Rhode Island has taken a unique approach to cracking down on child pornography. In order to combat the spread of the crime, the state’s police department has employed a 2-year-old golden Labrador retriever to sniff out hard drives and other electrical gadgets that may contain illicit images of abuse.
The dog’s name is Thoreau, and he was trained for 22 weeks at the Connecticut State Police Training Academy to find hidden electronic circuitry. The justification behind this highly specific training is that owners of child pornography typically have hard drives with illegal images hidden in cabinets or other sealed locations.
For instance, Thoreau made his first successful, post-training bust by discovering a thumb drive loaded with pornographic images of children hidden in a tin box inside a metal cabinet. The police dog’s discovery led the police to obtain a warrant for the suspect’s arrest.
Although there are tons of dogs trained to sniff out things varying from drugs to explosives, Thoreau is only the second police dog in the United States to be trained to sniff out electronics. According to the Providence Journal, Thoreau has already been so successful because of how often he has been trained on a food-based reward system to find specific hard drives.
“This is how he eats every day,” Detective Adam Houston, the dog's handler, said. “If it has a memory card, he’ll sniff it out.”
Of course, as the BBC notes, not every hard drive or device with a memory card contains child pornography. It is highly unlikely that Thoreau can distinguish between the electronic devices found in a suspect’s house, but the recent successful arrest demonstrates that the dog’s capabilities have already assisted police in some manner.