Sumter County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Deputy, Robert Mata, and his scent discriminate bloodhound, K9 Charlotte, helped locate a missing Florida woman during a mutual assistance search with a neighboring agency. This is the third find by the Sumter County Bloodhound Team of Dep. Mata and Charlotte after participating in the Bringing The Lost Home Project. The BTLH Project bill was passed by Florida legislators to enhance missing person response and recovery capabilities. Details in the most recent search deployment are forthcoming as the investigation continues to develop.
Sumter County is one of three Florida counties selected to participate in the Bringing the Lost Home Project, a bill which was passed by Florida legislators and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2019. The project is centered around innovative search methods and training that improves location results for Sumter’s K9 teams and creates public safety awareness opportunities for the community they protect and serve. “The advanced scent discriminate trailing techniques and scent collection technology tools we’ve incorporated have enhanced our K9 Unit’s capabilities to successfully locate a missing person,” stated Sumter County Sheriff William O “Bill” Farmer Jr., Florida’s longest sitting Sheriff.
The scent discriminate K9 training component of the Bringing The Lost Home Project provided training to the department’s bloodhound team to enhance the dog’s capabilities of trailing a person’s unique scent. Scent Evidence K9 CEO, Paul Coley, who conducted the training for Sumter County, also developed the training program which is yielding higher missing person location results for agencies, especially in retirement communities like The Villages, which have large elderly populations with Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. Florida currently has over 580,000 people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and that number is expected to grow to 720,000 by 2025.
Within a few weeks of training, the bloodhound units, supervised by Sgt. Dave Clark, were also finding additional ways to use their enhanced trailing skills to keep their community safe. On January 11, 2020, Deputy Robert Mata and K9 Charlotte responded to a missing 11-year-old call. Dep. Mata and K9 Charlotte, along with backup, Deputy Harm, deployed from the location where the missing juvenile was last spotted. Using scent collected at the scene, K9 Charlotte began trailing at a full sprint. “We followed Charlotte for approximately 65 yards running behind her when she made a right turn darting behind a large bush. I observed Charlotte in a sitting position next to the juvenile,” stated Dep. Mata. Two weeks later Mata and Charlotte trailed and located a road rage suspect who was stranded 150 yards away clinging to a tree in a swamp.
The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office has also received Missing Person Response Protocol training developed by Coley and endorsed by The Florida State University Emergency Management and Homeland Security Department. The protocol is designed to provide communities with a standardized approach to responding to missing person cases that will increase and enhance law enforcement search capabilities. “We are proud to be partnering with Sheriff Farmer with the Bringing the Lost Home Project. Sgt. Clark’s overall leadership of the K9 program and the SCSO’s commitment to finding innovative ways of protecting their community is an inspiration to us all,” said Coley.
The entire Sumter County Sheriff’s Office K9 Unit was featured in the July 2020 issue of K9 Cop Magazine.
For more info about the Sumter County Bloodhound Team Click HERE.
Help K9 responders like the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office find a missing loved one fast by pre-collecting their scent with the Scent Kit® from Scent Evidence K9. Get your kit HERE.