To assist the NH State Fire Marshall’s office with arson investigations, the state has specially trained canines. We present a interview the state did with K9 Pal and K9 Molly; the two NH “Arson Dogs.”
Interviewer: Tell us about your job.
K9 PAL: We work for the NH State Fire Marshal’s Office. We are accelerant-detection canines, but you can call us arson dogs or K9s. We even get to wear a badge!
What is an accelerant? K9 MOLLY: An accelerant is a fancy word for a liquid used to start a fire and make it burn quicker. This is unsafe and can cause injuries and damage to property.
How do you detect arson? K9 PAL: Arsonists are people who set fires. After the fire burns out, my handler (or human partner) and I go to the fire scene. If there is even a trace of accelerant, we can sniff it out. Trust me, our noses know arson.
K9 MOLLY: When we alert at a fire, this is where my handler comes in. My handler will collect a sample, put it into a sealed container and send it to the crime lab for analysis. There the science guys will test it and confirm (or deny) the use of an accelerant.
What kind of dog can be an arson dog?
K9 PAL: Most, if not all, arson dogs are Labrador Retrievers. We make excellent arson dogs because we have a super ability to discriminate among smells at a fire scene. PLUS we have a strong desire to work and please our handlers and we get along well with people.
Do you go through special training to become an arson dog? K9 MOLLY: We do! We have to go through 200hrs of training with our handlers to become certified to earn our badge. Then, every year we must be tested and re-certified. That is important because it helps establish my credibility should evidence I find be submitted in court. K9 PAL: When we go through arson school we are trained to recognize the odor of accelerants and associate it with food. We are what they call a food-reward dog. The ONLY time we eat is when we are working. K9 MOLLY: What that means is, even on days when we are not going to a fire scene, several times a day our handlers train with us and say, “Let’s go to work.” As soon as they strap on the food pouch and I hear those words, I’m ready. Whenever I sniff out an accelerant, I sit and point to it with my nose. My handler rewards me with a handful of dog food. K9 PAL: We do this every day and I always get enough food. I just never know when I’m going to get it. That helps keep me motivated to work. But don’t worry! My vet says I’m in great shape and it is actually healthier for me to eat several small meals a day instead of one or two large ones like most nonworking dogs.