K-9s being used to help find missing people

Reporter: Erika Jackson Writer: Drew Hill
Charlotte County Sheriff's Office K-9
Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Credit: WINK News

K-9s have been used for years to sniff out drugs and help with investigations but now, they’re being used to find missing people.

K-9 Copper is a four-legged hero. He’s had a busy first year on the job.

This 5-year-old bloodhound is trained to find missing people and relies on his strong scent senses.

Steven Sella is a Charlotte County Sheriff’s deputy. “Having a dog and their sense of smell makes it so much easier. We can at least establish a direction of travel,” Sella said.

Deputy Sella and Copper saved an older woman missing for more than 24 hours. They found her clinging to a life preserver in a pond.

Just last weekend, the pair was able to track down a suicidal teenager just hours after his family reported him missing.

Paul Coley is the CEO of Scent Evidence K9. “Having this quick response is very effective and efficient it’s the difference between life and death a lot of the times,” Coley said.

Preparation helps as well. Incredibly, both people that Sella and Copper found had completed K-9 scent detection kits.

You wrap your scent sample with a gauze pad, seal the container with a label and keep it in a safe place. It holds your scent for up to ten years.

“This literally takes 2-3 minutes at most,” Sella said.

“Our kit gives the officers a chance to get out and go to work and not put up with all the potential contamination,” Coley said.

Without the kit, the process takes much longer. The items a family member may offer up could be contaminated with more than one scent.

“Time is of the essence to find them to make sure that something bad does not happen to them,” Deputy Sella said.

When seconds count, the extra preparation can protect our most vulnerable.

The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office has free K-9 scent detection kits available for people with Alzheimer’s, Dementia or high-risk runaways.

Also, K-9 Copper is a rescue pup from the Animal Welfare League of Charlotte County. He’s one of the shelter’s greatest success stories.

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