Second Annual Bringing The Lost Home Summit Recognizes Missing Person Response Success of Florida Agencies
Tallahassee, Florida (Mar. 29, 2022) – Scent Evidence K9 hosted the second annual Bringing The Lost Home Summit in Tallahassee on March 15 – 17, 2022 to recognize the successes and share the best practices of Florida’s Bringing The Lost Home Project agencies and community partners. In just over 2 years since the Bringing The Lost Home Project was introduced in Florida, 125 people have been found and thousands at risk of wandering in Florida communities are better prepared and protected by the resources provided by the Bringing The Lost Home Project.
Summit participants had the opportunity to learn new K9 search skills through advanced scent discriminate trailing exercises to support the project’s goals of improving missing person response capabilities, K9 search recovery success, and community awareness of Florida’s vulnerable populations with Alzheimer’s Disease and autism who are at high risk of wandering and going missing.
18 K9 Teams ran 118 Trails in 2 and ½ days of advanced scent discriminate training through highly populated areas around town including Florida State University’s Doak Campbell Stadium. Agency K9 handlers followed trails laid by Bringing The Lost Home Project partners, The Alzheimer’s Project, and Super Hero children, families, and staff of the Hang Tough Foundation. “The advanced training included real-world missing person scenarios in highly contaminated, heavily- trafficked areas,” stated Scent Evidence K9 CEO, Paul Coley.
The Summit activities kicked off with a half-day focus group with presentations by The Alzheimer’s Project CEO, John Trombetta, Executive Director Janelle Irwin, and Program Manager Catherine Deininger from the Hang Tough Foundation, FDLE’s Courtney Gianetti, Florida Dept. of Elder Affair Dementia Director, Cari Eyre, and Senior Resource Alliance President and CEO, Karla Radka, to discuss the programs positive impact on their communities. “The focus group has tremendous value and is a vital way to bridge the gap between law enforcement responders and community service providers,” said Coley. Sumter County Sheriff’s Office Deputies Casey Siglin and Robert Mata were also presented with Master Handler certificates for their exemplary K9 search deployments.
Over the next 2 and a half days, Bloodhound and Patrol Dog handlers from across the state ran difficult trails in pouring rain, a major University football stadium, parking garages, crowded parks, and residential neighborhoods. “The sun isn’t always shining, and the conditions are rarely perfect when you get the call to search for a missing child or grandparent. This training is designed to help K9 handlers be ready to respond quickly and save lives, no matter the weather or environment,” stated Coley, who is celebrating his company’s 10 year anniversary of training handlers and dogs all over the world.
The Bringing The Lost Home Project bill was sponsored by Florida House Representative, Scott Plakon and first signed into law by Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, in June 2019. In the past 2 years, Sheriff’s Offices in Escambia, Orange, Bay, Sumter, Seminole, Lee, St. Johns, Charlotte, Putnam, DeSoto, Nassau, Franklin, and Marion Counties, and Florida State University, Havana, and Tallahassee Police Departments have implemented the Bringing The Lost Home Project program. Agencies participating in the program have seen large increases in their K9 search response success rate and many of the K9 Teams have multiple missing person recoveries to their credit including one of the latest by St. Johns County Sheriff’s Deputy, Melanie Merritt, and K9 Daisy.
Dep. Merritt located a missing endangered woman on Feb. 13. The missing woman was found by the scent discriminate Bloodhound Team unconscious in the woods and transported to an area hospital. Merritt’s Bloodhound is also a big part of the Bringing The Lost Home Project. K9 Daisy was named after the favorite flower of Rep. Plakon’s late wife who passed from early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. The naming event took place at a Florida Senior Summit at the Tallahassee Capitol in 2020. Watch Dep. Merritt and K9 Daisy in the First Coast News feature below.
Scent Evidence K9 CEO, Paul Coley, and The Alzheimer’s Project CEO, John Trombetta, partnered to introduce the bill to help law enforcement better serve their populations with Alzheimer’s/Related Dementia and autism who are at high risk of wandering and going missing. The Bringing The Lost Home Project enhances missing person response capabilities and recovery success by raising missing person awareness, mitigating risk, and improving search performance through the use of missing person response training, scent discriminate K9 trailing, and an innovative Scent Kit program that helps to create missing person awareness and provides an effective way for families and caregivers to prepare for a wandering event before it happens.
The program provides Scent Preservation Kits® or “Scent Kits” to families with loved ones living with Alzheimer’s Disease or related dementia (ADRD), and autism.
The Alzheimer’s Project identifies groups and areas in need of services and works to educate residents about the Scent Kits and Missing Person Awareness for at-risk groups. They also provide Alzheimer’s awareness training to the participating agencies to help mitigate potential trauma to the individual and expand law enforcement interaction skills with a person who has dementia.
Bringing The Lost Home Project also includes Missing Person Response Protocol and Scent Discriminate K-9 Trailing training for the participating agencies which will impact law enforcement response capabilities by increasing search success and decreasing the time and resources needed to find missing persons.
Protecting and Recovering People At Risk of Wandering
Florida has the second-largest Alzheimer’s Disease population in the U.S. with over 580,000 residents living with the disease. That number is projected to climb to 720,000 by 2025. Studies show that 60% or 3 of every 5 persons with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia will wander and go missing. The numbers are almost as high for children with autism. The American Pediatric Association states that 50% of children with autism will wander/elope and go missing at least once before age 17.
Scent Evidence K9 CEO, Paul Coley, a former FBI Forensic Canine Operations Specialist, has made it his company’s mission to not only improve missing person response capabilities for communities but to protect individuals before they go missing. Scent Evidence K9
To learn how a Scent Kit can help protect and prepare your family before they go missing Click HERE