Confessions of a Pet Detective

Kat Manning's job may sound straight out of Hollywood, but not in the way you expect. She's a pet detective, but it's nothing like the old Jim Carrey character, Ace Ventura. She's never even seen that movie, and her days are really more like 'CSI' meets 'Cold Case.'

The Dallas, Texas, resident and her chocolate Lab, Bosco, are expert at finding lost pets with Dog Gone Detectives.

"I was on a search and rescue team searching for people," Manning says. "I noticed that there's a lot of need for people to find missing pets."

Her dogs use scent from a pet's toy or bed, and then follow a trail. Dog Gone Detectives have trailed dogs, cats, ferrets, and once, a horse. She's found a lost police dog and a service dog who wandered off. The company has a success rate of 70-80 percent. Lost pets have brought her to Florida, New Mexico, California and New Jersey. But she prefers to stay around Dallas since many pets return days or weeks after the search begins. Her services typically run $300-$500 per case.

The dog days
dog detective

The hardest part of Manning's job isn't finding the pets -- it's training dogs to track the missing animals.

It's also hard when she loses a trail. A trail can disappear if someone picked up the lost pet in a car. But all is not lost when a trail ends. Manning also makes recommendations about how and where to post "lost pet" signs. She makes public relations suggestions about alerting the media too.

Once, she tracked a lost service dog that belonged to a child. The trail ended at an apartment building. Some kids found the dog, and gave it to their mom. The mom passed the dog to an aunt in another city. Manning suggested alerting the media, and the dog was returned after a feature in a newspaper.

You don't want to look

Unfortunately, when she finds pets, there isn't always a happy ending.

"It was a boxer and a German shepherd," says Manning. "They were used to being outside. These two dogs went 17 miles before they got shot by a farmer. We trailed them the whole way."

"Kinda like the police, you say, 'You don't want to see this. You want to remember your dogs the way you remember them.' Sometimes, they've been hit by cars," she says.

Business is booming

Manning's business is brisk because people are careless -- a trait that is likely recession-proof. Most of the time, lost pets are the owners' fault.

"Owners say, 'I'm going to let him run around because he's really well trained,'" she says. "Yeah, until the first squirrel runs by."

She recommends putting pets in a back room if guests are coming in and out, microchipping pets and always tagging dogs and cats. Manning also recommends locked gates so if people go in and out, there is more effort and thought involved.

Can't make this stuff up

In her line of work, Manning amasses some interesting stories.

"One guy called us out. He had a $1,000 reward out for his dog," she says. "They couldn't find a trail outside. I could hear whimpering at his front door. The Rottweiler was in the laundry room."

"I love my job. It's really fun. I get to hang out with my dog and help other people reunite with their pets," she says.

To find a pet detective in your area, check out the Missing Pet Partnership website.

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