ANKENY, Iowa — Some dogs have a nose for drugs while others sniff out bombs.  Sandy, the newest K9 with the Ankeny Police Department, uses her incredible sense of smell to track something else.

“She’s trained to sniff a chemical that is sprayed on electronic storage devices,” explained her handler Det. Kris Lindell.

From cell phones to flash drives, the three-year-old half-lab half-golden retriever is the newest not-so-secret weapon in the fight against human trafficking and child exploitation.

“People live their lives on electronic devices, their cell phones.  A lot of times in cases like the child exploitation cases, people save those images, and they save them on flash drives or even the tiny little sim cards,” said Lindell.

What can be hidden or hard to see with the human eye is easily detected by the K9 snout. 

“When it’s work mode, she gets excited.  She loves it,” said Lindell.

Sandy is the only dog of her kind working for a city police department in Iowa.  She joins three other Electronic Storage Detection K9s on the Iowa Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

“It’s never-ending, it’s changing every day.  It’s just a continual chase and when you talk about cases, our caseload from 2008- the number of cases that we have taken in as the Iowa ICAC Task Force is up over 3,000%,” said Special Agent in Charge of the Cyber Crime Bureau Nathaniel McLaren.

So far this year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Iowa announced sentencing for more than a dozen men for child pornography, child sex trafficking and child exploitation.  They face 217 years in federal prison.  The task force and ESD K9s played a key role in just about all those cases.

“The evidence that we’re looking for is in the devices that the K9s the ESD K9s are searching for. Without that evidence on the device, we may not be able to have a successful prosecution,” said McLaren.

“She makes the job easier and I think she certainly makes the job more rewarding,” said Special Agent Mike McVey.

McVey teamed up with Mousse, Iowa’s first ESD K9 in 2020.  Going on three years together, he’s still amazed by his partner.

When the four-year-old chocolate lab isn’t using her nose to catch criminals, she provides comfort to the victims she’s helping get justice for.

“I’ve used her on multiple cases where we’ve had victims and we’ve had to do victim interviews and we’d have victims tell us it’s easier to talk with her in the room,” explained McVey.

Sandy is just starting her K9 career and sniffing out evidence on search warrants.

“We’ve done six which is pretty good,” said Lindell.

A good addition to Ankeny PD and the perfect partner for Lindell.

“She’s the best. She doesn’t talk, she just kind of lays there and she does what I tell her to do so she’s perfect,” joked Lindell.

The non-profit organization, Operation Underground Railroad, donated Sandy and the other K9s in Iowa.  The group picks up all the costs for the ESD K9s.  That includes training, vet care, and food.  Speaking of food, Sandy is food trained which means she only eats when she works or trains.