Animals

This Pit Bull Is The First Dog In The U.S. Trained To Detect Arson

Congrats to the proud pup!

For decades, dogs have been used for a variety of public safety measures. From sniffing out potentially deadly mines to detecting drugs, canines have been an invaluable part of police units and the armed services.

And, now, for the first time ever, a pit bull has been certified as an arson-sniffing dog in New Jersey. Working alongside firewomen and men at the Millville Fire Department, Hansel is the first breed to ever earn the K-9 arson-detection certification.

It’s a notable honor for a breed that is often maligned for their alleged vicious temperament. Indeed, Hansel is a rescue pittie from the Throwaway Dogs Project. The rescue’s mission is simple — to “repurpose, train and relocate ‘unique’ dogs to positively impact our communities.”

The 4-year-old Hansel, who was first saved from a dogfighting ring by the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA), spent a year being rehabilitated and retrained by the Throwaway Dogs Project. Back in August, those at the program announced he was finally available for adoption:

The announcement made it to Millville firefighter Tyler Van Leer, who reached out to voice his interest. With the support of his fire department, Van Leer brought Hansel to the firehouse and began working with him to help him earn his arson dog certification.

“Hansel and I started a 16-week academy on Sept. 30 with the New Jersey Police K-9 Association and we did all scent work to become a single purpose arson detection K-9,” the 8-year veteran of the Millville Fire Department tells Good Morning America. “He was trained, or imprinted, on 14 different ignitable liquids and graduated on Jan. 18.”

Hansel is now an official member of the Millville Fire Department, where he will work alongside Van Leer and other firefighters to detect possible cases of arson and help keep the community safe.

Here, Van Leer proudly poses with his talented pup:

Although this is the first time a pittie has been used as an arson dog, other breeds have successfully been arson-detectors for years. Known as Accelerant Detection Canines, these dogs are often labrador retrievers or lab mixes.

As Van Leer describes above, these dogs are trained to smell the faint trace of accelerants that may be left behind at the site of an arson location, a scent not noticeable to the human nose. These dogs then alert their fellow firefighters, who are able to take samples of the indicated location and test the debris for accelerants. In addition, these dogs are also trained to “mingle” with a crowd at the scene of a fire, which can help them to detect the smell of accelerants on a possible suspect’s clothing.

Arson is more than just a financial concern. According to the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshall, it is estimated that arson causes more than 700 deaths a year. How miraculous for a dog who was abused in a dog-fighting ring to be able to transform into a hero, helping to keep his community safe!

To support the important work of the Throwaway Dog Project, click here.