Human Interest

The rise of China’s pet detectives

By Lorena Cantó

Beijing, Jul 12 (EFE).- As the number of pet owners in China has boomed, a new type of investigator has emerged and demand for pet detectives is on the rise.

With pet owners spending more on their furry companions, the pet economy has grown and, according to official data, by late 2022 there were some 117 million pets in China’s urban areas.

Companies like Lan Ling, an A-Team of sorts that searches for missing animals using high tech equipment, have started to emerge in many large cities.


“Pet owners now care more about their pets and their welfare,” Liu Yin Tong, Lan Ling chief, tells EFE.

Night vision goggles, drones, spectrometers, heat detectors, climbing ropes, pulleys, nets of all shapes and sizes, long-range radios and special spotlights with varying degrees of brightness are just some of the tools detectives use during their investigations.

The team based on the outskirts of Beijing is made up of 18 people — including several Army veterans — who meet the requirements of the job which include athletic skills, monitoring surveillance cameras at high speed, analytical skills and knowledge of animal behavior “because finding animals is similar to solving a case,” Liu says.

“Two days ago, to rescue a cat, we had to run after it for two kilometers,” the expert explains, while underscoring the importance of knowing how to anticipate how a stressed animal might behave, what its reactions could be or why it ran away in the first place.

If anyone understands how dogs behave, it is Luo Luo, a shepherd dog who is a key member of the team and is capable of finding other canines, as well as cats, birds and even reptiles.


In recent years, the company has rescued some 5,000 animals in Beijing and other major cities such as Shanghai and Wuhan.

The rescues, in cooperation with local authorities, also include wild and protected animals.

Liu recalls his most complex case, where a cat was trapped inside the pillar of a bridge at the capital’s South Railway Station. His team worked tirelessly for 14 hours to save the feline.

Although he prefers not to share the cost of a rescue, according to China Youth Daily, fees for a pet detective range from 3,000 to 30,000 yuan depending on the operation’s difficulty, the methods and time required.

A report by the iiMedia Research research group valued the pet industry in China in 2022 at $500 billion.


And while profits pay the bills, for the pet detectives EFE spoke to, a key part of their job is trying to find homes for stray or abandoned animals.

“I’d like to make a plea: if you want a pet, consider adopting rather than buying,” says Liu.

China’s growing passion for pets has also meant videos featuring reunions between lost pets and their owners have racked up hundreds of millions of views online.

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