Jim Carrey is no match for Tom Watkins.
If you were looking for the modern version of Jim Carrey’s iconic pet detective from 1994, look no further than Tom Watkins. A former police officer, Watkins — who is known as the real-life Ace Ventura — spends his days locating lost pets across the UK.
Since opening in 1999, Watkins and his team at Animal Search UK have rescued thousands of missing pets, including rabbits, tortoises, mice, guinea pigs, ferrets, llamas, and more. “We dealt with one lady in London who lost her albino python when she brought it in for a show-and-tell at her office,” Victoria Harrison, an associate of Watkin’s, recalls in a recent interview with The Telegraph. “I think we found it in the air-conditioning vent.”
Watkins started Animal Search UK after hearing a story about a lost dog on a local radio station. Now, nearly twenty years later, over 200,000 people have filed missing pet reports with his agency. Animal Search is the largest missing pet organization in the UK, and every month, they reunite approximately 2,000 animals with their owners.
According to Watkins, locating a missing pet is similar to online dating. As a first step, he recommends that owners of missing animals set up a page for their pet on his organization’s online database. After the owner uploads a photo of the animal and inputs their location details, the system runs a search and notifies the owner of any potential matches. If customers are unable to locate their animal using the online database, they can hire Watkins and his team to perform a private search. This service can cost up to £1,300 (or $1,700 USD), and the organization claims to have an 80% success rate.
While speaking with Female First, Watkins explains that most of the organization’s investigations center around cats. He also shared details of a cat their team once found about 180 miles from its home; Watkins suspects the animal traveled underneath the hood of a car. The cat was later identified by someone who had seen one of Animal Search UK’s posters.
In April of 2017, Watkins released his first book, The Real Pet Detective. The book chronicles his nearly twenty-year career locating lost pets. Unfortunately, Watkins and his team only service pet owners within the UK. Americans can take advantage of the many local organizations offering similar services (for example, Lana Coldiron of Lost Pet Detection in Los Angeles, California, or Jamie Katz, a pet detective in Fort Lauderdale, Florida).
There’s something undeniably heroic about reuniting lost pets with their loving families. Badass pet detectives around the globe, we salute you.