by Kathy "Kat" Albrecht
Bloodhounds and
Scent Evidence
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 scenes, it is not collected and
it is underutilized. By collecting scent
from the 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.

Modern Utilization
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

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.

Case Histories
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

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 follows:

“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

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.”
Kathy "Kat" Albrecht is a former
police bloodhound handler, crime
scene investigator, search-and-
rescue manager, and police
officer turned investigative pet

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