By Ken Strutin, Published on September 25, 2010
For nearly 15,000 years dogs have lived with and served humankind as companions, hunters, shepherds and most recently detectives. The average canine possesses hundreds of millions of receptors for odors, compared with a few million for humans. Their outstanding sensory endowment, olfaction, makes dogs sought after by law enforcement. And in the last century, the cultivation and harnessing of this ultrasensitive faculty has become a part of many facets of criminal investigation.
Detection or sniffer dogs are used to ferret out illicit and dangerous substances, such as accelerants, explosives, illegal drugs, environmental hazards and other contraband. While these service dogs’ abilities are highly touted, the use of an animal’s olfactory sense in ascertaining the cause of a fire or locating drugs raises Fourth Amendment , evidentiary and due process issues.
This article surveys select studies, standards and resources about canine scent detection evidence.