By: Carrie Kenniston
When many people think of trained dogs that use their noses to find evidence, they usually imagine dogs sniffing for drugs, criminals, and weapons. Recently, dogs have begun training to sniff out chemicals found in electronic components that can be used as evidence. Jared Fogle, the former Subway pitchman, was the subject of such a search. A Labrador named Bear was trained to sniff out chemicals that are common in electronic components, which led to finding evidence, a thumb drive, against Fogle in the child porn charges recently filed against him.
Bear is one of less than a handful of dogs that are trained in being able to sniff out electronic components. Using dogs is a valuable resource in finding evidence that would otherwise be out of the view of police. In searching for a flash drive in Fogle’s home, Bear, who is 2-years-old, was able to sniff out the drive which had X-rated images of minors.
Bear’s handler, Todd Jordan, stated in an article to the International Business Times after the search: “think about investigators going into a house and trying to find a micro SD card that is as big [as] a fingernail. It will take investigators hours, especially if someone is trying to hide it,” and that “Bear is unique because he can sniff out SD cards, thumb drives, external hard drives, iPads and micro SD cards.” It is truly amazing that dogs like Bear will be able to minimize the resources needed by law enforcement and to reduce the amount of time spent searching for evidence.
It is clear that a dog searching for evidence is still considered a search under the 4th Amendment. In drug cases, the use of a dog requires a particularized reasonable suspicion of drug activity. It seems as though the same standard would be applied in the case where a dog is searching for technology, if there were every a motion to suppress that evidence.
While many may still be skeptical about using sniffing dogs to find technological evidence, it is clear that using dogs can be incredibly beneficial during an investigation where technology could be crucial. The dogs are trained to find technology just as they are to sniff out drugs or weapons, by using a food-reward system. The emphasis in technology cases is that the dogs are trained to smell the components of the electronics, which could be hidden in a drawer or closet. Ultimately this seems like a valuable tool for law enforcement to use when electronic evidence could make or break their case, and more dogs should be trained on how to detect the chemicals in electronics and used by law enforcement.
Carrie Kenniston is the Chief Content Editor of the Journal of High Technology Law. She is currently a 3L at Suffolk Law. She holds a B.A. in Legal Studies and a B.S. in Criminal Justice from Lasell College.