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Sniffing Out Thumb Drives
Trained pups in New England uncover hidden child porn.

Is there any limit to what the canine nose can uncover? Police dogs in New England are now being trained to sniff out child pornography by finding the hard drives and other tech devices that could contain the hidden files. In recent years, child pornography trafficking has become a growing problem in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Authorities estimate that it's now a $20 billion industry.

The Connecticut State Police Training Academy is teaching dogs, using reinforcement based methods, how to find all sorts of digital devices that could contain child pornography. People hide devices with illegal data in the most unlikely places, like behind ceiling tiles or inside radios. Over 60 dogs have graduated from the 22-week program.

A Labrador Retriever named Thoreau was recently placed at a Rhode Island police department, making the Ocean State the second in the nation to have a digital device sniffing pup. Last month Thoreau assisted in his first search warrant, pinpointing a thumb drive containing child pornography in a box hidden deep inside a metal cabinet.

Thoreau practices every day to earn his dinner, tracking down hard and flash drives inside desks and cabinets. Frequent training is required to maintain fresh skills and to keep up with the ever-changing technology.

I can't wait to see what amazing task our dogs are trained to sniff out next!

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

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