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Ed Frawley

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Bloodhounds & Baloney


On last night's national news (8-05-02) there was yet another segment on the fictitious abilities of bloodhounds that can smell ghosts and track gremlins. It seems that a few bloodhound handlers have convinced unknowing government officials that their bloodhounds can get odor from the envelope of the letters that were mailed with anthrax.

It seems these dogs were then able to "SHOW INTEREST" in David Hatfields apartment. Hattfield is an unnamed suspect in the anthrax case.

Let me be the first one to say that this is a scam on the part of these dog handlers. It is bad dog handling and it is bad law enforcement. The FBI should know better. At least one FBI agent has visited the scent identification training centers in Nunspeet Holland. Nunspeet is one of the top (if not the top) K9 scent identification training centers in the world.

After his visit, this FBI agent then wrote and article on K9 Scent Identification of Humans for the FBI news letter which is sent out to all 28,000 FBI agents around the country. I will guarantee you that this article did not make any claims that bloodhounds can magically (through the expert training of Billy Bob) identify people and "SHOW INTEREST" in suspects from scent collected from letters that criminals sent months ago.

Nunspeet bases its training on scientific work that was performed by Dr. Adee Schoon - a Dutch PHD who did a thesis (which I have a copy sitting on my desk) titled "The performance of dogs in identifying humans by scent". This thesis is the basis for all training and court work on the Dutch scent ID dogs.

Dr. Sschoon's work is based on sound science. Her study dealt extensively with: forensic practice's and continuing training: evaluation of the performance of operational dogs (a three year study 1991 to 1993): reliability: the Analysis of Old and Newly Developed Methods.

I have been to both the Federal Police Dog Schools in Nunspeet and Rotterdam Holland. I can tell you that only very special dogs with very extensive training in scent identification under controlled environment can be used to identify humans by collected and stored scent. I can also tell you that these bloodhound handlers have not had this training. No dog in the United states has had this training.

I would bet every penny I own that if these bloodhounds were taken to Holland and asked to identify humans from properly collected and stored scent these bloodhounds would not have a clue. It would be embarrassing.

This article is not about David Hattfield. If he indeed sent the anthrax letters then he deserves to rot in hell. The article is about the scam that these bloodhound handlers once again are playing games with the scenting abilities of their dogs. Their overstated claims are the reason that the scenting abilities of bloodhounds are being questioned in more and more courts. Judges are not stupid people, it does not take long to blow holes in the claims that these guys are making about their dogs scenting abilities.

This article should be titled
"Lets Hoodwink the Media"

Canines show off nasal know-how

by Steve Ritea
Capital Bureau/The Times-Picayune - September 21, 2002

BATON ROUGE -- Three investigators from Southern California in town to help catch a serial killer stepped before the news media on all fours Friday for a show-and-tell that included howling at the sky, tracking down the scent of a reporter and, at one point, licking a television camera lens.

Lucy, Tinkerbell and Knight -- three bloodhounds with keen senses of smell -- will be in the capital city through Monday to help police track down scents still lingering from the scenes of three murders, which police have linked through DNA evidence.

Rex Stockham, who works at the FBI Crime Lab in Washington, said the saggy-faced dogs are capable of tracking human scent from exploded bomb debris and are being used more frequently in a wide number of investigations.

The dogs have been known to pick up a scent up to three years old, he said. That scent can come from something as small as a shell casing fired from a gun, Stockham said.

Humans constantly emit body oils and cast off dead skin cells, leaving their unique scent on everything they touch, said Ted Hamm, whose bloodhound, Knight, does work for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the FBI.

Dennis Slavin of the South Pasadena Police Department said the dogs are also capable of picking out a person's scent from an object even after it has been handled by dozens -- perhaps hundreds -- of other people.

To demonstrate, Hamm asked four reporters to touch a sheet of paper and then used a small vacuum to transfer their scents to a sterile gauze pad. Three of the reporters were asked to stand side by side as a fourth ran around a corner about 250 feet away while the dog sniffed all four scents on the pad.

After smelling the three reporters in plain sight, the dog then took off around the corner, let out a howl and ran to the fourth reporter, who was sitting quietly on a low wall. Slavin said the dogs have performed the same demonstration to find one of 48 people.

Authorities would not say where the dogs will sniff in Baton Rouge, but they called them a "valuable tool" in their search for evidence.

MY COMMENTS:
The claims of these handlers is founded on bad information, bad law enforcement and is an insult to every hard working K9 handler in this country. This is a joke - they are a joke. I would have to file this article under THE PRESS NEVER LETS THE FACTS GET IN THE WAY OF A GOOD STORY.



QUESTION:
Mr. Frawley,

My name is Brett Mancino and I am an attorney in Cleveland, Ohio. I read your article about bloodhounds and their tracking. The reason I write is because I represent a man charged with murder and bloodhounds are part of the evidence. I do not believe, however, that this evidence under the facts they have presented are reliable.

The facts are: a bloodhound was brought to assist in a murder investigation almost thirty days after the victim went missing and after her body had been discovered. The police are claiming thier bloodhound "scented" at three separate locations. One location was at the passenger side door of my client's van as it sat in the impound lot. The strange thing about this is that I came across a police report that showed they attempted to do this same thing a month earlier with two dogs and the result was "negative." It was after this first attempt, they returned the van and then re-seized it some time later for the bloodhound.

I have the legal brief written that should help exclude this evidence, but I was looking for someone who may be able to assist in testifying or showing that this "scenting" was contaminated and unreliable. In this case, there is good reason to believe some inappropriate things have happened with the investigation in light of the political pressure to solve it.

Do you think what I have told you sounds unreliable and should not be admitted in front of a jury?

Thank you.

Brett Mancino, Esq.
ANSWER:
Let me begin by saying that I don’t testify against law enforcement. That’s a personal choice.

But I also don’t agree with bad dog training and untruthful use of dogs in law enforcement.

In my opinion what you are telling me is impossible. This bloodhound handler fits the mold of exactly what I have problems with on other bloodhound handlers. Guys like this destroy the credibility of other honest dog handlers. There are many good honest hard working bloodhound handlers out there. People who are well trained that work hard at training and that know the limitation of their dogs scenting ability. This handler does not fit into that category.

I can tell you that this evidence would never stand for one minute in Canada or Holland or one of the European countries that rely on science and training to back up the use of dogs in police work.



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