New York Arson Dog Awarded Top Fraud Fighter Award

March 14, 2017

A remarkable arson dog, whose nifty nose earned dozens of arson convictions, was named New York’s top fraud fighter for 2016. Scooter, a trained yellow Labrador Retriever had a memorable 10-year career before passing away in October 2016. She investigated several hundred fires with the Rockland County Sheriff’s Department. She also worked cases for adjacent counties.

Her longtime handler, Det. Doug Lerner, recently accepted the Fraud Fighter of the Year award posthumously from the New York Alliance Against Insurance Fraud. The Alliance comprises more than 100 insurers combating insurance crime by educating New Yorkers about fraud’s high costs to consumers throughout the state.

Photo: Rockland County Sheriff

A rescue dog, Scooter, joined the Rockland County fire unit in 2006. She and Lerner were inseparable in teaming to investigate fires. Arson dogs such as Scooter can smell 100,000 times better than humans. She could discover tiny amounts of gasoline or other firestarter amid piles of blackened ruins. Her evidence proved crucial in helping earn arson and insurance fraud convictions, said Alliance chair Jim Berrigan, in presenting the award.

Scooter’s evidence led to dozens of convictions. Many involved homes or other buildings burned for insurance schemes. The conviction rate is four times higher for law enforcement departments with canine crime fire fighters. Discovered in a Chicago, Ill., dog shelter, Scooter graduated from a rigorous national training program to become a certified arson dog. Only about one in 10 canines graduate. Most are Labrador Retrievers. Their keen noses and inquisitive, outgoing personalities make them natural fits for scouring rubble for clues.

Scooter also helped teach school kids about fire safety.

The training of Scooter and her handler was funded by a grant from State Farm.

Source: Coalition Against Insurance Fraud

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