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Cadaver dogs in Chester Co. train to find human remains

WEST CHESTER, CHESTER COUNTY, Pa. -- K-9s in Chester County are continuing their training to find human remains, whether it's above ground, or feet below. The dogs are part of Search and Rescue Dogs of Pennsylvania, a non-profit organization.

Vicki Wooters, the president of the Search and Rescue, said, "The dogs found bodies, one was four feet down wrapped in a tarp, another was dismembered and out in a landfill, another was in the river."

The dogs can pick up the slightest scent.

Wooters said, "They have a reward, then they have a final response, then we introduce them to the source odor: be it cadaver or whatever the source odor is. And then we start putting it all together, all those components."

The cadaver dogs get about two years of training before they are certified.

Wooters said the organization has helped state police and even the FBI find bodies all over the country, with about 20 cases a year. She said they recently found a body in Montgomery County.

"Some of the searches we've been on and some of the cases that we've helped solve the police have been very open when they said, 'Without that dog, we'd have never found this person,'" she said.

Cadaver dogs were used to find the bodies of the four missing men in Bucks County, who were buried 12 feet below ground. Wooters said the K-9s help give families closure.

"When the dogs do something this extraordinary, oftentimes the family and officials are there. They always come up and they show their gratitude to that animal. They're very appreciative," she said.

The dogs prove to be invaluable to search teams.

Wooters said, "The dogs are proud, they have a sense of accomplishment. They know they did a good job."

Some of those K-9s are also certified in tracking, trailing and water recovery searches as well.

The cadaver dogs who retire usually get to stay with their families, and the dogs who don't make the cut to become cadaver dogs sometimes become therapy dogs.

To donate to the Search and Rescue Dogs of Pennsylvania, head to their website, http://www.sardogs.org/