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by  Kathy “Kat” Albrecht
Police Author Kathy "Kat" Albrecht is a former police bloodhound handler, crime
scene investigator, search-and-rescue manager, and
police-officer-turned-investigative pet detective.  
Bloodhounds and Scent Evidence
by Kathy “Kat” Albrecht
Because of their ability to scent discriminate and to work “cold” tracks, the
Bloodhound is a tool that can be utilized by investigators to develop leads in
criminal cases.  Bloodhounds are most often used to search for missing persons,
criminals who have fled the police, and prison escapees.  Yet many police
agencies, especially on the east coast, routinely utilize Bloodhounds at “cold”
crime scenes to retrace a criminal’s path and to develop leads.  Scent is known as
“the forgotten evidence” because it is invisible, it is deposited at most crime scene
and utilizing a trained Bloodhound, an investigator can retrace the path a suspect
or victim walked.  This type of Bloodhound utilization has resulted in locating
witnesses, evidence, and suspects.

Bloodhounds are known as “man hunters” or “man trailers” and are descendants
of the seventh century French St. Hubert Hounds.  They were imported into
America sometime before the Revolutionary War.  In the sixteenth century,
Bloodhounds were used extensively to hunt men, especially poachers and
thieves.  Game Wardens using Bloodhounds often caught poachers with fresh
blood on their hands from skinning the game, giving rise to the popular saying,
“being caught red handed.”  So highly was their testimony regarded that they were
given the legal right to follow a trail anywhere, including into homes.  A man
refusing to allow a trailing Bloodhound into his house was assumed guilty.

Bloodhounds are no longer strictly used to work in rural and wilderness
environments.  Now they are routinely used by metropolitan police agencies to
track suspects in urban environments.  One of the most successful Bloodhound
programs currently in place is with the New York Police Department.  In their first
year, the N.Y.P.D. Bloodhounds ran 120 successful tracks.  According to K-9
handler Bruce Marsanico, Bloodhounds were added to the N.Y.P.D. K-9 Unit
because with patrol dogs “there was a definite deterioration in the ability to follow
someone as time passed.”  While the traditional patrol dogs did well tracking
suspects on a “hot” track, they became less effective as time passed and as more
people crossed over the track.

Bloodhounds should not be used to replace the traditional patrol dog as
Bloodhounds serve a separate function.  If a hot track is laid and a patrol dog is
available, the patrol dog should be called in first since they are trained to
apprehend a suspect.  Patrol dogs are versatile at tracking hot scent, searching
buildings and rural areas for a suspect, protecting officers and apprehending
suspects.  If a patrol dog is not successful or is unavailable and a Bloodhound is to
be used for a fresh felony track, a minimum of two additional officers should be
provided as backup.  When working a Bloodhound, the handler is focused on
watching their dog.  The backup officer’s job is to protect the team, to remain
oriented to their location, and to apprehend the suspect if located.  

While the patrol dog is considered a “general practitioner” with much training
emphasis on bite work, the Bloodhound is considered a “specialist” trained strictly
to do one thing, hunt down people.  A Bloodhound handler devotes 100% of their
training time on search work where they learn to interpret their hound’s body
language to determine if the hound is on or off the scent.  A Bloodhound is trained
to take the scent from a “scent article,” an object which contains the suspect’s
scent.  If a physical object is not left behind by the suspect, scent can be collected
by swabbing an area that the suspect touched.  The handler would use a sterile
gauze pad to collect scent from areas such as steering wheels, car seats, a
window sill, or even a body.   

Bloodhounds range in price from $300 to $1,000 depending on the quality.  A
good source of information and potential way to find a Bloodhound pup is by using
the Internet to view the websites of the “Bloodhound Bunch” and the “Bloodhound
Network.”  On average, it takes at least one year to train a Bloodhound and
handler to be ready for search work.  The routine training of a Bloodhound
includes working tracks in heavily populated areas, shopping malls, and residential
areas to expose the hound to distractions.  These training tracks are aged
anywhere from one hour to seven days.  Scent can remain in cool, damp areas for
several weeks, perhaps months.  Bloodhounds have been used successfully on
tracks that were over a week old.  In 1995, a Santa Clara County Bloodhound
tracked down a man who had been missing for eight days.  While it is preferred
that the Bloodhound be utilized as soon as possible, it remains a viable tool to be
called in hours, even days after a crime has taken place.

The following are examples of cases where Bloodhounds were used to provide
valuable, critical information to criminal investigations.  They demonstrate
situations where a case with few leads led to an apprehension based upon the
work of a Bloodhound.  The N.Y.P.D. case listed is an excerpt from an article
published in New York’s Finest magazine titled, “N.Y.P.D. Bloodhounds Lead The
Way.”  The cases handled by the Michigan and the Maryland handlers occurred in
1996 and were related to me by the handlers themselves.

N.Y.P.D. 67th Precinct.  The mutilated body of a female was found on the
roof of a Manhattan apartment house.  There was no blood at the crime scene,
leaving investigators to believe the crime had been committed elsewhere.  But
where?  The Bloodhounds were called and led the officers to an apartment
building, to the bathtub in one of the apartments.  Lab analysis proved that the
body had been in the tub, and that the drain was still holding the victim’s blood.

Hagerstown, Maryland.  Maryland State Trooper Doug Lowry and his
Bloodhound Jimmy were called in to assist with a homicide investigation.  The body
of a woman was found in her apartment.  The woman’s wrists were bound, her
throat was slashed, and a rag was stuffed down her mouth.  Lowry used the rag as
scent material because it had been touched by the suspect.  Jimmy scented off the
rag, tracked from the apartment to the parking lot and sniffed at some cigarette
butts located in a vacant parking stall.  Jimmy continued to show interest in this
area of the parking lot and eventually indicated that there was no foot trail leading
away from the parking lot.  Lowry told investigators that Jimmy had indicated that
the suspect probably left in a vehicle parked in the parking lot.  Investigators
interviewed neighbors.  One neighbor reported that at 2:00 a.m. they saw an
unfamiliar sedan parked in the vacant parking stall with a subject smoking a
cigarette by the car.  Investigators obtained a surveillance video of the parking lot
from security and obtained a license tag from a sedan parked in the stall with the
cigarette butts.  Investigators contacted the registered owner who came to the
police station for questioning.  The subject confessed to the homicide

Dearborn, Michigan.  Dearborn Police Department Corporal John Salem
and his Bloodhound Chester were instrumental in solving a murder/robbery of an
armored guard.  Through electronic mail, Corporal Salem described the search as

“We had an interesting armed robbery case in which two armored car guards
made a stop to stock an ATM.  The passenger guard was shot in the head and
dead on the scene.  The driver guard ran to call for help.  I ran Chester off the
empty cargo area of the armored car.  The strange thing is, he took a trail
consistent with where the driver guard said he ran to call for help.  The driver
guard had said he never went anywhere near the cargo area of the armored car.  I
then began thinking the driver guard was not telling the truth about something.  
Why would Chester take the suspect scent from the cargo area and run the trail of
the driver guard?  Unless the driver guard was in on the crime.

As a result, our detectives began focusing on the driver guard as a suspect.  The
driver guard became very nervous and refused to answer any more of our
questions without an attorney.  The next afternoon, our detectives reviewed the
ATM surveillance camera tape and Chester’s work was confirmed.  Apparently, the
camera captured the driver guard shooting his partner and helping to unload the
$1.2 million dollars from the cargo area.  He was then officially charged with the
murder/robbery.  The loot was unloaded into a pickup truck driven away by the
driver guard’s cousin.  Seven days later, the FBI located the cousin in a local Red
Roof Inn.  A shootout ensued and the cousin took his own life.  They recovered
about $1 million in the cousin’s hotel room.”

Dearborn, Michigan.  Corporal Salem and Chester were also used to help
solve a burglary.  Officers responded to an alarm at a Clark Gas Station.  Upon
arrival, they discovered a “smash and grab.”  The thief had taken cigarettes and
lighters, dropping several on the ground during his escape.  Corporal Salem
scented Chester off the dropped cigarettes and he began trailing, working into the
city of Detroit.  Chester worked the curbside of a roadway in a manner that
indicated he was following the residual scent of the suspect who was traveling in a
vehicle.  Chester worked in this manner until he approached a pickup truck at
Whitlock and Asbury Park.  Detroit P.D. had the pickup stopped for a traffic
violation when Chester jumped up on the pickup truck showing interest in the
driver.  Several packs of cigarettes and new lighters with the Clark Gas Station
logo were discovered when they looked inside the pickup.  The driver was arrested
for the burglary.

Currently there are only approximately fifteen Bloodhounds being used for search
work in the state of California.  The majority of these Bloodhounds are handled by
civilians or Reserve Officers with only three  being handled by police officers
(Irvine P.D., Alameda P.D., and U.C. Santa Cruz P.D.).  The counties which
currently have Bloodhounds available for search work are: Humboldt County,
Sonoma County, Contra Costa County, Alameda County, Santa Clara County,
Santa Cruz County, Yolo County, Tulare County, Orange County, and Riverside
County.  If your agency operates within one of these counties, you can access the
Bloodhound as an “in county resource.”  If your agency operates in a county that
does not have a Bloodhound, you can call the Office of Emergency Services
(OES) and request a “Police Bloodhound for a criminal search.”

Because Bloodhounds can work older tracks in an urban environment, they are an
ideal tool for criminal investigations.  In addition to being a resource for search and
rescue cases and criminal apprehensions, Bloodhounds make excellent
investigative tools.  Sexual assaults, homicides, and burglaries are just a few
examples of cases where Bloodhounds have proven useful.  As long as scent
evidence is available at a crime scene, Bloodhounds can be utilized.  By retracing
the route that a suspect or victim walked, Bloodhounds can help to recover
evidence, locate witnesses, and perhaps even catch a crook “red handed.”
Coming Soon!
Kat's Website