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What is the difference between a search dog, cadaver dog, decomp dog and a forensic evidence dog?

A "search dog" has little or no training in finding deceased humans. The term "cadaver dog" came about after search and rescue dogs started to be trained to look for expired lost persons and suicides. The term "decomposition dog" was started by the NecroSearch group. They felt it better describes how dogs will indicate decomp human scent which includes blood, feces, urine or other material with human scent on it. We have started to refer to our dogs as forensic evidence dogs because they are being trained as specialist. They are not only finding human remains but trace evidence and residual scent

What are the qualities and skills of a Forensic Evidence Dog?

The forensic dog is trained to alert on residual scent along with other faint scent sources like dried blood. The dog is taught not to disturb the crime scene by digging or retrieving evidence. An important skill the dog is taught is how to search a home or vehicle without causing harm to property. The dog is taught to discriminate between live human scent and cadaver scent, and animal bones and human bones.

My dog is trained for search and rescue, can I also teach him to do forensic evidence work?

Yes! Dogs are capable of understanding several disciplines at the same time. Potential problems are: dogs trained in disaster must be very clear and have a different alert for live and dead, occasionally dogs trained in both live and dead scent will alert and we are unable to determine which of the two they have alerted on. As the need for forensic evidence dogs increases we see more handlers who are training specialty dogs. They feel that a dog that has been imprinted on one type of scent is more accurate that a cross trained dog.

Is evidence searching the same as forensic evidence?

Terminology gets confusing, people use different words to mean the same thing or the same word to mean different things. We define evidence searching as an article with live human scent on it. Forensic evidence searching can be cadaver, decomposing human scent, or any body fluids from a deceased person. These scents can be on an article, the actual body, in the ground or residual. The main point is a forensic evidence dog is never looking for live scent.

When would I use a search dog and when do I need a forensic evidence dog?

Obviously if you have an assumed live person you need search dogs. Searches for suicides or expected recently deceased persons should also use search dogs. Its a very good idea to use search dogs that have been imprinted on cadaver scent. Dogs that have never had any training on cadaver scent will sometimes act strange or will not know how to communicate their find. The handler does not see the " normal" behavior and may not recognize what the dog has found. Some dogs who have no training will avoid the deceased person. We are learning that at the moment of death changes in the body are occurring. Factors like heat and the condition of the body will also make a big difference in the decomposition. The training of a forensic evidence dog comes into play for cases like: buried bodies, disarticulation, old cases, bone searches, blood evidence, residual scents, crime scenes, building searches, and vehicle searches.

What is the Institute for Canine Forensics?

ICF is a nonprofit organization working to promote professionalism in the new field of canine forensics. Research projects in many facets of this field are being conducted to provide a basis for determining canine's capabilities. The Institute will continue to add projects and publish the results

Where is the Institute and Who are the founders?

ICF is located in the San Francisco Peninsula in California, USA. It was founded by two canine handlers who wanted to take cadaver searching to a higher degree of expertise on an International level. They are: Adela Morris - With twelve years of search and rescue experience, she has specialized in cadaver work for much of that time and now does forensic evidence work exclusively. She teaches, works on establishing state standards for canine teams, and sets up many research projects. Adela currently handles two canines. Rita Martinez - Has made forensic evidence work her specialty. She is the office manager, teaches, and is custodian of the Web site. Rita is developing the foundation protocol for the unique methods required in forensic search administration. She currently handles two canines.

Thanks to the Institute for Canine Forensics


Last Updated: 03-08-2011
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