Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Villain - A Very Clever Canine

Bill Whitstine, of the Florida Canine Academy, trains dogs for arson detection work. Through over 600 hours of training, the dogs are trained to detect over 40 different fire accelerants. They are able to detect parts per trillion. 

Villain was a dog that Whitstine found at an animal sanctuary and he worked with her for over 13 years. The work they did together led to over 200 convictions in arson trials. 

At 4.25 on the video, Bill refers to a specific case where a very badly burned woman accused her partner of having thrown lamp oil over her and setting her on fire. She told police that she had run around trying to escape, while he threw the lamp oil. The police arrested the boyfriend, who claimed that the woman had set fire to herself.

In an effort to establish whether the lamp oil was confined to one place, the police brought in a mechanical sniffer, which detected not a drop of lamp oil anywhere. 

Then the police brought in Bill Whitstine and Villain. Villain immediately started "hitting on," spots all over the place and alerting to the presence of lamp oil residue. All of the samples collected tested positive for lamp oil residue at the state crime lab. One of the technicians at the lab stated that Villain could detect samples at levels lower than their best equipment could analyse.

Bill testified in court. To demonstrate Villain's skills for the jury, Bill placed single drops of gasoline on the floor and then brought in Villain, who went straight to those spots. Villain's work led to the conviction of the accused man because a dog's nose proved to be better than a mechanical sniffer. 

As one dog handler has said, sometimes the difference between solving a case and allowing a criminal to go free is a cold, wet nose. 

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