Q & A with Dog Handler Expert, Sam Pepenella Part 2


Scared Monkeys continues with Part 2 of our interview and Q&A with Sam Pepenella, cadaver dog expert. Sam is a part of The K9 Forensic and Recovery Team and their information can be found here. The Team Members. Searches

Part 1 of the Q&A interview can be seen here.
The Q&A continues:

mskygirl wrote: Are the cadaver dogs similar to service animals. They work and then they are domestic pets around the home? Do they stay with you when you travel on a job or are they caged/kenneled?

Sam: When my girl is not working, she is very much the family pet at the house.

_scott wrote: How do your dog(s) indicate a hit?

Sam: Pending on what the handler decides for their K9, the alerts are different. On our team there are 4 K9′s and 2 different alerts. 3 sit and one lays down.

SunnyinTX wrote: To what depth can the dog find the scent….speaking about at the landfill or buried in the sandy soil…and if the body was wrapped in plastic would that impeded their being able to detect the decomp scent?? Thanks, Sunny

Sam: Sonny, There are many factors effecting what a cadaver K9 can and cannot detect. To what depth: It is not necessarily what depth but what has come to the surface. The gasses rise and that is what the K9′s detect. Often a tree will soak up the nutrients and dispel them in the air. It is not uncommon for the K9′s to “bark up a tree”. Does the plastic effect the chance of detection? Well it can but many of victims have been found in plastic wrap……so …

HannieC wrote: Sam, are you and the others sometimes “send” to search outside the US in other countries besides now in Aruba with this case of Natalee or is this the first time out of the US?

Sam: My second search out of the country. My first was Panama Central America…..

writergal wrote:
1. Do you use actual human remains to train them?
2. How long can they stay at this work before they have to “retire”?

Sam: Pending what state you live in determines if you can posses HR. Depends on the health of the K9 and type. Generally, you can expect to work a K9 in the cadaver field to about age 8.9. or 10. T

nikkibnurse wrote: Sam, thank you for being here…
Just wanted to ask..I know that time can be a factor in a hit that a cadaver dog may get…..How much time would have to lapse before the dog wouldn’t hit on remains?Do skeletal remains ever get hits, or do the remains still have to be in decomposition phase? Thank you!

Sam: The oldest hit recorded with a K9 is over a thousand years. Mine has hit a hundred year old grave. There are many factors which can dictate how much time laps to where the K9 can smell or not smell.. but that is a very long and detailed question. Environment is important…..

AnnieMW1 wrote: At what age do the dogs begin working?

Sam: Depends on the K9. I have seen handlers start imprinting their dogs just after they are born. That study has been inconclusive. But the age can vary from 6 months to 3 years of age.

Frank wrote: In the states which allow it, where does a trainer obtain human remains?

Sam: DONATIONS……any volunteers?

Terri wrote: Raising hand for other half…………
HannieC wrote: LOL not quite ready yet sowwy
NativeLingo wrote: This is what’s written in my will……..
“I, ……………….., leave my husband, ……………………., TO MEDICAL SCIENCE”
Frank wrote: I can think of a few donations I would like to make, but they would probably object

Sandy99 wrote: Sam, Thank you for your time answering all our questions. I never see any bloodhounds in a K-9 core. Great noses Any reason? Difficult to train. Too many hits? Thanks

Sam: No, they are great dogs. Handler selection…..

klaasend wrote: Hi Sam, I understand some dogs can find the scent underwater. Is it more difficult for them in salt water than fresh? Thanks.

Sam: When your dealing with Salt water, your dealing with current (in most cases). So yes salt water is more difficult because of the conditions that effect the water travel, which in turn effects where the scent will surface.

Sylvia Brlecic wrote: There has been a great deal of negative press about the search conducted in Aruba. Could you address some of the statements that have been made. Thank you, Sylvia

Sam: Well … I understand and have heard there have been some negative statements made. I can tell you this, being in Law Enforcement for over 18 years and being involved in thousands of investigations from simple cases to homicides, I was very impressed with how TES handled themselves. They had little to work with and a world wind of political conditions to deal with. I’ll work with them any day any time. Joe, Tim Jeff, keep up the great work on bringing the victim home!

writergal wrote: Do you have to use remains in various stages of decomposition, such as from recently dead to completely skeletal in order for the dogs to get a full range of smells?

Sam: Yes! Very important

SunnyinTX wrote: Does the climate of Aruba (or any tropical location) make it easier for the dogs to hit on a scent….or more difficult or not matter at all? Thanks Sunny

Sam: The tropical conditions can help and hurt you. I’m going to make this simple. After it rains, you see the steam come off the ground…..that is great for scent work. On the other hand, IT’S HOT THATS BAD……Your limiting the work you K9 can do effectively.

Shell wrote: At what distance can the dogs detect the smell? I remember in the Van Dam case, that area had been searched where they eventually found her remains.

Sam: There are many factors that come into play when asking that question. Wind, dept, proximity all effect on the distance a K9 can detect a body. It is not uncommon for the dog to be on the up wind side of the “target” and not smell it. Well to find the source, the dog works into the wind to locate what it is looking for. An example, someone farts and pending on where your standing……..do I have to say more.

SunnyinTX wrote: I know some search dogs gets depressed when they don’t get a hit….and sometimes their handlers will simulate a hit…I have seen this used in police apprehension dogs….how do your dogs react when they don’t get a hit for long periods of time….and how are they rewarded?

Sam: We use the same technique. We try to have the K9 get a hit before and after a search with a controlled find. Yes they can go into depression and that must be monitored closely.

AnnieMW1 wrote: Do the handlers actually raise/train/own their particular dogs? Or are they just trained in how to deal with the dogs – and private citizens own them? Seems like police actually live with and own their individual dogs.

Sam: I own my K9 and train her. Most handlers I know own and train their K9′s. Even in the LE field, although the handler does not own the K9 while it is working, in most cases, they live the the handler and/or their family (family pet). When the k9 retires, the handler has a choice to either give it up for adoption or keep it until it dies. Sadly, many LE K9′s die shortly after they retire.

nikkibnurse wrote: wow..that is a lot like a human..i would assume they are much the same as we are..when a very elderly person gets to the point where they can no longer be active, and when they feel as though they are no longer productive, this happens to them…they pass away…that is an interesting point that you make Sam, thank you…

MuffyBee wrote: I’ve heard of the dogs that can scent through water. If remains have been burned (cremated) would the dog still be able to find them as human remains?

Sam: This depends on the training. If you train to find a cremated body, you may have a good chance of finding one (burnt) with your K9. If you don’t train…..than most likely not!

candygirl wrote: So you’re saying that IF Natalee had been cremated and the right dog was there, she could possibly be found still?

Sam: The probability exist, but diminished greatly!

writergal wrote: Is that how you would go about it? Writing in your will that you wanted your remains to be used specifically for the purpose of training cadaver dogs?

Sam: I imagine so, why do you know someone? On a serious note, there are many legal considerations one must consider to donate and posses a human remain or body. Seek legal counsel.

Click here to discuss the Natalee Holloway Disappearance

Click here to view all of our previous Natalee Holloway Posts.

Posted August 22, 2005 by
Missing Persons, Natalee Holloway | no comments

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