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WV Division of Forestry Trains New Canine Investigator

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One of the most important tools for catching arsonists in our state walks at the end of a leash.

The Division of Forestry is training a new canine unit named Raisy. We met her this week in Bridgeport park.

Her nose is already in training to fight crime at just 16 weeks old.

Forester Tin Casto swabs his hands with gauze, then walks out of sight. Another investigator, Don Kelley, sticks Raisy's nose into a plastic bag with the gauze and tells her to go to work.

She gets a little distracted at first, but then she picks up the scent and heads straight for Casto behind a large tree.

"She's been everything you could ask for in a dog right now," Kelley said. "She's got a really great attitude."

Right now Raisy's targets just go out of sight, but the tracks will get more complicated.

"We just keep on expanding from that and we keep on adding turns in the road to her to get her where she needs to be," Kelley said.

The Division of Forestry has two canine units, Jessup and another dog that Raisy will replace. They are trained to track a person from the origin of a fire.

"The bloodhound has the ability to what they call ‘scent discriminate,'" Kelley said, "which, to the bloodhound, everybody smells differently."

So once foresters like Casto pinpoint the origin of a fire, Raisy or Jessup's nose can pick up the trail when all other evidence disappears.

"I can honestly say that we've never ended up someplace for no reason," Kelley said.

It can make all the difference in cracking a case.

"It makes a big difference when you can use a bloodhound to track somebody up to their front doorstep or their car," Casto said.

"There's been no eye witnesses, nothing apparent. We bring the bloodhounds in and track and we actually found the people responsible at least on four occasions that I know of that they've plead guilty to felony arson."

Raisy will train for eight months to a year before she's ready to tackle her own cases.