His owners have done all they can, but now, with hope fading, they’ve handed the case over to the professionals. And in Tom Watkins, a real-life Ace Ventura, they’ve got the best in the business. Watkins is a pet detective. Or rather, the pet detective. He’s founder of Animal Search UK, the country’s largest (and arguably only) missing pet organisation, which every month reunites more than 2,000 wayward animals with their owners.
Many of those reunions are the product of paid-for searches, which can cost up to £1,300 – a service for which Watkins and his 12-strong team boast a ‘find’ rate of almost 80 per cent – but plenty of others are found through the organisation’s poster campaigns, anonymous 24-hour hotline and free online database.
‘We don’t make a great deal of profit here,’ Watkins says. ‘We make as little as £100 back on a big case.’