A doggy dilemma in the forensic world

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  • Published: Aug 29, 2014
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: Raman / Proteomics / Atomic / Chemometrics & Informatics / NMR Knowledge Base / X-ray Spectrometry / Infrared Spectroscopy / UV/Vis Spectroscopy / MRI Spectroscopy / Base Peak

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A canine search dog failed to detect three commercial training formulations that are meant to represent human odour, during field tests run by the FBI. This might not come as a surprise because the compositions of the training aids were not consistent with the odour of human corpses.

Writing in Journal of Forensic Science, the scientists first analysed the compositions of the formulations by GC/MS, using several different methods to extract the volatile components. Of the 70 different compounds found across all of the formulations, very few matched those reported to be associated with decomposing human remains. The team pointed out that canines might have a lower odour threshold than the instrumentation used, but the discrepancies are alarmingly large.

In indoor and outdoor tests, gauze pads were soaked with the formulations and placed at various sites. An experienced search dog, an English Springer spaniel named Morse, failed to detect any of them. All right, it was only one dog but the complete negative tests should set off some warning bells amongst the victim recovery (VR) community.

"A properly developed human decomposition mimic could be highly beneficial to the canine community in that it would alleviate many training aid integrity issues," said the researchers. This is stating the obvious but it may have been overlooked by training aid suppliers.

"Developing training aids to achieve odor chemical profile generalization capabilities in VR canines requires a more exact understanding of the VOC profiles associated with the decomposition of human remains and a better of understanding of the learning capabilities of the canines," they continued.

As well as creating difficulties during searches, the failure might have implications in court where the reliability of a search dog could be brought into question by lawyers asserting that the training programs are inadequate.


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