Bloodhound brothers training to sniff out arsonists

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - They are slobbery, have droopy ears, are about two feet tall and the latest Texas canine crime fighters.

Dozer and Tracker are two bloodhounds based in East Texas - one in Linden, the other in Lufkin.

The brothers are a part of the Texas A&M Forest Service and are training to sniff out arsonists.

"These dogs are considered investigators," Texas A&M Forest Service Investigator Jarred Lemmon said. "They have their own TFS badge just like we wear and they are considered peace officers for the State of Texas."

The bloodhounds have custom-made harnesses and badges made by prisoners at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The dogs are almost five months old and have been training ever since coming to Texas.

"We are in the early stages of the training," Investigator Kevin Pierce said. "They won't actually be mission ready or ready to work until somewhere between eight months to a year old."

The arson dogs are not tasked with finding what started the fire, but instead they track down who started the fire.

"Every person is shedding millions of those skin cells falling off of them so what they're doing is actually following those skin cells which are unique to that specific person," Pierce said.

Dozer and Tracker are not the first dogs in the Texas A&M Forest Service program. In 2007, 'Arson Annie' was the first arson dog with the then-Texas Forest Service. She served for three years in Lufkin and worked more than fifty cases, closing three of them.

"In order to just do one --- just clearing one case is worth it," said Pierce, who worked with Annie and now works with Dozer.

The dogs help their human partners by just being bloodhounds, using their low-hanging ears and faces filled with wrinkles to track scents.

"What happens is those ears stir up that smell and as they inhale, it pulls that scent to their nose so their ears dangling and dragging is making a current of wind and pulls that scent up to their nose," Lemmon said.

The dogs start training by finding people short distances away, but by the end of their training they will be able to find people miles away.

Dozer and Tracker will not only help with arson investigations, but they can help officers track down almost anyone.

"They're available to law enforcement agencies -- police departments and sheriff's departments -- for lost children, Alzheimer's patients, escapees we'll come make the dogs available," Pierce said.

Since coming to Texas, the dogs have become semi-celebrities with their own Facebook fan page and blog. They are scheduled to be special guests at the Arbor Day celebration in Bastrop, TX, Friday, April 26th at 11a.m. They have also visited area schools and state lawmakers in Austin. The investigators say with every trip the dogs are getting training with socialization in different environments.

The dogs will have about four more months of training before they are considered 'mission ready' to help law enforcement statewide.

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