Real-Life Pet Detective Jamie Katz on Tracking Down Missing Pets

pet detective

Detective Jamie Katz is South Florida’s sleuth for missing pets

I met Jamie Katz, South Florida’s pet detective, on a stakeout on a quiet suburban street in Coral Springs. We were supposed to rendezvous at a Starbucks, but she had received a call about a missing cat that morning, and shuffled her plans.

At 1 p.m., I climbed into the passenger seat of her idling SUV. She had been waiting, fueled by Dunkin’, since 9:30 in the morning. Her two tracking dogs, a Brittany spaniel named Gable and a terrier mix named Fletcher, had tracked the perimeter of the feline’s scent to a 10-house radius on this block. All eyes were on the twin cages set up on either side of a promising residence across the street, each enclosure stocked with chicken, tuna and cat food.

It was another day at the office.

“Nobody wants to sit in a car, but I’m going to do it for an animal,” she says. “I don’t want to do people anymore.”

After graduating from a Baltimore community college with a degree in Criminal Justice, Katz obtained her P.I. license here in Florida. Given her longtime love of animals—she had spent five years as a veterinary technician—she transitioned into a full-time pet detective in 2015, where she services the tri-county area from her home base in Fort Lauderdale.

She’s heard all of the Ace Ventura references, but as she describes to Boca magazine, reuniting lost pets with their owners is serious business.

ON HER PROTOCOL:

The first thing is I go over the who, what, when, where, how. I’ll make them a sign, send it to a local print store, and then tell them where every sign goes. Once they have their signs up, then anytime they get a phone call, they’re going to call me, and I’ll tell them what to do, so this way they have the best guidance.

ON THE CAUSE OF MISSING PETS:

Owner negligence is very common. People let their dogs out to use the bathroom, and then don’t watch them. You have pet sitters walking your pet, and you have a shy dog, and they don’t know your animal. A frond can fall off a tree and scare your dog, and it’ll back out of its collar, back out of its harness and take off.

ON PREVENTIVE STEPS PET OWNERS CAN TAKE:

Definitely have a collar with the phone number embroidered on it, a name tag, a microchip, and make sure it’s registered. A lot of times people have microchips but they don’t realize they have to be registered, or if they move, they don’t update them, and it’s really important. Don’t let your animal out if your yard isn’t secure; go outside with your dogs.

ON ONE OF HER MOST UNIQUE CASES:

I had a story where this woman, a scientist, had all these tortoises, and she had a rare one from Madagascar. She was selling her home, and so the realtors may have left the back gate open. One of the tortoises got out. It was two weeks into him being missing, and a mother called and said, ‘My 14-year-old son was fishing on the canal and saw a tortoise, and he knew that this kind of tortoise shouldn’t go in the water. He grabbed him, and brought him home, and saw your sign.’ This kid was 14, but I guess he was already majoring in biology, or something similar to the owner—I think she ended up giving him a job.

ON HER MOST CHALLENGING CASES:

The most difficult cases are the ones where signs are taken down immediately. … Signs are illegal all over the country. That’s the first thing I tell my clients. But that’s how you get information. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to find your pet.

ON GIVING CLIENTS—AND NON-CLIENTS—THE BEST ADVICE

I don’t mind people doing it themselves. There’s so many people who need help that if I can just give you advice on how to get your case set up properly, that’s fine with me too. If somebody can’t hire me, I don’t want them to not be able to have a way to find their cat or dog.

This story is from the March 2020 issue of Boca magazine. For more content like this, subscribe to the magazine.