There seems to be no limit to what the canine nose is capable of. The latest set of heroic working dogs are trained to sniff out unique chemical compounds emitted by electronic storage devices such as laptops, cellphones, memory cards and flash drives. Their skills can mean the difference between conviction and acquittal in cases of terrorism, sex trafficking and child pornography.
URL (pronounced “Earl”) is an 18-month-old Black Lab mix, twice rescued from a shelter. On the surface, URL seems just like any other energetic young pup, but thanks to the specialized training he received from Todd Jordan, this rescue dog has a vital talent less than two dozen other canines in the United States possess.
Jordan – founder of Jordan Detection K9 in Indiana – chooses the dogs he trains based on their energy and play drive. URL had been previously adopted by a family, but was returned to the shelter because of his over-the-top exuberance. The adopters deemed him unruly and untrainable, but Jordan saw him as a perfect trainee. He told CNN:
“Those are the best kinds of dogs. If a dog has that much energy and no fear … if a dog has what people don’t like, that’s exactly what I look for. The first day I got him he was ready to work.”
During one of URL’s cases, he was able to sniff out a thumb drive sealed within a jar and hidden in a box full of other items. Electronic storage media dogs are trained to locate well-hidden devices that detectives may easily miss. Often the evidence they uncover turns out to be the smoking gun needed to close out cyber crime cases.
Another of Jordan’s successful cyber-sniffing canines is a dog named Bear who uncovered damning evidence in the Subway child pornography scandal last year. Bear discovered hidden flash drives in the home of Jared Fogle that contained files used to convict the former spokesman. Bear also uncovered hidden SD cards from an airtight gun safe in the high profile child molestation case of former USA gymnastics coach, Marvin Sharp.
URL and his partner, Detective Hartman are part of Utah’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, leading co-workers at the Weber County Sheriff’s Office to jokingly refer to him as “The Porn Dog” or “The Smut Mutt.” Although battling child exploitation is URL’s current job, uncovering evidence of sex crimes is just a small part of what he is capable of.
In an age where electronic media is king, the talents of URL, Bear and their few peers can be used to locate evidence of counterterrorism, fraud, identity theft, and a number of other cyber crimes.
Although the price tag on a dog like URL is a steep $10,000, Detective Hartman feels he is more than worth the cost. Not only is URL capable of locating pivotal evidence, his presence has also proven comforting to the child victims he serves.
Hartman told CNN:
“Even if he worked 10 years and we were only able to get one really bad guy with him, to me that’s worth it.”
Watch a video about URL here:
H/T to CNN.com