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Pet Detectives: What They Do

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Fee-Based Pet Detectives

Sadie finds Myron

Missing Pet Partnership's MAR Technicians are fee-based, professional pet detectives trained in the science of how, when, and where to search for lost pets. MAR Technicians learn how to solve lost-pet investigations using the same law enforcement-based investigative techniques used to solve lost-person investigations. This includes the use of CSI-type techniques, such as deductive reasoning, search probability theory, deception detection, behavioral profiling to predict distances that lost pets travel, and utilization of high-tech equipment (search cameras, amplified listening devices, and humane traps with baby monitors). In addition, MAR Technicians are trained how to collect and analyze physical evidence, how to use DNA testing and forensic anthropologists to solve cases, how to use presumptive blood testing to analyze suspected kill sites, and how to identify wildlife tracks and scat (e.g., coyote droppings, owl pellets).

The plus to hiring a for-profit pet detective is that they're often able to respond immediately while volunteers can be limited because they may be unable to leave their paying jobs to respond on a search. For-profit pet detectives are also able to work more cases than volunteers are, thus increasing their on-the-job experience and success rate. The drawback to fee-based pet detectives is that because they will likely need to travel, their fees can be too expensive for many pet owners. This limitation is why Missing Pet Partnership is working to train community-based volunteer pet detectives who are willing to search for lost pets in their own community.

Volunteer Pet Detectives

Volunteer pet detectives are people who donate their time either freelancing or working through an established nonprofit organization (animal shelter, rescue group, etc.). The plus to local, volunteer pet detectives is that there are always more volunteers available in any given community than there are full-time paid pet detectives. And while a fee-based MAR Technician with a tracking dog might only come in to work on a case for a few days, volunteers working in their own community can often invest more time helping pet owners. However, most volunteer pet detectives do not have trained MAR search dogs. Thus if you're looking for a dog trained to find your lost pet, you'll likely need to hire a MAR Technician.

To view our international network of pet detectives, visit our National Directory page. Before you hire any pet detective, we suggest that you carefully check his or her references and read our Warning and How Long Does Scent Survive pages.

MAR Services

Presumptive Test

MAR services mirror the same investigative techniques, technologies, and strategies that police detectives and search-and-rescue technicians use to solve missing persons investigations. Through our pet detective academy, Missing Pet Partnership certifies MAR Technicians to use high-tech equipment (e.g., amplified listening devices, night vision equipment, baby monitors); cat detection dogs; trailing dogs trained to track lost dogs; analytical methods like search probability theory and deductive reasoning to predict the distances that lost pets travel; animal tracking techniques; and methods of collecting and analyzing physical evidence.

Here's an example of nine different Missing Animal Response Services that our pet detectives have successfully offered:

  1. Respond with a certified MAR Cat Detection Dog trained to locate lost cats
  2. Offer trap-and-reunite (TAR) services to capture displaced cats
  3. Offer Feline Behavioral Profiling consultation services to recover lost cats
  4. Utilize high-tech detection and surveillance equipment to search for various lost pets
  5. Respond with a MAR Target Dog and snappy snare to help recover lost dogs
  6. Respond with a MAR Trailing Dog trained to track the scent trail of lost dogs
  7. Respond to assist with poster/flyer distribution in target search areas
  8. Respond to conduct a "neighborhood check" by interviewing neighbors and searching for witnesses; and
  9. Conduct "shelter check" services by checking the local shelters for a lost pet

You can now watch video footage of MAR K9 pet detective A.J. as he tracks a lost Jack Russell Terrier named Bubba.

Physical Evidence

High Probability Evidence

From collecting hair fibers, examining scat, following tracks, recovering bones for analysis by a forensic anthropologist, analyzing a stain to determine its origin, to ordering a DNA test on a cat whisker, MAR Technicians are trained to look for forensic physical evidence that can often solve lost pet investigations. High probability evidence is often present within the territory of outdoor-access cats and can be an indicator of where a cat naps, defecates, or spends considerable time. Because sick and injured cats tend to hide within these familiar locations, high probability evidence can help pinpoint target areas that should be searched when a cat disappears.

This photo illustrates "high probability evidence" in the form of an accumulation of cat hair fibers clumped on a screen at the base of a missing cat's house. These hair fibers are deposited during repetitive movement in and out of a cat's territory. This particular cat, Manuel, was ultimately found trapped under a next-door neighbor's house, five months after they had placed brand new screens on their house. Although he suffered kidney damage, Manuel survived his ordeal!


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