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Butterworth, James R. Accelerant Detector Canines--Now and Then. Fire and Arson Investigator. Vol. 46, No. 2 (December 1995). p 25-26.

Abstract: The term Accelerant Detector Canine refers specifically to a canine trained to locate trace evidence of an ignitable liquid at a fire scene. It is not the job of the canine to confirm or deny arson. That responsibility belongs to the fire investigator.

In 1986, the author, working with the Connecticut State Police, was introduced to Mattie, a one-year-old Labrador Retriever. A year long program ensued in which Traditional Pavlovian Conditioning was used to train Mattie to locate gasoline-started arson fires. At the end of the training year, the program was determined to be very effective. Mattie went on to work over four hundred fire scenes and the Connecticut State Police have since trained many more teams.

Properly trained dogs will frequently detect samples confirmed in the lab as containing ignitable liquid. Ideally, the canine will reduce the number of samples taken at the scene as well as the number of hours required to process the scene. One study by the author examined 184 scenes. The canine accuracy rate was 92 percent, man hours were reduced by approximately 1,472, and samples submitted to the lab were reduced by one thousand.

Trained canines are not infallible, and their alert is not absolute proof that an accelerant is present. This determination must be confirmed via laboratory analysis.

Proper training of these canines is critical if they are to perform their roles correctly. Agencies interested in acquiring an accelerant detection canine should carefully examine the available programs.

For more information, contact:
International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI)
300 Broadway Suite 100
St. Louis, MO 63102-2808
Phone: 314-621-1966

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