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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.

History
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 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.

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 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 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 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.

Application
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.”
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Police Author
Kathy Albrecht
Kathy "Kat" Albrecht is a former police
bloodhound handler, crime scene investigator,
search-and-rescue manager, and police
officer
turned investigative pet detective.
Copyright © 2018  Barry M. Baker  
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