Rodents to rat on criminals

Sniffer rats being trained at Baltimore University

source: Jon Copley
New Scientist June 15 2002 p13

Baltimore University reseearchers, led by James Otto, have trained rats to track simulated coacine and explosive smells, eben when distractions are present such as almond extract and engine oil smells. The rats stand up on their back legs when they locate the substance they have been trained to find. The rat wears a harness that records the find with its time and location.

Using rats has a number of advantages over sniffer dogs. They can be trained en masse, Otto has found, with computers controlling rewards after measuring performance. Rats can also enter emaller spaces than dogs, and are less dependent on particular handlers.