Carey King-Agin is Pasco County’s Ace Ventura.
She doesn’t have large hair, colorful shirts or act like Jim Carrey, but she can bring a smile to a pet owner’s face.
She’s Pasco County Animal Services’ first-ever pet reunification specialist. Thanks to a $35,000 grant from Petco Love, King-Agin is able to scour, and post, on lost and found pet websites and social media pages looking for owners searching for lost pets, or asking the community to help locate pets’ families. These efforts are needed when a pet has not been microchipped or the contact information is outdated.
PCAS took in more than 3,200 stray dogs and cats in 2022, so this is a position that’s not only warranted — it’s desired by the agency.
“We find that when someone finds a dog or cat on the street, 80% of that time they live near that area, but everyone’s thought is to bring it to the shelter, if they can’t house it or do the search themselves,” King-Agin said.
“We always scan first (for a microchip), and that’s the golden ticket to go home, but less than 25% of pets are microchipped. So now, we’re going to put in the leg work and get pets reunited with their families,” she added.
According to PCAS and King-Agin, the agency’s return-to-home rates are only 33% for dogs and 17% for cats. These numbers are the reason PCAS Assistant Director Spencer Conover reached out to the county to create the position, however, was turned down, as the county receives numerous requests from its varying entities.
However, a Petco Love grant allowed King-Agin to set up shop at the facility in Land O’ Lakes to do her diligent detective work.
“I go immediately to social media and there are a ton of groups out there, and things like NextDoor, Ring and multiple Facebook lost and found groups,” King-Agin said.
“I go to see if the dog or cat is listed on this page,” she continued. “If not, I keep digging. When they’re brought in and put in the system, we enter the crossroads they were found, so I then go to Google Maps and pull up that intersection and see what subdivisions and neighborhoods are nearby. Many have their own Facebook groups, so I see if they have something posted on their social media.
“The truth is, one out of three pets go missing in their lifetime, so this is something I’m very passionate about — getting that pet back where they belong.”
King-Agin puts in the extra effort if the social media avenue is a dead end.
She contacts local vets and emails them pictures. She reaches out to well-known local dog sitters, as well as local dog groomers, knowing that a groomed dog is someone’s well-cared-for pet.
In just the short time King-Agin has been on lost-pet cases, she has returned home 10 pets as of Sept. 11. However, in just the second weekend of September alone, 13 more strays were brought in.
The PCAS also will use the new position to help educate the community about what to do if they happen to rescue a stray.
The first 48 hours are crucial in the reuniting process, whether a pet is brought to the shelter, or the finder tries to locate the owner, King-Agin said. She encourages the finder, when possible, to hold onto the pet, in case the owner is out looking for the pet or posting about the pet on social media.
“It’s like they lost a baby or child because it’s a family member,” Conover said. “Getting them home, that’s the most important part, and it’s amazing to see it and be able to provide that to Pasco County now.
“There are no packs of wild dogs running around the county, so all of these dogs belong to someone,” he added. “But to have someone dedicated to going the extra mile, dedicated to having someone get the dogs home, it’s part of the proactive work we want to be a part of.”
And as a four-time dog owner, King-Agin is passionate about her new position.
She knows how she would feel if one of her pets went missing.
“I have total OCD about their whereabouts all the time, so I know I would be a frantic mess if my pet went missing,” she said. “So to be able to do this, and reunite an owner with a pet with a family, it’s so rewarding. It can be amazing and emotional.
“I really do feel like a pet detective.”
Pasco County Animal Services
Where: 19640 Dogpatch Lane, Land O’ Lakes
When: Tuesday through Thursday, noon to 5:30 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, noon to 6:30 p.m.
For more information on services provided by PCAS, visit PascoCountyFl.net/175/Pets-and-Animals
Published September 20, 2023