claiming to be "pet detectives" aka "pet searchers", "trackers" and "tracking teams".

It made me wonder-What should someone look for when hiring a person or company that claims they can help you find your lost animal? How do you know if these people are legitimate? When your animal goes missing, it is often a traumatic and emotional experience, you will do anything in your power to find them because they are a member of your family. Hiring a "pet detective" is another tool that can aid in the search for a missing animal. However, over the years I have learned that making a poor or uninformed choice in a "pet detective"; choosing one that does not have the needed experience or knowledge, can be detrimental to the safe recovery of your lost animal!

Many people don't realize what is actually involved in searching for a lost animal. It can be physically and emotionally draining and time consuming; like taking on another job! A pet detective/searcher/tracking team is a service centered type of business, (meaning they earn money for their service), which is focused on helping an owner find their missing animal. They can save precious time and resources to help get that animal home safely and as soon as possible but not all "Pet Detectives" are created equal.

I have seen a few web based training courses that tout training and certification over the internet. However, it takes many years of hands on training with dogs to learn the techniques, scenarios and earn the necessary experience, that is vital in every aspect of this type of work. The safe recovery of your animal will depend on a well trained handler and a well trained search dog. 

Hiring this type of service is not a cheap option for many people. However, consider what might be involved and included in their fees, from the initial call and office work, to when the search team is deployed, to the end of the search itself.


  • A search team will likely have to drive to the location of the missing animal with their dog team, in all weather conditions, and depending on where their home base is or where in the country they currently are. 
  • They have to factor in wear/tear on vehicles and gas to the search location and back to home base. 
  • Once on location, they will have to have a place to stay that will accommodate both handlers and dogs. This might present a challenge since not all hotels will accept animals and all of them will need to eat.
  •  Also, there is the physical act of the search itself, covering all types of terrain and in all weather conditions. Some searches may take a few minutes and some might take much longer.

 You are looking for Pet Detectives and companies that have ongoing professional training, certifications, licenses and have a history of experience and success. The pet detective you choose should have a serious level of commitment and sincere dedication to helping people find their lost animals.

All of this information and the answers to your questions should be factored into your choice of any "Pet Detectives" service. Choose wisely to ensure the successful recovery of your beloved family member!

You can find additional information and resources about "Pet Detectives"  and tracking dogs in your area at The Missing Animal Scent Dog Network (MASDN).  Most of the certified K9 handlers on MASDN have over 5 years of experience and many are also Private Investigators and handlers with real Search and Rescue experience.


Real Pet Detectives K9 Tango and P.I. Pat Totillo

  • Before hiring any person/business to help you search for your missing animal, ask a LOT of questions, for instance:
  • What can you expect from them?
  • What is expected from you? 
  • What  does the searcher or pet detectives do prior to the physical search? 
  • How much time or manpower does the company spend on the case prior to the physical search? 
  • Is there a plan or strategy? 
  • How is that plan or strategy determined?
  • How will the plan or strategy be implemented? 
  • How long has the pet detective or company been in business?
  • Do they have one dog or a team of dogs? 
  • Which is better, and why? 
  • What skill sets do their dogs have?
  • What is the level and kind of training for the handler?
  • Is that training "hands on" with a dog or was it an online certification?
  • What is the level and kind of training of their search dogs?
  • Did the handler train the dogs or did someone else?
  • What kind of ongoing training and learning does the handler and dogs receive?
  • Are they licensed? Certified? Bonded? Do they have insurance?
  • What is their track record and success in recovering missing animals?
  • How soon can they be on location?
  • Do they specialize in "cold cases" for animals that have been missing a period of time?
  • What are their qualifications for this specialty? 
  • How long do they search? When does their service end?
  • Do they have references, testimonials or recommendations?
  • How much does this service cost and what does it include?


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