Even pet owners without a GPS tracking device have someone to call if Fido disappears. Israel's own Ace Ventura, Tzvika Tamuz, is a former private investigator who started taking cases of missing pets in 1993. And although most of his work involves canines, Tamuz has also opened files on cats, snakes, parrots and ferrets. In over ten years as a pet detective, Tamuz has handled a variety of cases. Several involved dogs that were stolen for ransom, usually by juvenile delinquents trying to make a fast buck.
But he says that most of the time pets simply run away and then get lost or picked up by concerned neighbors or local shopkeepers. Unfortunately, MIA pets can also end up at shelters or the pound. In cases of rare or expensive breeds, animals are sometimes stolen for resale to pet stores or private buyers. Tamuz charges NIS 500 to open a file on a lost animal and an additional NIS 1,000 if the animal is found.
According to veterinarian Rubi Tel-Ari, most dog thefts can be avoided if people make sure their animals are inside at night and are prevented from wandering freely - especially if their dogs belong to breeds that are attractive to dog fight organizers. (AmStaffs and Rottweilers fall into this category.)
"The first thing to do if your pet gets lost is to talk to neighbors in the area, spread the word and put up posters in the street," says Dr. Tel-Ari. "And of course every dog should have a chip implanted under the skin so that if someone finds it, any vet in the country can check the chip and locate the owner."
People can also search in shelters and pounds, call their vet to report missing animals, and put strongly-scented articles of clothing outside the house to help guide dogs home. Tel-Ari recommends early training for pets, especially dogs, in order to minimize the chances that they'll run away or accidentally eat something poisonous in the street. He advises pet owners to seek immediate medical attention if they suspect that their animal has been poisoned, and says that most of the time, treatment is available. Various municipalities use rat poison to control the rat and stray cat populations. Signs are usually put up to alert pet owners, but the strategy is not without its casualties.
If poisoning cases are caught early enough, the animal can usually be saved, Tel-Ari says. If your animal suddenly exhibits erratic behavior, experiences difficulty breathing, urinates blood, bleeds from the mouth or shows motor problems, take it to the nearest veterinarian to be checked for possible poisoning, he says.
Pet detectives, veterinarians and dog trainers alike recommend staying calm if your animal is lost.
"Don't panic and don't give up," says Safra Gefen, a dog trainer in Israel who also runs a kennel. "Most of the time people find their animals within 48 hours with a nice person who has been taking good care of them and making sure they are OK."