Substance Detection Golden Retrievers:
The idea of
utilizing dogs to detect flammable accelerants came from Robert Noll, a
Detective for the NYPD Bomb Squad, and an Explosives Enforcement Officer for the
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and
Firearms (ATF). He suggested that if canines could be trained to detect
drugs and explosives, they could also be trained to
locate the accelerants used in arson fires.
In a 1984 pilot program, the bureau trained Nellie, the first
Accelerant Detection Canine. In May 1986, the first operational canine, Mattie,
began training in conjunction with the Connecticut State Police and was field
operational by September 1986. During her training, Mattie learned to detect 17
different odors, even if only miniscule quantities of the flammable liquids were
present. Mattie never failed to amaze her handler, Connecticut State Police
Trooper Douglas Lancelot. Often as Mattie and Lancelot waited on scene for a
fire to be extinguished, she would identify the arsonist in the crowd of
onlookers. Mattie retired in1997 after 11 years of service.
ATF's study of the feasibility of imprinting a canine with an accelerant odor
determined that canines: can be conditioned to respond to accelerant odors; can respond to an accelerant odor with greater
sensitivity than current, field accelerant detection devices; and,
can differentiate between accelerants and similar
chemical gases normally present at a fire scene. Currently, their
Detection Program has trained and certified over 50 accelerant detection
canines for use by police and fire departments across the United States.
According to renowned forensic chemist, John Lentini, in his laboratory practice
"investigators who submit samples collected with the aid of a canine have about
twice the percentage of positives as those who do not use a canine." The use of
an arson dogs helps pinpoint the location of accelerants and reduces the number
of samples that need to be collected and tested, thus saving time and money.
Arson Dogs are trained to work around physical obstacles and
discriminate scents of various accelerants used to set fires. All arson
dogs are trained in the passive response, i.e., to sit on the odor, so
as not to disturb any evidence at the scene. The arson dog is trained to
discriminate the scent of hydrocarbons, the substance most commonly
found at an arson fire scene. Substances that an Arson Detection Dog can
detect include gasoline, lighter fluid, charcoal starter, diesel, kerosene,
acetone, Coleman fuel, brake fluid, paint thinner, turpentine, and naphtha.
Accelerant detection dogs, also known as arson dogs, can be instrumental
in the conduct of an effective fire investigation. Trained to detect and
alert to the presence of even the smallest trace of petroleum-based
fuel, FSI’s scent detection canines can easily be the difference between
finding the cause of the fire and/or catching the criminal. Presently the CADA (Canine Accelerant Detection
Association) have standards and perform certifications in North America.
Learn more about these uniquely trained dogs by exploring the resources below.
TaleTell: Your own Stories of Arson Detection Goldens
Meet some wonderful, hard-working detection dogs.
And, if you
have an Arson Detection Golden tale to tell, just send it,
along with photos, to: