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J Forensic Sci. 1999 Mar;44(2):405-8.

The use of cadaver dogs in locating scattered, scavenged human remains: preliminary field test results.

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Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.


Specially trained air scent detection canines (Canis familiaris) are commonly used by law enforcement to detect narcotics, explosives or contraband, and by fire investigators to detect the presence of accelerants. Dogs are also used by police, military, and civilian groups to locate lost or missing persons, as well as victims of natural or mass disasters. A further subspecialty is "cadaver" searching, or the use of canines to locate buried or concealed human remains. Recent forensic investigations in central Alberta demonstrated that the use of cadaver dogs could be expanded to include locating partial, scattered human remains dispersed by repeated animal scavenging. Eight dog-and-handler teams participated in a two-month training program using human and animal remains in various stages of decay as scent sources. Ten blind field tests were then conducted which simulated actual search conditions. Recovery rates ranged between 57% and 100%, indicating that properly trained cadaver dogs can make significant contributions in the location and recovery of scattered human remains.

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