Arson is a serious crime which causes billions of dollars in property damage as well as loss of life. Also referred to as an “Accelerant Detection Canine” arson dogs are canines that have been specially trained to sniff out accelerants used to start fires. The main purpose of an arson investigation is to determine if the fire was accidental or started on purpose (arson). Arson dogs can be used to detect accelerants at the site of a fire and on the clothing or belongings of the person suspected of starting the fire. The finding of accelerants at the scene of the fire points to arson.
These working dogs are matched with a partner in a fire department or other law enforcement agency. A canine selected to become an arson dog must go through extensive training, and eventually can receive a certification as an arson dog; the arson dog is then recertified annually. Typically, during the training period, the dog learns to associate the scent of an accelerant with a food reward. The arson dog works alongside an officer/handler who has been specially trained to investigate fires. The arson dog is trained to “alert” at the scent of an accelerant. The arson investigator then takes samples of the areas where the accelerant was detected to a crime lab for further analysis
These dogs have such sensitive noses they can detect differences between various hydrocarbon scents and can detect scents such as gasoline, kerosene, lighter fluid, paint thinner, etc. Arson dogs have been proven to be better at detecting traces of accelerants than humans with electronic hydrocarbon detection devices. There are over 200 arson dog teams working in the United States, where they are an invaluable tool, and help save time and resources at the scene of a fire.