Cook County Sheriff's Office K-9 unit helps sniff out missing people, put criminals behind bars

COOK COUNTY, Ill. (WLS) -- They are special members of the Cook County Sherriff's Department, who use their keen sense of smell and agility to help put criminals behind bars.

It's all about the nose for this breed of dog, as bloodhounds play a vital role in the Cook County Sheriff Department's 20-dog K-9 unit.

"These dogs are so highly trained but it's only because their handlers are so good, and repetition and the work they put in with them," said Cook Co Sheriff Tom Dart.

RELATED: 'Peace of mind in a jar': Bloodhound K9 to help locate missing at-risk people

Whether it's for narcotics, bomb scares, finding crime evidence or missing people, Sheriff Dart said the K-9 unit gets called out multiple times a day. Each dog has its own deputy.

"We are called out at all hours of the night, weather conditions, blizzards -- we're out there looking," said Deputy Anna Wilk with the Cook County K9 Unit.

RELATED: These K-9 recruits have a nose for solving mysteries

Deputy Wilk works with and trains the bloodhounds. They are specifically used to find missing people, whether they are found dead or alive.

Each dog is named after a victim the dog helped find in a Cook County case.

"We train the dogs from scent that is laid from an hour to weeks old," Deputy Wilk said.

Constant training in all kinds of weather and terrain is the key to making the bloodhounds successful.

RELATED: K-9 team helps locate missing teen with autism in Gary

ABC7's Sarah Schulte was 19-month-old Samantha's target. Using a piece of gauze for a scent article, she sniffs it and then goes on the hunt.

It didn't take long before Samantha found Schulte in a forest preserve.

"I can be here with you all day long, telling you the beautiful stories that our dogs have found and the countless people they have found," Deputy Wilk said.

RELATED: Chicago police K-9 'Roy' will get new bullet, stab proof vest

Body camera video shows how the dogs found an autistic boy that went missing. And while not all the endings are happy, the bloodhounds rarely miss.

"Even if it is one life we are able to save, that dog did its purpose," Deputy Wilk said.
Copyright © 2022 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.