New police dog finds digital storage devices to help catch child predators in Mississauga and Brampton, a first in Canada

The newest dog to fight crime in Mississauga and Brampton comes with the unique ability to sniff out digital storage devices.

Light brown dog with police badge around its neck sits on the floor with mouth open.

Harley is the first dog in Canada trained to seek out digital storage devices that may be related to the exploitation of children, Peel Regional Police said in a press release today (March 30).

Normally, trained police dogs can track criminals, locate missing people who may be in trouble, detect explosives, search for evidence, conduct building searches and sniff out drugs. Peel police have 13 dogs on the K9 unit.

Harley is specifically trained to find digital storage devices through scent and she heads out with the Internet Child Exploitation Unit (ICE) to support officers during search warrants, police say.

There are no other dogs trained to do this Canada and very few in the United States. According to an ABC news story, there were only about 100 canines certified to do this type of work in the U.S. in 2022.

The dogs are trained to smell a chemical compound found in electronic storage devices such as thumb drives and microSD cards. Because they are so small, these devices can be difficult to find. But they can store photos and videos, which could be evidence in child sexual exploitation cases.

Peel Regional Police’s ICE unit welcomed Harley to the team as an Electronic Storage Detection (ESD) canine earlier this year, police say.

Harley is a two-year-old female yellow Labrador Retriever who, along with her handler Detective Constable Jay Vanderburgh, recently graduated from the initial ESD canine course in Indianapolis, Indiana. And Harley has already been out with the ICE Unit on search warrants and quickly achieved success.

Harley’s police badge

“On one of her first search warrants, Harley located four different devices that were of interest to investigators,” police say.In addition to working on search warrants, Harley will work as an emotional support dog for both victims and police.

Like the vast majority of Labrador Retrievers, she has a friendly and playful disposition and loves people, police say. Her demeanour is a welcome support to the Special Victims Unit during interviews, along with on-duty officers who need a break and a friendly ‘lab’ face to help get them through their day, police say.

4 members of police stand with dog lying at their feet
Harley with members of Peel Regional Policy

“Harley has very quickly transformed the day-to-day workings of the ICE Unit. Her presence provides amazing support to officers who must do a very challenging job and she lightens the mood in a way only a dog can,” says Detective Andrew Ullock. “In the field, she is already transforming how we conduct searches for evidence and she is making us much more efficient at what we do. We are very proud to deploy Canada’s very first ESD canine.”

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