Osceola sheriff adds bloodhounds, scent kits to help find missing persons

Orlando Sentinel/Orlando Sentinel/TNS

To help find people who go missing faster, the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office is partnering with the Senior Resource Alliance and Scent Evidence K9 to use two new bloodhounds and scent preservation kits, Sheriff Marcos Lopez announced Wednesday.

The Sheriff’s Office received the two bloodhounds, Luke and Doc, trained by Scent Evidence K9 and donated by the Senior Resource Alliance, to enhance the capability of the K9 unit to find missing people. The partnership also included 750 scent preservation kits that will be given to Osceola County residents who have family members who wander or have disabilities that make them vulnerable to getting lost, Lopez said.

“A lot of times people with Alzheimer’s or dementia, they go to the woods or they go to water and unfortunately they die, so this is just another good tool and another organization we’re partnering with to make it much faster,” Lopez said.

Last year, an estimated 200 adults and about as many minors went missing in Osceola County, Lopez said.

“For the most part, we do find them all,” Lopez said. “We do see that as long as we have time to use the dog to find someone it’s much faster but sometimes, you know, it just depends on how much time has gone on and it becomes a little harder.”

The free scent kit contains a gauze pad, that must be wiped on the glandular areas of the skin 10 times, an evidence jar and an information card to be filled out as a precaution, Lopez said. Should the person go missing, the kit will be given to the bloodhounds to start tracking the scent of the missing person. The kits will be given to residents who call the Sheriff’s Office Community Services Department at 407-348-1190.

“Odor and scent transfer within a home in different areas so we want to give these dogs the best scent and the most uncontaminated scent possible,” said Paul Coley, the CEO of Scent Evidence K9. “We open the jar, it’s like a bottle of perfume for the dogs, we give it to them and away we go.”

The partnership follows a similar program with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office that was announced last year to provide scent kits and two other bloodhounds, Knight and Roscoe.

This partnership comes after multiple seniors went missing in the county recently and their bodies were discovered.

During Thanksgiving in 2022 a 73-year-old man with dementia, Herman McClenton Sr., went missing for several weeks before his body was discovered in a swampy area only one mile from his home.

In July, the body of a missing 63-year-old, Elizabeth Mathis, was discovered in East Lake Toho after a 10-hour search.

Senior Resource Alliance CEO Karla Radka said this partnership is part of the organization’s $5.5 million investment in the county to help safeguard seniors, a population that is often the most vulnerable to go missing.

“Our work is for our seniors to ensure the quality of life for those who are still able to enjoy life and contribute to society and work and volunteer,” Radka said. “But also for the most vulnerable, for those that are hurting.”