The Effects of Soil Texture on the Ability of Human Remains Detection Dogs to Detect Buried Human Remains

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Abstract

Despite technological advances, human remains detection (HRD) dogs still remain one of the best tools for locating clandestine graves. However, soil texture may affect the escape of decomposition gases and therefore the effectiveness of HDR dogs. Six nationally credentialed HRD dogs (three HRD only and three cross-trained) were evaluated on novel buried human remains in contrasting soils, a clayey and a sandy soil. Search time and accuracy were compared for the clayey soil and sandy soil to assess odor location difficulty. Sandy soil (p < 0.001) yielded significantly faster trained response times, but no significant differences were found in performance accuracy between soil textures or training method. Results indicate soil texture may be significant factor in odor detection difficulty. Prior knowledge of soil texture and moisture may be useful for search management and planning. Appropriate adjustments to search segment sizes, sweep widths and search time allotment depending on soil texture may optimize successful detection.

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