Become a Pet Detective

By Eric Hammer

Your name doesn’t have to be Ace Ventura in order to become a pet detective. In fact, pet detectives are real people who really do work for people who have lost their dog or cat and who are desperate to find them. The job ranges from offering basic training to owners to help them do it themselves to actually doing the search for the people.

Typically, as a full service pet detective, you’ll be going around hanging up posters, checking local dog shelters and pounds and sometimes even employing K-9 units (scent sniffing dogs) who can pick up the scent of a lost pet and try to track them down wherever they happen to be.

Many pet detectives also report that the job is partly a therapeutic job. After all, when you are working as a pet detective, you’re out there working with people who are extremely distraught at the loss of an animal who has become like a member of the family. They can be as desperate as a parent who has lost a child to see their dog or cat come home and you need to be able to offer them comfort so that they will feel like they have hired a true professional who really cares about their needs.

Pet Detective

However, one myth we can dispel right now – very few pet detectives have to find dogs or cats that have been stolen as in the Jim Carrey movie. Nor do most pet detectives try to pass off a different dog as the one that was lost as Joe Pesci’s character does in Lethal Weapon 3. In most cases, it’s merely a situation where a dog or cat ran off to look at something interesting and then got lost on their way back home.

How Much Can You Make?

Most pet detectives charge anywhere from $75 for a basic search up to $300 for a full day, intensive search for a lost animal. The amount you’ll earn is of course dependent both on your success rate (the more successful you are, the more likely you are to land jobs) and how fast you are at finding animals who are lost. Bottom line, don’t expect to get rich and do expect to work hard, but also expect to earn a decent living if you do work hard.

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Keep in mind that being a pet detective is partly a therapist’s job. You need to be empathetic to people and of course you have to truly love animals.

You may also want to consider working as a kind of pet consultant. This would be the other side of working as a pet detective. Instead of finding lost animals, you would help people to find the perfect animal for their needs. For example, you might work with clients who want to find a particular breed of dog and help them to find where one might be available for sale. Or you could even help people to decide what kind of pet they would be comfortable with based on an interview with them about their interests and their lives.

Qualifications / Requirements

Like many jobs profiled at this site, there are no formal requirements for becoming a pet detective. Few states and municipalities have licensing requirements (some states may classify you as legally being like a Private Investigator, which does require licensing, though most pet detectives work without state licensing).

That said, there are training programs available for becoming a pet detective that will help you to learn more about the industry.

First Steps

Start by talking to other pet detectives about the business. Find out what they do and ask if you can apprentice with them to learn about the business. You may even want to start out by taking a job with a pet detective agency so that you can gain the all important experience that you need.


Missing Pet Partnership – A national organization that certifies pet detectives.

Pet Detective University – This company actually provides professional training for becoming a pet detective. Remember however that this is not a college degree in spite of the name and the degree is not "accredited" in the way a degree from your local state university might be.

MSNBC: When Your Pet Goes Missing, Call a Detective – While this is intended for consumers who need to find a detective rather than those interested in becoming a pet detective, this article also provides some great information on the business.

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