Bloodhound, handler pitch in to help

Duo help police agencies for free with tracking, cold cases, missing persons

Tabatha Stewart
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 9/13/19

Elbert County resident Frank Hurst got his first bloodhound, Red, 19 years ago. Red was a gift from his wife Lisa, and the adorable pup was the beginning of Hurst’s career as a K-9 handler, during …

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Bloodhound, handler pitch in to help

Duo help police agencies for free with tracking, cold cases, missing persons

Posted

Elbert County resident Frank Hurst got his first bloodhound, Red, 19 years ago. Red was a gift from his wife Lisa, and the adorable pup was the beginning of Hurst’s career as a K-9 handler, during which Hurst and his dogs helped find missing persons, solve cold cases and track criminals.

After retiring from law enforcement five years ago, Hurst and three other K-9 handlers founded the nonprofit Bloodhound Man-Trackers Inc., to donate services to agencies who couldn’t afford their own bloodhounds. Hiring a handler and hound can cost hundreds of dollars each day.

“There’s really no money in having a bloodhound on the force,” said Hurst. “For instance, if a drug dog hits on property where drugs are hidden, the property can be seized and sold, with the money going back to the agency. Bloodhounds are used to find missing people, criminals or solve cold cases. There’s no money involved with finding a missing person.”

Hurst and his buddies realized the need for bloodhound services, and since starting then nonprofit have assisted, free of charge, more than 45 agencies around the United States.

“I got a call one day, an 80-year-old woman with dementia had gone missing. It was cold outside, about 30 degrees, and she was barefoot and not dressed for the cold,” said Hurst. “Time really was not on her side. We were contacted and Radar, my new dog, found her pretty quickly. She was OK.”

Hurst and the others work with several breeds of dogs, and Radar, Hurst’s current bloodhound, was born and bred in Elbert County. Bloodhounds aren’t certified, meaning they don’t submit to a specific test of commands or tasks. Bloodhounds are “proven,” but only after they make their first confirmed find.

Bloodhound Man-Trackers was founded by current and retired law enforcement officers from various parts of Denver area, and work with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), as well as dozens of agencies nationwide. Bloodhounds are trained to follow the scent of a person’s skin dander, which is discarded from humans at the rate of nearly 100,000 pieces per hour.

“Usually the last person to touch a dead body is the perpetrator,” said Hurst. “Unless they’re wearing a complete hazmat suit, some of their dander will be present. Radar can use that scent to lead us to the suspect.”

Bloodhounds are also trained to sniff out decomposing bodies, as well as cremated human remains, which make them valuable in cold cases, which Hurst and his team work regularly for the NCMEC.

“We worked a cold case that occurred in 1961. The local agency got a tip that someone saw a man with a child near a mine years ago, and when we took the dogs up there they hit on the scent of human remains in the mine.”

All of the handlers with Bloodhound Man-Trackers are volunteers, and non-profit relies solely on donations to support their efforts. Once a case has been solved and goes to trial, Hurst and his team serve as expert witnesses to the evidence found, spending long hours in court proceedings.

“When we can bring closure to a family whose loved one is missing, that’s what it’s all about,” said Hurst.

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