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Raleigh Sex Crimes Lawyer Talks about Porn-Sniffing Dogs

Howard Kurtz - 10/28/2016

Everybody knows how talented the canines that accompany us on our life journeys can be. Sometimes, it seems as if the only things a canine cannot be taught to do are those their humans have yet to consider teaching them! Dogs hunt game, herd sheep, provide protection, go to war, detect bombs, perform daring rescues, sniff out cancer and track missing children. Now, according to one Raleigh sex crimes lawyer dogs are being trained to sniff out electronic devices that potentially have pornographic images illegally stored on them.

Depending on the breed, a dog’s olfactory capacity is up to 300,000 times more powerful than that of a human being. Not only that, but the percentage of the canine brain devoted to scent analysis is 40 times larger, to boot. Dog breeds with the worst noses still have upwards of 100,000 times the scenting ability of a person.

Last year a new type of detection dog – “Smut Mutts” – made the news when when a two-year-old rescued Labrador Retriever named Bear was instrumental in locating a USB thumb drive containing child pornography images in the home of former Subway spokesperson, Jared Fogle. Bear’s find led to Fogle’s eventual conviction. Despite the name, smut mutts do not actually detect pornography itself, but rather, the devices upon which digital evidence is likely to be stored. A trained detection dog can easily locate a hidden device as small as a micro SD card, which many times might be missed by law enforcement personnel.

Scent detection dogs, whether searching for electronics, drugs or explosives, are trained to find these specific items in order to earn a particular reward, such as food (Bear’s reward) or a favorite toy, such as a tug, or ball. At the outset of their training, the dog’s preferred reward is associated with the scent of the items it is to discriminate. Later, the dog is “proofed” using distractors to eliminate false positives. A trained scent dog can be relied upon to indicate only the particular item or items he has been trained to find.

Although the cost of training scent detection dogs is expensive – nearly $10,000 for four months of training – the dogs more than make up their initial expense over the course of their careers. A trained dog can search an area in a fraction of the time it would take a team of police officers to do so, and the dog does a better job. Once a dog is on the job, he requires no pay other than his food or play reward for a job done well.

Today, there are two dozen dogs being trained to detect laptop computers, tablets, cell phones, thumb drives and SD cards, a fact that should strike fear into the heart of every person harboring illegal pornography that exploits minors. When there is cause to believe a suspect has hidden electronic devices containing such images, dogs are assigned to search for the items, much as drug dogs search environments where drugs are potentially concealed. With such super noses on the job, it seems certain that an increasing number of people are likely to be charged with felony criminal law violations, such as sexual exploitation of minors or possession of child pornography. Sex crime attorneys with law firms such as Kurtz & Blum should be retained as soon as possible to assist you in dealing with law enforcement seeking to search your premises and your electronics for evidence of wrongdoing.



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