A Labrador named URL (pronounced “earl”) found himself in a kill shelter not just once but twice because of his incredibly high energy and drive. However, these very same qualities landed him a career as an Electronic Detection (ED) K9, one of the few in the country.
Todd Jordan, URL’s trainer, took him on precisely because he possessed traits that other dog owners don’t like. After all, canines who love food, are fearless, and never get tired even after running around a lot make the best ED K9s.
Kerry Halligan, a K9 instructor who also trains ED dogs, agrees. She looks for the ones with the biggest appetites — often Labradors like URL — because handlers reward their K9s with food after every successful detection. In fact, the dogs only get to eat when they’re on the job.
Nearly all pooches love food, though, so Kerry has another test that only a handful of canines can pass. She distracts the candidates with toys and other dogs while still trying to get their attention with some kibble.
Only those who stay by Kerry’s side for the treats will continue with training. She also picks the pooches who grab food from a counter even when told not to do so.
It’s thus no wonder that there are only a few ED K9s so far, and URL was the first one in the western states. Their work is invaluable, however, in helping authorities investigate cases of child pornography, narcotics, financial crime, and terrorism.
ED K9s can’t detect illegal pornography or intelligence, of course. But their incredibly sensitive noses can sniff out triphenylphosphine oxide (TPPO), a chemical used in all storage devices such as thumb drives, hard drives, and SD cards.
Despite rigorous searching, humans can sometimes fail to find well-hidden memory devices. ED K9s, however, can uncover them even if they’re in airtight safes or containers buried under a myriad of other stuff.
One of the most famous cases involving ED K9s is that of Jared Fogle, a former spokesperson for Subway restaurants, who was arrested for child pornography. Bear, a Labrador also trained by Todd, sniffed out a flash drive hidden in Fogle’s home and ultimately secured his conviction.
Detective Cameron Hartman of the Weber County Sheriff’s Office is URL’s handler. Because he’s a part of Utah’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the pair primarily work child pornography cases.
However, given that nearly everyone has a mobile phone in this day and age, Detective Hartman says they also undertake related jobs, such as detecting contraband devices in correctional facilities. You can watch the detective talk about his work with URL here: