Whether our search dogs are looking for Dwight Clark missing in
Bellingham, Wa. Or Kyron Horman missing in
Portland, Oregon, many law enforcement and the
victim's friends and families don't understand
how a search dog is supposed to be used to help
bring resolve to their cases.
With over 10,500 documented case requests on
record, I’ve written numerous articles for the
District Attorney’s office, Judges, Police
Departments, other search dog teams, and the
general public to help them understand scent,
scent evidence and how search dogs work. Also
how they can be used properly to understand the
missing person(s) case.
In 2014, I helped a law firm representing the victim's family in
VA win an $8,000.000.00 judgement for wrongful
death by explaining how search dogs and scent
Let’s start at the basics.
Scent. Understanding scent.
When a person walks along they drop 10,000
pieces of scent per minute. These are dead skin
cells, hair follicles, etc. and that drop daily
on a normal basis.
A trained search dog with a trained search dog
handler can track this scent up to a year later.
(We’ve done it twice on cases over a year. All
documented). So have many other dog teams
through out the USA.
Rain actually helps scent. It livens it up, keeps it close to the
surface and keeps the dogs nasal passages moist
so they can smell it.
Heat dries out scent but a trained search dog
can still detect it and track it.
There are three types of human scent a search
dog will detect. Inexperienced dog handlers and
police officers often miss this.
Live, stress, and death.
Live alert. Dogs ears are up, tails up, dog
smiling, happy, barking,
Stress alert. Dog’s ears up, tail half way down,
Death alert. Dog’s ears down, very sad,
emotionally upset, tail down, dog
Whining. Eating grass to settle their upset
Detectives have asked me on numerous cases
throughout the WORLD to bring in our specialized
search dogs to detect scent and identify what
really happened at a suspected crime scene. To
date, I’ve been 100% accurate and our
credibility has held up in every courtroom.
When a person is walking along, they drop 10,000
pieces of scent. The search dog can detect this
and indicate that the person is walking,
un-injured, not fearful, and the direction of
travel the person is taking. Even in a vehicle.
It’s a lot harder to track a person in a vehicle
but it’s been done many times by many dog teams
throughout the USA.
If a person is attacked, they give off
adrenaline. (“Fear or Stress scent)”. As the
search dog teams works the track, if the search
dogs demeanor changes and body language change,
the search dog handler should be alert to clues
to support this change. Altered foot prints,
signs of a struggle, blood, fecal matter, vomit,
urine, scuff marks, etc.
This area should be handled as a CRIME SCENE as
it is. Most officers fail miserably at this, as
do the dog handlers. Not intentionally, by just
not understanding what the search dog is showing
Remember a search dog doesn’t know how to lie.
If the search is being video taped this can
help show jurors, detectives and others what the
search dog is detecting and where.
The area should be roped off and forensic teams should process
Many times I’ve been called in after the
officers and other teams have gone in and said
scene is clean. And I’ve showed
the lead detectives not only where the victim
died, but helped identified the suspect and
their route after the crime was committed. Also
identified key evidence to prove who, what,
when, where, why, and how. (Ward Weaver
case 2002 Oregon City murders of Ashley Pond and
Miranda Gaddis). One of many examples where we
located the bodies after the police and FBI
This is called scent transfer. When another
person touches another person they not only
transfer their scent on to the victim but the
victim”s scent onto the suspect(s).
This also transfers on the suspect(s)
/ boots, clothes, weapons, vehicles. All which
can be identified through a properly trained
search dog at a later date.
Now let’s say the tracking team’s dog stops and
indicates a “Death alert”. This should show the
officers and handlers to stop, freeze the scene
and process the area as a “DEATH SITE”. The
victim will STAIN THE GROUND with their death
scent. This can be identified up to a year later
out in the weathered elements. You often can’t
see it with the naked eye. But again the search
dog can smell death and where it happened.
Too many times this is over looked.
Read my blog on
Forensic Scent Evidence.
The police department owes it to the victim and
his / her family to do the best job they can. If
they have used a search dog team and that team
finds nothing, then someone is missing something
and the police dept should call in a second dog
team to get a second opinion. If the second dog
team says exactly the same thing at the same
location, then the police dept has done its job.
What is a crime is when the police dept ignores
an expert witness regarding scent and scent
evidence and his/her search dogs findings on a
If he / she comes forward and submits a detailed
report that their search dog has detected “Death
scent” in a specific area and then the police
ignore it, then they aren’t doing their job
correctly. They are doing an injustice to the
victim of the crime.
In the following cases:
These are just some of our success cases where
law enforcement used my teams to bring closure
in their cases.
I was brought in and showed the police where
each victim had died. NOTE: Each person holds
their own scent even after death. That's why we
use scent articles when we can to locate victims
In some of these cases where the victim was
murdered, and we identified the suspect through
2002 Ward Weaver Case (Clackamas Co. Ore.) We
identified Weaver as the main suspect and his
son who assisted him. We also showed in our
report dated March 30, 2002 to the FBI and OCPD
where Ashley was buried under cement. Where
Miranda Gaddis’ remains were. And we found a
third body nearby. This after the Fed. and State
Cert. sar teams failed to find anything. (Public
record). See news statement from FBI 03-29-2002.
JD in (Polk Co, Ore.) Fall City, Oregon.
Tomy Gibson (Douglas Co. Ore.) We proved his
father (A deputy sheriff) murdered little Tommy
and removed his body from the house in the back
of his patrol car. Again this after State SAR
Teams failed to find anything Oregon State
Police called us in privately.
94-359-09 Carlson Case (Clark Co. Wa.) We proved
their own son murdered both the mother and
father, removed their bodies in the back of a
pick up truck, covered the bodies with split
wood from the house. We were called in by Det.
R. Bukner. CCSO.
96-730-086 David Wahl (Clatsop Co. Ore.) We
showed where David died, we located his remains
and helped OSP get a conviction of the suspect.
This after State SAR Cert. teams failed to find
anything. I made two phone calls. One to NOAA
and One to Grays Harbor Med. Examiners' office
and that's how we found David who had already
been buried as a "JOHN DOE". We had his body
exhumed, autopsy showed it was in fact David's
remains. OSP arrested his girlfriend for murder.
96-805-161 Diane Nix Clarksville Tennessee We
showed where she died.
97-1108-185(B). Linn Co. Missing Child. Elijah
Kelt, We showed where he died and recovered his
remains. This after State SAR Cert. K9 and
ground teams failed to find anything in their
search efforts. It took us 20 minutes to find
08-10-97 97-1056-133(A). Mult. Co. Lost Child.
Jessica Nicole Clark, age 4. Portland, Oregon.
We showed where she died and her remains were
recovered right where we told Portland Police
and the victims mother where she was. This after
STATE SAR Cert. teams K-9 teams and divers
failed to find anything. It took us 2 minutes to
find her in front of the victim's mother.
97-1127-204(C). Wash. Co. Missing Person.
Tigard, Oregon. Saffa M. Nasir.
We identified that Saffa was murdered, where,
and who did it. Tigard PD Followed up the
investigation and arrested the suspect.
98-1150-015 (C). Darke Co. Ohio, Lynn Topp We
identified where she died, who was the suspect,
and where she was buried on a pig farm 5 feet
deep. Sheriff validated our findings by
recovering the victim where we said her remains
08-14-2000 Claudia Kirshoch Sandals resort,
Negrel, Jamaica. We identified where she died,
who the suspect was, and vital evidence for the
FBI out of Miami to follow up on. They confirmed
they found evidence where my search dog Valorie
had alerted at.
Sandal's resorts who employed the suspect that
murdered Claudia, later settled with the
victim's family out of court after I gave a two
These are just some of the cases we’ve
documented over the last 28 years. The list goes
on and on. All have be validated.
So when a person is missing, then it’s up to the
police dept. to bring in qualified teams and
determine what really happened to the victim.
If the law enforcement refuses, then it’s up to
the family and friends of the victim to bring us
in privately to show what really happened.
If we find evidence and then law enforcement
refuses to act on this evidence, then shame on
International K9 Search and Rescue Services
Scene Search with SAR Dog Team.
A SAR Dog Team that is searching for a missing
person can follow these steps.
Preparing for the Search
1. Leave your dog with a support person.
2. Get reports, information regarding the case
that has been collected to date.
3. Get your own scent article. Do not allow
anyone else to collect it.
Searching for a Missing Person with No Known
Get the victim's scent article and attempt a
track or trail of victim.
If or when the track or trail stops, look for
clues of a burial, struggle, or tire tracks to
indicate what happened to the victim at this
Searching for a Missing Person When There Is a
1. Get a consent-to-search or a search warrant
for the suspect's vehicle.
2. Give your search dog the victim's scent
3. If the dog alerts in the front seat, back
seat, or trunk of the vehicle, observe the kind
of alerts the dog has: stress alerts, normal
alerts or death alerts.
If the suspect killed the victim on a hard
surface such as the floor or ground death scent
will often be transferred from the victim's body
fluids to the suspect's footgear. When the
suspect drives the vehicle, they transfer the
death scent to the gas pedal, clutch area, and
carpet or mat area on the driver's side floor.
4. Study your dog's alerts closely here.
VIDEOTAPE THE SEARCH WHENEVER POSSIBLE.
If you still can't find any track, get the
suspect's scent article and try to get a track
from the PLS of the victim.
We did this in a search in Tennessee. A young
girl had been kidnapped and the suspect admitted
to throwing her in the river. The local Law
Enforcement and SAR were able to prove that the
suspect's claims were not probable based on
where and how the suspect got rid of the victim.
After we tracked the victim we wanted to confirm
the route.We got the suspect's scent article and
tracked the suspect along the same route the
victim's track led us. This confirmed what the
victim's earlier track showed us. We were able
to testify that both the victim and the suspect
traveled the same route and that the victim was
picked up in the suspect's vehicle and placed in
the right front passenger seat. We knew this
because there were stress alerts from the front
seat right passenger side and death alerts from
the driver's side floor area of the gas pedal
and carpet on the floor.
If there is a good suspect in the case and
you're given either a consent to search or have
served the search warrant on the suspect's
residence, business or vehicle, document the
following: time, date, location, air
temperature, wind direction, findings.
Photographs also help.
If you are searching an enclosed area (Barn,
Home, Vehicle), the scent can persist for
approximately a year or longer depending on how
much the search area is contaminated.
When searching a vehicle for scent evidence,
start with the driver's door and concentrate in
the floor board area. If the suspect walked on
the death scent site, then the death scent will
have transferred from the victim to the gas and
clutch areas and the floor mats. This is very
common in scent searches involving homicide
K9 Search and Rescue SAR Coordinator.