Animal conquers the electronic! A K9 dog was responsible for taking down former Subway spokesman and future prisoner Jared Fogle. When authorities served a federal search warrant on Fogle’s residence last month, they were unable to find key evidence in a hand search by agents. The dog saved the day.
Search warrants allow the named law enforcement officers to examine any location which might contain the evidence specified in the affidavit. In child pornography investigations, evidence can be secreted on devices as large as a server or as small as a micro SD card, which means it could be hidden in an infinite number of places inside a dwelling.
K9 Bear, a 2-year-old black Labrador retriever, was trained to locate digital media storage devices through his sense of smell. Dogs perceive odors differently than humans. Where we smell pizza, they separately identify tomato sauce, cheese, pepperoni, garlic, basil, olive oil, crust, and perhaps mushrooms. That is why dogs can be used to accurately find people, drugs, explosives, household mold, bedbugs, illegal fruits, and even human cancer cells.
Their scent discrimination allows dogs to accurately identify and alert their handlers to specific substances when the K9’s are trained with the proper amounts of on-task rewards and repetitions. Courts have recognized that well-trained, documented dogs give reliable alerts that are legally defensible in criminal matters.
K9 Bear was able to locate what his human partners could not–a hidden flash drive on which Fogle stored his child porn. Electronic detector dogs train on hard drives, USB drives, SD cards, and similar materials. There are supposedly fewer than half a dozen dogs in the U.S. employed to find these electronics. We could see an increased demand for them for the coming years. I assisted in serving two child pornography warrants in the last three weeks. A trained dog may have found additional evidence at each.
Though he had been working with Indiana’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, K9 Bear has relocated to Seattle to continue his sniffer job with a new handler. Dogs have been trained for use in law enforcement since the year 1899 in Ghent, Belgium. This digital-age focus is just the newest trick learned by the old dogs.
Photo: Tactical Detection K9