Meet Selma and Thoreau, the World's First Laptop-Sniffing Dogs

Police Dog
Getty ImagesA police dog sniffs a suitcase.

We're all familiar with the bomb-sniffing dogs you see at airports and in cop shows--but what about a laptop-sniffing dog? As Bloomberg reports, two dogs have been carefully trained to do exactly that, and their work sniffing out electronics containing child pornography has led to a number of concrete arrests.

Black labrador Selma and golden Labrador Thoreau both flunked out of New York City's Guiding Eyes for the Blind program, but they found their true calling when they were enlisted to participate in the experimental training.

They were looking for a compound identified by Jack Hubball, the forensic scientist who, in 1986, isolated an accelerant present in arson cases that could be detected by dogs. For his latest work, he dismantled dozens of circuit boards and hard disks in an effort to find a single common compound--which Selma and Thoreau were then trained to sniff out.

The unidentified chemical appears in electronics including laptops, cameras, and USB cards, and Selma and Thoreau can pick it up on everything from clothing to concrete blocks. Selma alone has been involved in over 50 search warrants with state and local police since going on her first assignment in October 2013. She primarily works uncovering devices suspected to contain child pornography, but has also found falsified documents and software that led to the discovery of firearms used in a homicide case.

"Selma has found many devices such as digital cameras with flash cards, USB drives and external drives," Selma's handler, Detective George Jupin of the Connecticut State Police's Computer Crimes Unit, told Bloomberg. "The evidence she finds has furthered investigations."

Thoreau, meanwhile, is currently doing similar work with the Rhode Island State Police. Jupin said that the pair have been so successful that five more dogs will probably be put through training to sniff out incriminating evidence. Now let's see a cat do that!
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