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August 21, 2005

Q & A with Dog Handler Expert, Sam Pepenella Part 1

Posted in: Natalee Holloway

Scared Monkeys would like to thank Sam Pepenella, K9 expert, for joining us this evening and helping us learn more about dog handling and search & rescue in general. Also, his experiences in Aruba dealing with the Natalee Holloway search.

Lets all be gracious to him and each other and listen as well as ask questions.

Next Thursday, August 25, 2005 we will have the President of NNDDA as well!

THolloway wrote: How can the dogs differentiate between human remains and other scents? Are they a special breed? Any comment on their training regimen?

Sam: Training…..Training……Training……HRD or Human Remain Dogs must be trained on deceased Human scent. They must be taught to tell the difference between a decomposing body from an animal. There are several chemical compositions which make up decomposition. Dogs noses are so sensitive they can pick these smells up. When they detect the decomposition smell, they give a trained alert.

mrs. red wrote: Hi Sam, Thanks for coming on…. is there a particular breed of dog that is better suited to this type of work?

Sam: Yes there is. Generally there are certain types of dogs suited for this type of work. I work a German Shepherd due to their stamina and all around. There are several more types suited for search work, being the Belgin Malinois, Australian Shepherd, Dutch Shepherd, Labs etc. most of your herding type dogs. There are limitations to all types of dogs, and careful consideration must be made in selecting the right K9

HannieC wrote: Hi Sam thank you for answering our questions…
I want to know how this dogs are trained before they can find any remains
iow..Is there the use of real remains to train them or not?

Sam: There are two different types of scents (decomposition) the K9 trainers work with. There is pseudo and scent from cadaver. Without getting to involved into it, I prefer the actual scent source, being human decomposition or “source”. Pending on where you live in the country is going to determine if you use real human remains. Certain states don’t all possession of human body parts.

writergal wrote: Even if you do use a particular breed, do you look for individual dogs with particular characteristics? Or do the ones you end up using and training show a special aptitude right away?

Sam: A good trainer and handler will see a “working dog” and a non working dog’ We look for High Ball Drives in the specific breed. These dogs generally want to work…..kinda like people we work with. Some want to and others don’t!

SunnyinTX wrote: Hi thanks for joining us. I’d like to know what the potential dangers are to the dogs that have been working at the landfill since we heard there were bio-hazardous materials found there and several of the humans working at the landfill have been ill? Thanks Sunny

Sam: You must protect your K9. You need to take into consideration the environment your working. Sharps, Bio…..the list goes on. You know what you put in your trash can, would you allow your dog to play or eat it. It is not a good idea to have your K9 hanging around the dump for many hours or the sensitivity will decrease. Just as if you worked in a smelly place and after several hours your senses are numb. A good handler must break their K9′s from the area very often and not leave them in the area long.

szundi wrote: Hi! What factors in the environment affect the dogs’ ability to smell a cadaver. Thank you. ZOON (owner and breeder of Hungarian Sheepdogs(Puli)

Sam: Heat, rain, cold, time

HannieC wrote: Sam what do you actually do to protect yourself if you search thru all kinds of places like the landfill on Aruba or anywhere else,b/c you must come in some terrible places sometimes. And did you become ill often after searches?

Sam: No we did not become ill but there were many hazards needing to be watched when doing a search in a landfill. First there are many sharps you must keep an eye out for. You must also be very cautious with standing water, a breeding place for bacteria. To limit the K9 and handlers exposure, we try to work an area the best way possible in and out of the area. long garments for the handler and booties for the K9′s. Also some considerations on searches are tics and all kinds of bitting BUGS!!!!

AnnieMW1 wrote: Hi there – While humans can wear masks to protect themselves, how about the dogs? Do they get sick from contaminants? TIA

Sam: I have not had seen any cases were a K9 has become ill. As I stated above, good handling is a must. There were numerous claims with the 911 attacks, K9′s became ill or their life was cut short. This was speculation and there is no supporting evidence. Just as anything else, you must be concerned that your K9 will become ill if left in a landfill toooooo long.

jstaffen wrote: Did the cadaver dogs indicate they smelled something important at the well in the van der sloot’s yard?

Sam: I’m not aware of that, and can’t comment on it.

sandraK wrote: Welcome SAM, Do you feel your years in the USAF..and Fla. Law inforcement..Not to mention your “Medal of Valor” … Have Got you Ready for your K9 Services? I think your The Best.

Sam: Of course but it is not a necessity. There are a lot of great handlers out there who have less experience as I. If you love what your doing, willing to commit, are physically able, and work hard you can be a good handler and work K9′s. However, there are a lot of people who mean well but should really consider working a K9 when they should not. I always say, it takes more than a pilot to get a plane off the ground.

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