PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Bloodhounds and search dogs are often called in when a loved one is missing.

The Greensburg Bloodhound Team, a volunteer operation out of Westmoreland County, has been to numerous missing cases, including children and elderly with medical conditions. Handler Lou Battistella, also assistant chief of the Greensburg Volunteer Fire Department, says when they’re called in, though, they often have a problem from the get-go.

“Most people don’t understand scent and how it can be contaminated so easily,” Battistella said.

Battistella says even a shirt that was just worn by the person who’s missing may have other people’s scents on it, potentially confusing the bloodhounds before they start their search.

“Our chance of finding them without a good scent article, sometimes it doesn’t end well,” Battistella told KDKA.

It’s for that reason that Dr. Coby Webb wanted to create something that would help get the dogs on the right path as quick as possible.

“I have twins. So they’re intermingled all the time. Especially with them. And I do the laundry. My scent is on everything. I fold it. I kiss them good night. I lean over their pillow,” Dr. Webb said. “So that’s where I came up with the idea, how can I help the dog be more successful and have families have their loved ones found quicker.”

Dr. Webb, a captain in law enforcement and longtime bloodhound handler, developed a kit called “Find ‘Em Scent Safe.”

“I really like thoroughness and doing it right,” Dr. Webb said, explaining that the kit treats the collected scent as evidence.

A sterile piece of gauze is placed against the skin for several minutes before being sealed and stored back in the kit. The kit can remain in the freezer for a year.

  • For more information on Find ‘Em Scent Safe, and how to get it, visit this link.

So who should use it?

Dr. Webb says anyone. She says it’s good for an elderly loved one who has a tendency to wander off, your children, a hunter, or a hiker for instance.

With a clean, uncontaminated scent, Dr. Webb says the dogs will be able to get search crews started in the right direction.

“Mainly, when the dogs can give us that direction of travel, then we know how to leapfrog up ahead and start looking at surveillance footage or start putting other resources up ahead.”

Battistella added, “Most of the time that’s an integral part of the search. Just to know where to send the grid searchers, the other search and rescue people to physically look,” she said.

Heather Abraham