The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office has started offering human scent kits that can be used to help the agency’s bloodhounds track people who are lost.
Sheriff’s officials hope they will be useful for finding people with Alzheimer’s or memory issues, autism, small children or anyone with a condition that might cause them to get lost or wander.
The Sheriff’s Office is offering them free to anyone who wants them.
The kit comes with instructions, an extra absorbent pad to gather body scent and an air-tight glass container to store it.
“When you lose someone, just give us the jar,” said sheriff’s Lt. Bob Seimer.
K-9 unit officials said scents in clothing can be contaminated with other people’s scents and hinder bloodhounds’ efforts to track missing people. The kits offer K-9s a more purified scent.
“This is going to be a great help to our scent-discriminating bloodhounds. This will make them faster,” said sheriff’s detention deputy Justin Wright.
The Human Scent Preservation Kits can preserve an individual’s unique scent for up to seven years. They are manufactured by Scent Evidence K9 of Tallahassee, which issued the kits to the Sheriff’s Office last week.
Melissa Merritt, a victim advocate with the Sheriff’s Office, said Wednesday she estimates they have given away between 30 and 40 kits.
“We’re making this part of our community awareness program,” Merritt said.
Linda Boles, president of the Crystal River-based Find-M Friends that promotes the training and use of scent-discriminating bloodhounds, was present last week when the kits were delivered to the Sheriff’s Office.
Boles grabbed headlines earlier this year after she and her bloodhound Winnie zeroed in on a missing Citrus County resident with Alzheimer’s with the use of the scent kit.
The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office also issues the kits to their residents.
The unit has three bloodhounds, including a puppy named Dallas in memory of the officers slain in that city.
The bloodhounds have made a number of successful finds. In February, they led deputies to the feet of a burglary suspect who was accused of stealing $40,000 worth of silverware in The Villages.
The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office has yet to use any of the kits to track a missing person. But during a demonstration Tuesday behind the Sumter County jail, the sheriff’s K-9 unit showed how effective the kit could be.
After wiping one of the pads on his forehead, Cpl. Justin Brannen put it in the bottle and drifted off about 300 yards into a wooded area.
Then Albert, who already was excited about donning his camouflage harness, signaling it was time to track, was given a whiff of the pad.
The rust-colored dog scurried off with his nose repeatedly bouncing off the ground, sniffing for the skin particles that fell from Brannen’s body. He discovered his man within minutes face down in the woods.
“He will track until he dies,” said Wright, who added bloodhounds on the hunt have to be forced to take a break.
Sumter County residents who want to obtain the kits can call Melissa Merritt or Lt. Bob Seimer at 352-569-1623.