File this under “something I learned today”: Online child pornography has a smell that can be detected by dogs.
Before you utter, “Eww gross,” check this out.
Pedophiles are known to hide hard drives and computer storage devices containing child pornography in walls, ceilings and cabinets to avoid being caught. So, law enforcement has turned to our canine friends for help, since they’ve been hugely successful at sniffing out bombs, drugs and other illegal contraband.
According to KUTV, Utah’s Weber County Sheriff’s office (which includes the Salt Lake City area) now has pooch that can sniff out illegal pornography. Meet URL (pronounced “Earl”), he’s a 17-month-old black lab that has a nose so sensitive, he can sniff out everything from the smallest of thumb drives to external hard drives hidden in the cleverest of places. The sheriff’s department calls him “Porn Dog” and he cost the department $10,000.
How is it possible to “sniff” out illegal and child pornography? According to experts, it’s not the illicit material itself the dogs are looking for, but chemical compounds unique to photo and video storage that URL and a few other dogs have been trained to sniff for. They’re trained to sniff through carpet and other materials for everything from cell phones to SD cards. Plus, they know the difference from regular devices such as garage door openers and remote controls.
A dog trainer in Indiana trained URL to become an expert in detecting these particular scents.
Coincidentally, URL was trained by the same person who taught Bear, the dog who helped nab former Subway pitchman and convicted child molester Jared Fogle, last year. Fogle is currently in prison on child pornography charges.
Both Bear and URL are members of an elite team of nine dogs in the U.S. that have this special training.
In regards to the success of Bear helping to find Fogle’s porn stash, Department of Justice prosecutor Steve DeBrota told NBC News, “I thought I was being punked, but it does work. I became a believer. I think it's going to become a regular law enforcement technique.”
Why Utah? It has a high rate of pornography consumption, and became the first state to declare pornography a public health crisis by Gov. Gary Herbert back in April.
Police departments around the country are increasingly using these trained pups to help with possible online crimes including counterterrorism and counterintelligence cases.