Volume 48, Issue 3 (May 2003)
Cadaver Dog and Handler Team Capabilities in the Recovery of Buried Human Remains in the Southeastern United States
The detection of human remains that have been deliberately buried to escape detection is a problem for law enforcement. Sometimes the cadaver dog and handler teams are successful, while other times law enforcement and cadaver dog teams are frustrated in their search. Five field trials tested the ability of four cadaver dog and handler teams to detect buried human remains. Human and animal remains were buried in various forested areas during the summer months near Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The remains ranged in decomposition from fresh to skeletonized. Cadaver dogs detected with varying success: buried human remains at different stages of decomposition, buried human remains at different depths, and buried decomposed human and animal remains. The results from these trials showed that some cadaver dogs were able to locate skeletonized remains buried at a significant depth. Fresh and skeletonized remains were found equally by the cadaver dogs along with some caveats. Dog handlers affected the reliability of the cadaver dog results. Observations and videotape of the cadaver dogs during field trials showed that they were reliable in finding buried human remains.