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Tracking Dog Scent-Preservation Technique Could Help Save Lives

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - A technique called "scent-preservation" is being credited with assisting police in quickly finding a missing woman who has dementia. Florida police were able to find the woman right away with the help of a tracking dog and a special kit they found inside the woman's home.

The Florida woman with dementia had been missing from her home for two hours when deputies with tracker hounds picked up her scent.

"It would've taken us at least a couple of hours to locate the lady, but with the use of the bloodhound and the scent kit we were able to find her less than five minutes," said Deputy Justin Williams of Citrus County, Florida.

A scent preservation kit is not some high-tech device; it often includes a jar, a sterile gauze pad and label.

People swipe their arm pit or neck, and bottle up the pad. The scent is purely their own.

"They keep it in a jar so the scent stays in there, it's a good idea especially if you have somebody that may be at risk," said Sgt. Tony Turnbull from the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department.

The Sacramento County Sheriff's Dept. has both K-9 units and bloodhounds that scent-search.

K-9 units track suspects following a scent of fear. Search and rescue hounds hunt for the missing.

"They try to get something like pajama bottoms or pillow cases, personal items, something that we use all the time that are used by other people so there's not a mixed sent to the dogs get when tracking," Turnbull said.

He adds as long as the clothing item has not been cross contaminated by someone else handling it, the dogs can pick up the scent, the same as the kits.

According to the Sacramento Alzheimer's Association, over 60 percent of people with Alzheimer's or dementia will wander at some point. Currently, there are 63,000 people living with Alzheimer's and dementia in California - and 5 1/2 million nationwide.

"Sometimes people are found pretty quickly and safely but sometimes, unfortunately there are really sad results."

Michelle Johnston from the Sacramento Alzheimer's Association says in addition to GPS trackers and other security programs, the kits could be an additional safety measure.

"The longer someone is missing BD a person with dementia or not the more likely the results will be tragic."

The kits cost about $10 and are peace-of-mind for some. They are often used in conjunction with medical alert bracelets for those at risk.

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