This case is a very good example of why we need more scientific research into the use human remains detection dogs. With more good, valid scientific research, our case law can then evolve to make it fit the use of these newer invaluable resources.
These detection dogs, are trained differently than most other detection dogs, drug and bomb dogs immediately come to mind. Most detection dog handlers will go to great lengths to ensure that their dogs do not react nor alert to residual odors. But in the case of human remains detection dogs, that is exactly what they are working; residual odor. A dead body can be in place for weeks, or months, even having the remains scattered by scavengers in the wild, as well as decomposing, among things, such as time, animal feces, extreme temperatures and weather, etc. Given these circumstances, the dogs are not working “fresh” odors.
Detection dogs are not alerting to the physical presence of a specific drug explosive, or in this case, a dead body. What dogs are, in fact, alerting to, is the presence of a trained target ODOR. When a detection dog works, he is locating an odor, working it, and following it to the place where the odor concentration is the strongest, and then he gives his trained final response, TFR. No handler should ever say, that there is a physical presence of a drug, explosive, or dead body here. The dog’s actions are not telling you this. The dog’s actions are telling you, that he has located an ODOR of one of his trained target odors. It is very important for handlers to learn HOW to word their reports to authorities, when their dog alerts. Your wording can greatly impact whether LE receives a search authorization.
So now, our case law and the ways in which these handlers train and work, must evolve to working under some good, valid scientific research, that can be incorporated into new case law. Until that happens, I’m afraid we will continue to see smart defense attornies try to discredit these dogs and handlers in the ways in which they work and train.