This paper reviews the history, current status, and projected future for the development and widespread adoption of standards for the certification of dog "detector teams."
Dog detector teams support law enforcement and first responders in a variety of tasks, ranging from drug and contraband interdiction to locating human remains; however, the lack of peer-reviewed research and recent media coverage of dog detection failures has raised concerns about the effectiveness of dog-based detection and its admissibility in court. Under funding by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the Scientific Working Group for Dog and Orthogonal Detector Guidelines (SWGDOG) was established. It was a professional forum of 55 experts from academia, law enforcement, military, and canine organizations. The SWGDOG developed and approved 39 guidelines in nine subject areas, including common terminology, service-dog selection, and training protocols. In 2014, Scientific working groups transitioned to Organization of Scientific Action Committees (OSACs) for Forensic Science within the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Under this transition, the SWGDOG became the Dogs and Sensor Subcommittee, which is currently developing SWGDOG's 39 best-practice guidelines into scientifically validated standards through the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) Standards Board (ASB) process. To date, one technical report has been approved and five standards have been submitted to the ASB. These standards are intended to improve dog team training and operational methods, so as to strengthen the credibility of related court testimony. The OSAC Dogs and Sensor Subcommittee is currently developing SWGDOG best-practice guidelines into ASB-approved standards. It envisions developing most of the 39 SWGDOG best-practice guidelines into standards in the next few years. This could be the foundation for the certification of dog detector teams.