Carmen Brothers knows how to find your lost dog. And your lost cat. She can find your turtle, your ferret, and exactly once she successfully found someone’s missing pet capybara, the world’s largest living rodent.
What’s happening: Brothers is a professional pet tracker and the owner of Virginia-based Professional Pet Trackers. She uses a combination of human tracking methods, animal psychology and classic finding-lost-pet techniques to bring home missing furry (or hard-shelled) friends.
- She’s based in Winchester but travels all over the country, including a recent trip to Richmond, to find lost pets.
Why it matters: An estimated 10 million pets go missing each year, and more than 80% are never found — including pets like Bagel the beagle, Richmond’s most famous lost dog. R.I.P.
How it works: Brothers uses trained scent dogs, Magic (a lab), Trix (a rat terrier) and Rose (a German shepherd), who can pick up a missing pet’s scent and track its path.
- Her team also includes humans Linda Shaw and her K9 Lily, Bob Swenson and K9 Carly, and Kenny Butler, who works with Rose.
- If called in, the team sets up cameras, a feeding station and works with local trappers across the country to safely secure the pet and bring them home.
How it started: Brothers was working for DC-based rescue City Dogs & City Kitties about 10 years ago and was involved in a dog rescue in which she learned about tracking techniques.
Like most reputable professional pet trackers, Brothers doesn’t guarantee success, but she is proud of her track record and does have a 100% return rate with turtles — and capybaras.
- “Usually when I get people on the phone, they have their pet back within 24-48 hours,” she says.
- The biggest obstacles to a successful meeting, she says, are when clients delay implementing her recommendations or ignore them outright.
What they’re saying: “No matter how many times you say, ‘Don’t call the dog,’ they’re going to call the dog,” she joked.
Cost: Brothers offers multiple levels of service, from quick phone tips (which are free) to remote consultations to the highest tier, which involves her showing up for on-the-ground tracking with one of her dogs ($300 for a cat/$350 for a dog, plus mileage from Winchester).
Be smart: Tips for finding lost pets
When it comes to finding lost pets, whether you’re doing it yourself or bringing in a pro, every pet is a little different, as is every location, Brothers tells Axios, but there are proven methods and strategies for finding lost pets.
- Time matters: Responding quickly to search for a lost pet is crucial, whether that means calling in pros like Brothers or getting your flyers up and circulated. Dogs can travel 3-5 miles a day. Cats will stick closer to home, but can end up a mile away.
- Shut your hole: Lost pets very quickly go into stress mode, especially dogs. When that happens, they rely on scent over sound or sight. They no longer see or hear their beloved owner, but see and hear a threat. Don’t yell for your pet after 24 hours.
- stayput: Your lost pet is looking for you and relying on scent to find you. The more you wander around, the harder it is for your pet to find you.
- scent: “Mackerel is the magic ingredient for lost cats, and it’s liquid smoke for dogs,” Brothers says. Add those things to a water bottle, with some water, and spray all around the outside of your house to attract your pet home.
- flyers: The old school method is still the best and better than posting on social media (not everyone is on Facebook, Brothers says, and not everyone sees every post).
- Keep it simple: Simple flyers are the best flyers, she says, so just include a picture, name and contact. No one needs to know your pet’s habits and hobbies. And a minimum of 100-150 flyers to start is a good number.