Monday, January 25, 2016

A Day in the Life of A Cadaver Hunting Dog

Kim Hammond is back today to report about how police dogs help the law enforcement find cadavers. 

Northeast Ohio Sisters in Crime (NEO SinC) had a very special visitor for one of its meetings. Jet is a Czech German Shepherd who specializes in trailing, tracking and cadaver recovery and his owner/handler, Ed, does all of this on a volunteer basis. They can get called out in the middle of the night and be in uncomfortable or downright grueling circumstances and they carry on. Jet can work with any state or federal agency, and he has worked in the past with the ERT (Evidence Response Team) and BCI (Bureau of Criminal Investigation) in Ohio and the FBI.

Search and rescue dogs are invaluable during a natural disaster, mass casualty event, or a missing person. It requires a dedicated handler and a well-trained dog for the search to be effective. These dogs are hand-picked and their training is rigorous and time-consuming, both for the dog and the handler. It is best to begin training early in a puppy’s life and training can last as long as 12–18 months. Eight years is a good work life for a dog, but it varies with each dog. Jet received his training at a police dog academy in Hiram, Ohio

The dog must be taught socialization and obedience, and has to bond with its handler. Training usually starts with a game played with puppies, starting with a simple reward based training method. Jet has a special toy, when he does a good job, ie. find the scent he is commanded to and he is rewarded with his toy to play with. The toy becomes a goal and he will do anything for that goal.

tools of the police dog trade

So what is the dog actually smelling? Be prepared to be grossed out. A person‘s skin cells drop off their body at the rate of about 40,000 cells per minute. At that rate dogs must think we stink. These skin cells carry a person’s scent and that is what the dog smells. This can be used to track a specific person, or a dog can be trained to alert or follow a category of scent such as cadaver scent. Scent sources can be detected from a distance of 1/4 mile or more by these amazing canine noses.

Dogs have 20 times more scent receptor cells than humans, and the scent-processing section of their brains is larger than ours. Scent is a big part of a dog’s life. How much better can a dog smell than a human? Studies vary, but all agree that a dog can smell a lot better than humans. The canine nose contains 220 million olfactory receptors compared to 5 million olfactory receptors that humans possess. Scientists say that dogs can detect some, if not most, odors at concentrations of parts per trillion.

Cadaver dogs are used to locate the remains of deceased persons. Depending on a dog’s training, it can locate skeletal remains, body parts such as blood, tissue, hair and bones, or decomposed bodies. These bodies can be buried in the ground or submerged in water. Jet trained with real material obtained from the medical examiner’s office, metro hospital, and funeral homes.

Jet only takes commands in Czech, not English. That way a bad guy won’t have any ability to command the dog to do something contrary to what his handler wants him to do. He is loyal and protective. He can attack a full grown man and take him down, locking his jaw onto a body part and not letting go.  His handler had Jet hold on to his toy and the dog held so hard the handler was able to use the toy to swing the dog in circles.

We had an amazing demonstration of what these beautiful animals can do, their dedication and that of their owners. SRT K9s are responsible for bringing missing children home and bringing closure to the families of victims who just want to lay a loved one to rest. Thank you to all of the brave SR K9s out there.

Kim Hammond