Contributed by Miami Dade Animal Services
“We are not interested in your rewards, only the safety and well-being of your pet.” This is the motivation for The Pet Detective Club, an amazing volunteer service provided by Miami Dade Animal Services (MDAS), a busy, municipal facility in Miami.
In 2009, MDAS took in 37,333 animals. Of these, 1,486 were reunited with their worried owners. Contributing to the happy endings was the Pet Detective Club.
Melissa Pimentel, a 23 year old college student and aspiring veterinarian, volunteers at MDAS. She created the Pet Detective Club in 2007 to assist in reuniting pets with their families.
Recruiting and Training Volunteers
The Pet Detective Club recruits members from MDAS general volunteer orientations. The recruits are then trained in shelter policies regarding what will be required of individuals reclaiming their pet, including:
Detective volunteers are also trained on the information they will need to communicate to those looking for a lost pet. This includes:
Matching Lost Reports with Animals in the Shelter
The detectives circle the shelter with lost pet flyers trying to match dogs and cats turned into the shelter with those pictured on the flyers. According to Melissa, this can be a pretty daunting task, so organization is key. Here’s their strategy:
“We usually have [the lost reports] dated and posted on bulletin boards at the shelter for the first 10 days of being received. After the 10 days, we call the contact number on each flyer to follow up. If the pet has been found, we discard the flyer. If not, we place the flyer in a binder. We have the flyers organized by breed (for pure breeds. ex: Labrador, Husky, German Shepherd Dog) or by color (for mixed breeds. ex: black, brown, red). This makes it easier to find a flyer you might remember seeing in the past when you find an animal who resembles one featured on a flyer.”
Getting the Word Out
The Pet Detective Club uses Google Groups to create a private email group to share information, including pictures and posts of lost and found pets, among club members. They use this information to scour lost and found reports in newspapers and online on sites such as Craigslist, Petfinder and Pets 911. According to Melissa, pet owners post their own reports but often don’t cross-check “found” reports or vice versa.
Resources for Pet Owners
Each person who contacts MDAS about a lost pet receives an email from a Pet Detective Club volunteer containing useful information about how to locate a missing pet in that area of the community. The email contains:
The club also posts information about its services on online lost and found forums and other social media venues, such as Craigslist. The post encourages those who have lost or found a pet to email the Google group with a photo and a brief description of the animal.
Since the Pet Detective Club began in October 2007, these volunteers have reunited close to 100 animals with their families. Melissa’s first match was for a dog named Happy. She and her team of Pet Detectives have been making people and their lost pets very happy ever since.