BURLINGTON, N.C. – The search is on for a missing 3-year-old girl in Onslow County. Mariah Woods last seen late Sunday night in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
FBI investigators say they’re adding resources every day to help with the search, and that they've taken items of interest to a lab in Virginia.
So far, search dogs have been as one part of the multi-day search for Mariah. The Onslow County Sheriff’s Office has dogs of their own, but they brought in more canines from other parts of the state to assist.
Here in the Triad, a local non-profit trains search dogs to trail the specific scents of people.
“We teach the dogs to follow individual scents. It's called man trailing,” said Mike Craig, co-founder and president of Public Safety Dogs, Inc., “It's like DNA, if you can give that dog a piece of scent material and they are trained to look for whatever scents they are given, then they can just dismiss all the other scents and follow that one.”
When it comes to searching for missing people, Craig say many search dogs only know how to track a person by sniffing surfaces. But when search parties get bigger, and more people are involved, dogs can get confused – and they might not know which path to follow.
“If an individual walks across grass or even concrete or asphalt or dirt or gravel, every time they put a foot down they stir up some kind of disturbance,” said Craig. “[With search parties], when the dog gets there, there’s so much disturbance, that the most recent disturbance is a searcher, and the oldest disturbance - which the dog should be looking for - is the child.”
Craig says that's where his dogs can help. He trains them in places with a lot of disturbance – around train tracks, highways, and on Thursday night, around downtown Burlington. Training a dog to ‘track’ may take a few weeks – but training a dog to ‘trail’ could take months.
His philosophy is this: even though his search training takes more time - it's more effective, and valuable.
“To me, that resource is more valuable than your drug dogs and your bomb dogs, anything because you're actually saving a human life,” he said.
At this time, Craig’s dogs have not been called down to Onslow County, but he says they always help whenever they are requested.
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