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Use of Dogs in Police Investigation

The task of trained trackers to identify scents and pursue traces of them is an important aspect of criminal investigations by Police. However, such evidence is only as strong as the evidence which establishes the reliability of the tracking dog's skills and established performance patterns. The police use a tracker dog when investigating a crime. It is called a tracker because the dog is used to track a criminal.

This dog has special genetic characteristics and belongs to a certain breed. Sniffing an article or person the dog tracks the culprit. When a crime is committed, the dog sniffs the place and objects near the crime scene and follows its scent to find the place where the smell ends, and if this end point is a person, it is identified as the offender.

A tracking dog is specially trained in this art. Not all dogs are capable of performing this art. Only dogs of a certain breed and only specially trained are able to track the scent and detect the offender. Where a sniffer dog is used, the police officer using the sniffer dog must be examined.

He shall explain to the satisfaction of the court the training he has given the dog and, if necessary, demonstrate its capabilities before the court. Evidence provided by a tracker dog cannot be relied upon unless it is corroborated by independent evidence of all aspects revealed by the use of a tracker dog. Using a tracker dog is like using an identification parade.

In the case of a tracking dog, the culprit is identified by a sniffer dog, and in the case of an identification parade, the culprit is identified by a person with a memory of having seen the culprit at an earlier place and at an earlier time. Dog tracking evidence must pass the test of scrutiny and reliability like any other evidence.

Required Qualities of Dogs and its Handler

Dogs involved in forensic work must know basic skills in addition to specific odor identification. They must pass obedience tests, swim proficiently, be social with other dogs and people, travel with other dogs in vehicles and helicopters, and do agility exercises as directed. While many people think that all law enforcement dogs do basically the same job, in reality some have significantly different jobs than others.

As for example, dogs used to track a suspect or find someone lost in the wilderness are trained differently than digs used to detect arson, and may have to prove their capabilities under different conditions. However, they all share certain specific features. Law enforcement working dogs must be healthy, alert, trainable, controllable, eager to hunt, have high stamina, do not get bored easily, are focused and responsive to reward.

Since they work as part of a team, the dog handler must also have certain qualities, such as physical fitness, the ability to cope with what is found, the ability to "read" the dog, the ability to work as a forensic team and the willingness to constantly learn and train.

The dog's job is to find clues that the handler can interpret. Most importantly, they rely on their nose as their primary means of detection. Humans have around five million olfactory receptor cells, while bloodhounds have a hundred million. In other words, they are useful in this area due to their excellent sense of smell. Dogs can distinguish between current and older odors and can detect different odors in many different types of conditions. They can track and detect things that a normal man could ever detect, since scent is invisible.

Dogs can pick up our scent since we leave a trail of tiny particles of hair and skin, sweat and other body oils. Dogs also distinguish between smells, so they can focus on one even when others are present. They get a "scent picture or scent print".

There is no single breed that works best under all conditions, and sometimes a crossbreed is a good detection dog, but they all share the ability to follow a scent and stick with it until it does the job. When they encounter a substance or odor they are trained to find, they alert their handlers with a specific type of trained behavior, such as barking or a certain position.

Court Judgments on Dog's and its Handler's Evidence

The following guidelines as laid down by the Bombay High Court should be kept in mind:

  1. that there must be a reliable and complete record of the exact manner in which the tracking was carried out and the seizure list with respect to the evidence of the tracking of the dog must be clear and complete. It will have to be properly proved and supported by the handler's evidence;
  2. there must be no contradiction between the version recorded in the seizure list and the handler's evidence which has been produced in court;
  3. the dog handler's testimony will have to be cross-examined separately.
  4. materials such as the type of dog training, his past performances, achievements, reliability, etc. if documented, the documents should be produced by the handler before the court. 1993 Cr LJ 2808, Shri Ashok Gavade v. State of Goa, Bombay High Court
There are some dog breeds that are specifically designed for hunting and tracking because of their abnormally high talent. If the dog falls into one of these categories, and if it can be shown to the court that it has been specially trained for detection purposes, then the tracking dog evidence will have to be relied upon as high-quality evidence.

In case the tracking dog immediately picked up the accused persons after sniffing the chappal (slipper) and the knife found at the scene, it was held that the evidence provided by the dog was sufficient to identify the accused. 1993 Cri LJ 3883, Pandian Kanappan Nadar v. State of Maharashtra on 29 June, 1993, Bombay High Court

Evidence based on sniffer dogs has an inherent weakness. The possibility of error on the part of the dog or its owner is the first among them. The possibility of a misunderstanding between the dog and its master is very likely. The possibility of distortion or erroneous inference from the dog's behavior was not ruled out. Last but not least is the fact that scientifically, there is little knowledge and many uncertainties regarding the exact abilities that allow police dogs to track and identify criminals.

Police dogs engage in these acts based on instinct as well as the training they have been given. Therefore, criminal courts may not be overly concerned with evidence based on sniffer dogs. Investigative exercises can afford to conduct trials with the help of canine faculties, but judicial exercises cannot. Gade Lakshmi Mangraju v. State of A.P., 2001 Cr LJ 3317 (paras 13, 17, 18) (SC): AIR 2001 SC 2677

Calling in the dog squad would not necessarily lead to the sole conclusion that the perpetrators of the offence were not identified. Vishnu v. State (N.C.T. of Delhi), 2001 Cr LJ 4006 (para 38) Delhi

In Abdul Razak v. State of Maharashtra (AIR 1970 SC 283), the Supreme Court had to deal with the question as to whether evidence of tracking dogs was admissible in evidence and, if so, whether such evidence could be treated at par with evidence of scientific experts. In this case, the Pune Express derailed near Miraj railway station on October 10. Sabotage was suspected. The cause of the derailment was determined to be the removal of fish plates. The police dog was put into service and taken to the scene of the crime. After smelling the objects near the affected joint, the dog ran towards the embankment where one fish slab was lying and then the dog smelled it, went to a nearby hut and pounced on the accused who was a gangster at Miraj station.

The Supreme Court ruled that the evidence of a tracking dog trainer was relevant and admissible in evidence, but the evidence could not be treated in the same way as the evidence analysis of blood and chemicals by scientific experts., which is Though dog is an intelligent animal with many thought processes similar to those of human beings, the reactions of blood and chemicals cannot be compared to the behavior of a dog.

Anytime there is a process, there is a risk of error and fraud. The Supreme Court clarified the law by enunciating the principle that evidence of tracking dogs is admissible but usually carries little weight and is not on the same level as the evidence of scientific experts.

In the case of Surinder pal Jain v. Delhi Administration AIR 1993 SC 1723, the Supreme Court held if the dog picked up the smell and traced it down to the accused, these could not be considered as circumstances that would preclude the involvement of any other person as accused and fix up only the guild of the accused. The dog may as well commit mistake in establishing that the accused had committed the crime.

In Dinesh Borthakur v. State of Assam (2008) 5 SCC 697, the Supreme Court observed that the faculties of a sniffer dog cannot be taken as evidence for proving the culpability of the accused, though its services may be taken for the interest of investigation. The court also ruled as hearsay evidence the evidence of a sniffer dog.

In the case of R v. Lindsay, it was seen that it is for the handler to establish that the dog has been properly trained and that after a period of time the dog's reactions show that this is a reliable indicator of the presence of scent from a particular individual and then the evidence should properly be admitted. Initially, sniffer dog evidence was not admissible by the judicial authorities of all countries, but over time, in modern times, courts have become much more receptive to it, provided that after careful examination of the dog and its handler's evidence.

With reference to Abdul Razak Murtaja Dafedar v. State of Maharashtra, the Supreme Court of India raised two objections to the admission of evidence of tracking dogs. Firstly, the dog can neither be sworn nor cross examined; however, the handler of dog deposes in court regarding the evidence he collected through the dog, but this evidence is considered as hearsay evidence. Secondly, there is an unfair feeling that the freedom of human beings should not be decided by dogs' conclusions. In this case the evidence of the tracking dog was not admissible and in the opinions of the judges, even if admissible, do not usually carry much weight.

In the case of R v. Haas [Canadian Court of Appeal], it was held that once the sniffer's scent-tracking abilities and the handler's skills are proven, the evidence is admissible. The qualification of a sniffer dog must be proven in the same way as the qualification of an expert opinion.

Tracker dog evidence was allowed in Scotland in Patterson v. Nixon (1960) relating to a charge of housebreaking with intent to steal. it was an Alsatian dog who had undergone training at the training school of London Metropolitan Police Force. The evidence confirmed the length of training of the dog and the fact that it had passed the fitness test and to a high standard for its purpose. In addition, it was shown that the dog went through strict training for maintaining a high degree of skill in tracking human beings and distinguishing one human scent from another.

Court was told he was handled by only one handler and was put on a 40-foot leash with a harness and shoulder strap running from the back of his neck while sniffing and tracking and was allowed to run free. The handler in his evidence deposed that though the dog was not infallible in his opinion, the dog had never made a mistake in picking up a wrong smell or distinguishing between smells.

Two other experienced police officers testified that they were satisfied with the dog's previous behaviour, that it was reliable, and that they were once mistaken about the identity of the offender, but the dog was right. Therefore, the basic evidence of the dog's reliability and ability to distinguish odours was carefully and thoroughly laid out.

Types of Dogs

The different types of dogs are defined below:

Narcotics Dogs
These dogs are used to find illegal drugs, quite often at airport customs, border checkpoints etc. Dogs sniff luggage, boxes and even people transporting illegal narcotics. Their handlers train them by placing narcotics in rags that the dog learns to retrieve or find in a hidden location. Narcotics dogs associate drugs with 'game' and end up just looking for drugs. They learn to persistently search in all possible places and even detect the smell of drugs apparently masked by other smells.

Tracking dogs
In the case of a known fugitive or a recent crime scene where the suspect may not be far away, a tracking dog such as a bloodhound may be used. If there is a piece of clothing, car seat, or object on which the subject has left a scent, it is given to the dog and the dog then follows that scent if it is present. In some cases, the scent was picked up from the air.

Bomb Detection Dogs
These dogs are trained to search specifically for the scent of substances used in explosive devices. The dog knows not to disturb the area because a bomb might go off, so it merely alerts its operator about the presence of the bomb. If this work needs to be done quickly, such a dog is indispensable. Such dogs are normally deputed at public events, government facilities, airports, or crime scenes to help security personnel in their work.

Arson Detection Dogs
They are trained to indicate the presence of the types of accelerants used to start and spread fires, such as gasoline or kerosene. When a fire damages a large area and leaves a strong smell of smoke, it is difficult for humans to detect the fumes, but specially trained dogs have little difficulty in indicating that the fire was set intentionally. By pinpointing the location of accelerants, they can help determine the origin and cause of fires.

Search and Rescue Dogs
People lost in the wilderness require teams that can work in many different types of rough terrain, such as flowing water and deep snow. Such dogs must have agility and self-confidence, as well as the ability to be on a boat. They have plenty of stamina and are also strong swimmers. Forensic dog teams are valuable in search and rescue operations, especially when searching for missing individuals. Their keen sense of smell can assist in following scent trails, locating lost or injured individuals in wilderness areas, or detecting human scent in disaster scenarios.

Body Detector Dogs
They can be taken to a mass disaster area, such as an earthquake or building collapse, where bodies are buried, or they can be taken on a missing person hunt. They are trained to smell like humans and often find live victims. Some dogs respond best to the living and get upset when they come across a body. In some cases where a missing person is suspected to be dead, it may be necessary to bring in a more specialized dog.

Wildlife Conservation Dogs
Dogs can help investigate wildlife crimes, such as tracking illegal animal products, detecting poachers or locating endangered species in the wild.

Electronic Storage Devices' Detector Dogs
Dogs can be trained to find electronic storage devices, such as memory cards or USB drives, which may contain vital evidence in cases involving child abuse, cybercrime or data theft.

Crime Scene Investigation Dogs
Dogs can be used to search crime scenes for trace evidence, including blood, firearms or discarded items, helping investigators gather additional evidence.

Cadaver Dogs
These animals are trained to detect decay, so they are brought out to hunt missing people who are presumed dead, such as when a killer confesses but can't remember where he put the body. Some are practiced in special situations such as hanging victims, submerged bodies, and rapid water drowning. Basically, they are trained to "own" a scent the way a hunting dog would own game.

Human Remains Specialist Dogs
They are actually cadaver dogs, and merely alert their handlers to the presence of some type of human remains. Canine forensic teams are trained to detect odors of human decomposition, which can be crucial in locating buried bodies or remains in various scenarios such as homicide investigations, mass disasters or missing persons cases.

Assault dogs
Assault dogs can be used to attack rooms or houses in which the aggressor is hiding. He will indicate where the aggressor is hiding and even attack the shooter and hold until his handler gives the command to release. In the military, dogs are equipped with cameras so the handler can get a live feed of what is happening and give the dog instructions accordingly. In Gujarat Police, attack dogs are deployed with Chetak Commando units. They can assist the police in crowd control.

In India, sniffer dog evidence is presented in court under Section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, which provides for expert testimony. To test the reliability of the sniffer's evidence and to establish its credibility, the sniffer handler is cross-examined.

The judiciary has not yet considered dog evidence as substantive and reliable in criminal proceedings in India. The observations of judges on the evidence of dogs have not been consistent. Evidence tracked by sniffer dogs is considered quasi-scientific evidence that must pass scrutiny of courts to be admissible in Court.

A check must be made cautiously on dog's evidence because if it turns out to be false it will be counterproductive to the interest of justice. In earlier times, the use of sniffer dogs was not much, and their evidence was also not admissible, but over time, the use of sniffers in conducting investigations became common, and their testimony was also considered good evidence in court against the accused.

However, Indian courts are not very receptive to this, even today they consider it a weak type of evidence that cannot be admitted in court against the accused unless the credibility of the deposition of the dog handler is established and because the dog is not subject to a system of checks and scrutiny.

  4. Crime Busters, Time Warner

Written By: Md. Imran Wahab, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9836576565

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