Insurers honor Labrador retriever who sleuthed hundreds of arsons in 10-year career

The Rockland Sheriff Dept.’s remarkable arson dog whose nifty nose earned dozens of arson convictions was named New York’s top fraud fighter for 2016.

The trained yellow Labrador retriever Scooter 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 accepted the Fraud Fighter of the Year award posthumously from the New York Alliance Against Insurance Fraud today.

The award highlighted the Alliance’s annual meeting this week. The Alliance comprises more than 100 insurers combating insurance crime by educating New Yorkers about fraud’s high costs to consumers throughout the state.

Scooter was a rescue dog. She 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 dog shelter, Scooter graduated from a rigorous national training program to become a certified arson dog. Only about one of 10 canines graduate. Most are Labrador retrievers. Their keen noses and inquisitive, outgoing personalities make them natural fits for scouring rubble for clues.

Scooter’s friendly personality also made her a favorite in the sheriff’s department, and she delivered results. Scooter helped teach school kids about fire safety as well. Scooter’s demonstrations were popular among students and teachers. The training of Scooter and her handler was funded by a grant from State Farm.

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