If you live in the Upper Hunter and own a dog or cat you should have David Spencer and Bella Boustani's phone numbers on speed dial.
The pair are the Upper Hunter's sole volunteer Scanning Angels, a nationwide animal rescue group for domestic pets who've escaped from home.
Spencer and Boustani reunite the region's owners with their wayward fur babies before they get into mischief - or worse, are hit by a car or attacked.
They monitor local community Facebook pages for posts about dogs or cats that have either gone missing or were spotted wandering the streets.
Armed with a digital microchip scanner they purchased themselves, one or other quickly gets to the location. Boustani doesn't drive, instead walking to locations in Muswellbrook, while Spencer has travelled as far as Scone.
Between them they've scanned just over 1100 animals. Each 12-digit number is passed on to a Scanning Angel member authorised to access the NSW Pet Registry, so the owner can be advised of the location of their missing moggie or pooch.
Rather than accept any 'finder's fee', they suggest a donation to Hunter Animal Rescue or the RSPCA.
"David and I share a passion for protecting animals," Boustani said.
"This is our community service. By getting a dog or cat home quickly we can prevent them from getting injured and save the owner the cost of the pound or vet fees.
"Typically, owners are over the moon and can't stop thanking us."
Their intervention also takes some of the workload off the council rangers.
Life-long animal lovers, Spencer and Boustani became Scanning Angers after moving to Muswellbrook from Sydney last year.
They laugh off the scars from the bites or scratches they bear from too-close encounters.
"It's just great to hear the 'bip', 'bip' from the scanner," said Spencer.
"When a lost animal is chipped, it's halfway home. But, we also suggest owner's fit their pets with a collar engraved with a contact phone number."
Both Spencer and Boustani are animal foster carers, occasionally accommodating a lost animal they've rescued overnight if their owners can't collect them immediately. They also take in mistreated or abandoned animals.
Not surprisingly, each has a clutch of animals of their own - all registered and microchipped.
Spencer and wife Anna have four dogs, including two awaiting rehoming; Boustani has a menagerie comprising five dogs, eight cats and a cockatoo. They would love to hear from anyone willing to don Angel wings. If you share their passion for protecting four-legged Houdinis, contact Spencer (0417 176 360) or Boustani (0421 700 560).
The role has only one 'essential criteria': A deep love of animals.
The pay? A warm glow of satisfaction...
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