What is an Arson Dog?

An accelerant–detection K-9 (arson dog) is a canine that has been trained to sniff out minute traces of accelerants that may have been used to start a fire. These K-9s go through extensive training before becoming certified arson dogs. Each arson dog is part of a team that is comprised of the K-9 and its handler. The handler is a law enforcement officer that has been trained to investigate fire scenes. Not only are these teams trained to investigate the causes of fires but they are responsible for providing community outreach programs and educational seminars on fire prevention and safety.

Why is there a need for these arson dogs? Each year billions of dollars worth of property damage and hundreds of lives are lost due to the crime of arson. This crime has an impact on all communities and the Arson Dog Program is a resource that can help fight this crime.

The Arson Dog Program was established in 1993 through the sponsorship of State Farm®. Over 300 arson dog teams have been placed in 44 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian Provinces. The K-9s and handlers are required to complete a 5-week training program in Maine and are then certified through the Maine State Criminal Justice Academy upon graduation. All the K-9s are Labrador Retrievers and are trained using a food-reward method. All K-9s and their handlers must be re-certified every year.

The program uses Labrador Retrievers for numerous reasons. Labs have a superior ability to discriminate among scents at a fire scene. Their noses can smell in parts per quintillion. Labs generally have a gentle disposition, a “love to work” attitude, and an outgoing personality. All of these characteristics make Labs the perfect choice to become an arson dog.

The K-9s and handlers are together 24/7. Not only is the K-9 the handlers partner but they are part of the handler’s family.

Visit the following link for more detailed information about the day in the life of an arson dog or use the navigation menu to see photos, read articles, or gather information on the equipment these teams use as they investigate and educate.