Private detective Colin Butcher and his canine partner, Molly, are on a mission to rescue missing and stolen pets.
After retiring his uniform in 2003, former Navy veteran and police officer Colin Butcher decided to open his own pet detective agency. It didn’t take him long to realize that he couldn’t do it alone – so he adopted Molly, a sweet cocker spaniel, and enrolled her in a training program with the top canine behavioral experts at Medical Detection Dogs. Today, the human-canine duo uses their skills to locate lost and stolen cats and dogs, and they’ve become known as the Sherlock and Watson of missing pets.
We spoke with Colin to get the inside scoop on this unique partnership.
AW: When and why did you decide to get into this line of work?
CB: I decided to get into this line of work in 2003 when I set up my private detective agency. Whilst in the police I noticed a sharp increase in animal theft across the UK and no one was addressing the issue, primarily because it wasn’t considered to be that important. I grew up in Malaysia surrounded by animals and my parents always had rescue pets in our home so to me animals were very important. Someone needed to do something to help tackle the increasing problem.
Initially, I only took on equine cases but within a year and with several successful cases under my belt people started to ask for help in recovering all sorts of animals. The demand led to the introduction of a new company and The Pet Detectives Ltd. UKPD was formed.
AW: Why did you choose Molly to be your “business partner”?
CB: I’m not so sure that I had a choice in the matter because she picked me.
Okay! I accept that I found her on Gumtree – the UK equivalent of Craigslist. The first time we met, Molly jumped up on my lap and looked me in the eye as if to say ‘yep, I’m happy to work with you’. I have owned many dogs and loved every single one of them and each has had a unique personality. Molly, however, is special. She is extremely smart, learns quickly, teaches herself new search methods and is an outstanding problem solver. One in a million.
AW: You rescue both dogs and cats, correct? Which is more common?
CB: We receive about 30 calls and emails a week from people asking for help in recovering their stolen or missing pets. We can usually recover a missing cat within a day, but a stolen or runaway dog takes much longer. The ratio now is for every stolen or missing dog investigation, we usually complete five missing cat investigations.
AW: What does a typical case entail? What steps do you take to locate a missing cat?
CB: Every person who contacts us is subjected to the same screening criteria. We only work with animal lovers and if someone has been extremely reckless or negligent, we usually turn down the request.
Once we have agreed to take a cat case on, we question the owner to establish as much detail as possible about their missing cat. We identify the reason the cat has gone missing, then we deploy the appropriate search strategy. The next step is to secure a good source – scent – sample from the owner’s home which is used to give Molly the specific search scent so she can find where the cat is trapped or hiding. Once we have the sample, we commence the search in line with the appropriate strategy. The fastest recovery has been under five minutes.
AW: Wow! That’s incredible. Can you describe what a search usually involves?
CB: I decide where the search will start and how we will move forward, and then secure the source sample and brief the owner. Then it is down to Molly to seek out the missing cat. Initially, I allow her to complete a free roaming search, I have coined the term ‘giving her, her nose’ which simply means allowing her to do what she does best – to see if she can hit the scent of the missing cat. Sometimes she finds the scent very quickly and the cat is located within the first hour. On other occasions we have to work a lot harder using our experience and team work to find the missing cat.
With every investigation we learn something new, so we are constantly improving and raising our game. The Sherlock and Watson of animal crime investigations!
AW: How many pets have you rescued to date?
CB: About five years ago I could recall the name of every pet we had recovered and where they were found. Now there have simply been too many to count. I would estimate that I have recovered about 150 cats and about 90 dogs. Molly has helped in the recovery of many of those. Other animals recovered include nine horses, two ponies, three parrots, six ferrets, four tortoises, a hamster, two snakes, sheep, alpacas, an owl, a swift and a wren!
AW: What a roster! And on top of all those rescues, you found time to write a book! Tell us a bit about “Molly”. It hit shelves today, correct?
CB: Yes, that’s correct! All the stories in my book have a few things in common. The incredibly strong bond between the owners and their pets, the kindness and compassion I so often encounter from the people who assist me during my investigations, and the joy I witness when the missing pet is reunited with the owner.
And of course, I also included many stories about how my investigative experience combined with Molly’s amazing search skills and scenting ability formed an incredibly successful crime solving duo!
To buy Colin’s book, visit celadonbooks.com/books/molly/.