Fla. sheriff's office trains first K-9 to detect cadavers

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — One drop of blood is all Piper needs to sniff out a lead on a case involving human remains. Her little black nose ferrets out clues that bring closure to often heart-wrenching cases involving missing persons, homicides, fatal car crashes and search-and-rescue missions.
K-9 Piper is the Palm Beach County Sheriff''s Office''s first Human Remains Detection Dog - also known as a cadaver dog. She joins 52 other canines that make up the agency''s K-9 unit. She''s an eager, sweet-faced, 20-month-old black Labrador retriever who enjoys cooling off with quick dips in the canal at the Sheriff''s Office K-9 facility west of West Palm Beach.
Working with Piper is Deputy Juliana Hoyle, who showed off Piper''s sharp scent-detection skills Tuesday. Hoyle buried human bones about a foot underground a few hours prior to the exercise and then released Piper.
The dog took a brief detour to splash in the water and then bolted across the field, stopped and sat atop the burial site.
Piper is precise. Her reward: a game of towel tug-of-war with Hoyle and her praises, "Good girl! Good job!"
"I''m having a lot of fun with it. She''s a good worker," said Hoyle, who has been with the agency for three years. "She makes me look good."
The mild-tempered Piper has been certified by the National Organization Certifying Search and Rescue after training for two weeks in California and a month in Perry to be "imprinted" with blood and decaying odors emitted from bones, hair and other human tissue.
The 53-pound K-9 is skilled in detecting decomposition odors under water, beneath rubble and in elevated places such as trees.
"The dog has no clue she''s bringing closure to someone''s life," said Sheriff''s Office Cpl. Nick Barbera, about Piper''s crucial assistance in investigations.
Piper came from a breeder in Tennessee and cost the Sheriff''s Office $5,000, but she''s valued at about $10,000, including the specialized training and certification she''s received.
In the two months that Piper''s been with the Sheriff''s Office, she has been deployed to cases across South Florida about once a week.
She has helped detectives search for a bloody knife in Coconut Creek and helped search for two missing women: Deborah Larkin, who disappeared from a homeless camp near Lake Worth, and Tracy Ocasio, 27, of Ocoee, who was last seen leaving a bar following an Orlando Magic basketball game.
Piper is one of the few cadaver dogs in the region that gets called on to sniff around gruesome scenes throughout the state.
The Broward County Sheriff''s Office has no cadaver dogs on staff. Its last one retired a few years back and served in rescue missions following the 9-11 terrorist attacks. The Miami-Dade Police Department has two dogs that are part of the agency''s cadaver dog program, which started in 1990.

No comments: