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Want to be a pet detective? Regional Animal Services of King County starting new volunteer training program to find lost pets

Regional Animal Services of King County is starting up a new program to train volunteers to be pet detectives to help find lost pets. - COURTESY PHOTO
Regional Animal Services of King County is starting up a new program to train volunteers to be pet detectives to help find lost pets.
— image credit: COURTESY PHOTO

Regional Animal Services of King County has joined with Missing Pet Partnership, a national non-profit organization dedicated to helping families who have lost a pet, to develop a “Shelter Pet Detective” program.

Through this collaborative effort, Regional Animal Services volunteers will be trained by Missing Pet Partnership to offer hands-on assistance to pet owners who have lost a dog or cat, according to a King County media release. Volunteers will also be trained to find the owners of lost pets who are already in the Kent shelter.

“Pets are family, and when they go missing, it can be traumatic,” said Sarah Luthens, manager of volunteer programs for King County animal services. “With the Shelter Pet Detective program, we’re hoping to get more eyes and ears on the streets looking for strays. The volunteers will also help us locate owners whose lost pet is in the shelter.”

People who are interested in becoming a Shelter Pet Detective are invited to a free orientation on Saturday, June 11 from 1 to 4 p.m. at Unity Church of Kent, 218 State Ave. S.

Additional training will be offered on both Saturday, June 25 and Saturday, July 2 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Kent Shelter, 21615 64th Ave. S. To register for the training, contact Sarah Luthens at 206-296-3946 or email sarah.luthens@kingcounty.gov.

Initially, the program will focus on animals panicked by Fouth of July fireworks. After the holiday, trained volunteers will be posted at the Kent shelter offering free assistance to the public that includes free posters, “tagging” vehicles with neon window markers, and free lost pet consultations.

“We’re excited to join with Missing Pet Partnership on the Shelter Pet Detective program. And while it will help reunite lost pets with their owners, it’s also important for people to license and microchip their cat or dog,” Luthens said. “A pet that is licensed and microchipped has a much better chance of being reunited with its owner.”

Missing Pet Partnership was founded in 2001 by Kat Albrecht, a former police detective-turned-pet detective. Albrecht made her unusual entrance into pet detective work back in 1997 after she used a search-and-rescue dog to track down her missing police bloodhound. Since then, Albrecht has successfully trained several search dogs and volunteer pet detectives to search for lost pets.

Volunteers from Missing Pet Partnership have set up Lost Pet Recovery booths at Seattle-area animal shelters since 2008. Albrecht says in 2009, 80 percent of the lost dogs and cats were recovered through the assistance offered. This high recovery rate has already captured the interest of national animal welfare organizations.

“The ‘return to owner’ rate for lost pets in animal shelters across the country is extremely low - only 16 percent for lost dogs and a dismal 2 percent for lost cats,” said Albrecht. “The Shelter Pet Detective program can improve that rate dramatically. Through our collaboration with Regional Animal Services of King County, Missing Pet Partnership ultimately hopes to duplicate that success across the nation.”

Regional Animal Services of King County is a joint effort between 26 partnering municipalities (including Kent, Covington, Maple Valley and Tukwila) and unincorporated King County to advance safety and animal welfare.

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