BY: DIANE A. RHODES, August 27, 2013; 11:45 AM

Travis Shows has spent more than 10 years in law enforcement, and many of the calls he has responded to with his K-9 partner have involved tracking missing people.

One of the challenges commonly faced in those situations is finding an item with a good scent for the tracking dog to follow.

“We provide tracking dogs a scent article of whom we want to track,” Shows said. “If a child is missing, we want an article that smells like the child and no one else. This is where the problem arises.”

Shows said washed or dirty clothes or items in a room shared with a sibling are some of the conditions that can affect the effectiveness of the scent. An article without a pure scent is considered contaminated.

The ongoing problem is what led Shows and his colleague, Dr. Coby Webb, to develop a company called Find’em. The company produces a scent kit so a person’s scent can be obtained in advance, before the person goes missing.

Webb developed the idea for the product about five years ago and asked Shows to become a 50/50 partner more than a year ago. Both said they wanted to make a difference in the communities they serve.

“The Find’em Scent Kit puts the favor toward the dog team by providing a virtually uncontaminated article of the potentially missing person,” said Shows, 38. “Time is of the essence and we want to start a dog tracking rather than wasting time trying to find a scent article.”

Webb has been in law enforcement for 20 years, the past 15 as a K-9 handler. Her work has included high profile kidnappings and missing persons.

“An uncontaminated scent article reduces hurdles for a dog to track the missing or lost person,” said Webb, 43.

In the past, Webb said, he has had instances where the dog began tracking the other person’s scent that was on an item. “I had to start the track all over in an attempt to locate the missing person,” he said. “This wastes time.”

Shows said the biggest challenge to getting the product on the market was keeping the cost reasonable and the quality high — and then finding support.

“From the very beginning we had (support from) Erin Runnion, founder of The Joyful Child Foundation — In Memory of Samantha Runnion,” he said. Samantha was 5 when she was abducted, molested and murdered in 2002.

Find’em Scent Kits can aid in the resolution of missing children, people with special needs, Alzheimer’s patients, hikers, campers and others.

Every county has tracking dogs, either through law enforcement or search and rescue departments, Shows said. There also is a national database of tracking dogs that first responders can access.

Shows said the product could potentially be used in the criminal justice system — for example, to obtain an early release prisoner or parolee’s scent and keep it on file. Particularly high-risk sex offenders, he noted.

For about $20, consumers can purchase the kit, which has three patents pending. Each kit includes simple step-by-step instructions with pictures and a video plus the necessary tools to collect and store the scent article. The process takes about 10 minutes.

“My (business) partner and I are both parents and dog handlers,” Shows said. “Our ultimate goal is for all families, care facilities and correctional institutions to have a Find’em Scent Kit.”

Source: The Press Enterprise

Photo Credit: Contributed image