Finding the Living; Finding the Dead - Dogs are Valuable Tools to Find Lost or Missing People

By Lisa Peterson

Dedicated law enforcement K-9 officers, criminal investigators and civilian search and rescue handlers came together today for 'Finding the Living; Finding the Dead' a day-long training seminar presented by Dr. Sue Stejskal, a board-certified toxicologist, licensed veterinary technician, and Special Deputy/Human Remains Detection (HRD) dog handler with the St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Department in Michigan.

This free educational seminar held in Carmel, NY at the Putnam County Emergency Services Center was presented by the United States Police Canine Association (USPCA), Region 7, with assistance from a grant from AKC Companion Animal Recovery (AKC CAR).

"This training is about finding lost or missing people...about helping those that cannot help themselves," Lt. John Kerwick of the USPCA, Region 7, who planned the seminar, said. Commenting on the importance of the work done by handlers and their dogs he said," I know for a fact that the families involved or the victims of the crimes involved will be very grateful for your efforts."

Today's training seminar, the second presented by USPCA Region 7, featured extensive information on canine olfaction and how dogs smell, locating the live missing person, deploying the dog, locating the deceased, the basics of forensic decomposition, what makes the odor and how the environment affects it.

"Dogs are great and useful locating tools," Dr. Stejskal said. She and her partner K-9 Buzz participate in land and water searches throughout Michigan and the central Midwest. Buzz, a Labrador Retriever, also has a variety of AKC Rally titles and his Canine Good Citizen title. Dr. Stejskal’s work in toxicology and pathology and her experience as a dog handler led to the development of practical forensic science training for law enforcement dog handlers, detectives, and crime scene technicians. She is author of the book “Death, Decomposition, and Detector Dogs: from science to scene”.

All of us here at the American Kennel Club and AKC CAR want to thank Dr. Stejskal and all of the K-9 handlers and their dogs for the important work they do to find lost and missing people and bring closure to families and victims of crime. We salute you!

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