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Halt Smuggling: K9 Artifact Finders

Tax deductible
Imagine a new way to catch antiquities traffickers with the help of working dogs!

The Penn Vet Working Dog Center and the Penn Museum, both part of the University of Pennsylvania, will partner with RED ARCH , a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, to explore how we can train dogs to find cultural artifacts that smugglers hide in crates, packages, and cargo containers.

RED ARCH needs your tax-deductible financial support today to get this important and innovative research done.

Finding target scents linked to illegally looted antiquities is the first step toward equipping customs officers with an advanced tool--working dogs-- that can nab cultural heritage traffickers at airports, cargo facilities, and other ports of entry. In this way, humanity's rich culture and history can be recovered for future generations.

Penn Vet is the right institution to undertake this critical research. It is a national research and development center for detection dogs.

The K-9 Artifact Finders project is now more urgent than ever.

The U.N. Security Council--along with many others in government, the nonprofit sector, and academia--reports that terrorist groups are generating income from "the looting and smuggling of cultural property from archaeological sites, museums, libraries, archives, and other sites," and that these crimes against culture are "being used to support their recruitment efforts and to strengthen their operational capability to organize and carry out terrorist attacks ….” (Resolution 2347, March 2017)

The K-9 Artifact Finders project can help combat this top-priority problem.

How K-9 Artifact Finders got started.

K-9 Artifact Finders grew out of RED ARCH's investigation into imports of cultural objects from the Middle East and North Africa into the United States.

The research sparked troubling questions...

- Why did the declared value of U.S. imports of "antiques" from Syria climb 133% between 2012 and 2013 during a time of war?

 - Why did the declared value of U.S. imports of "antiques" from Iraq skyrocket 1302% between 2009 and 2013, from $322,564 to $4,523,126, during a period of violent unrest?

- Were these "antiques" actually looted and smuggled archaeological artifacts?

RED ARCH wanted answers, but it was clear that customs officers needed better tools to uncover smuggled archaeological artifacts.

Could working dogs be trained to find smuggled artifacts? We started K-9 Artifact Finders to find out!

How will the K-9 Artifact Finders project be carried out?

The kind of canine training we will undertake is mostly unprecedented. To prevent potential cross contamination of odors, the primary study will focus on the Fertile Crescent region in modern-day Iraq. This area is historically rich, making it a prime target for cultural heritage looters.

For Phase I of the project, we will rely on four dogs from the Penn Vet Working Dog Center's training program, confirming that all dogs have the mental and physical capacity to perform the precise detection work needed. They will be treated humanely, with care. 

We will conduct initial scent imprinting of up to three types of freshly excavated artifacts—lawfully excavated, properly documented, and legally imported with the help of archaeologists, including those from the Penn Museum. Once imprinted, we will teach odor discrimination. The dogs will be tested in a double-blind manner, meaning that the researcher, data collector, and trainer will not know the treatment of each specific sample presented to the dog.

If successful, and if we can secure additional research funding, RED ARCH will pursue Phase II, which is on-the-ground testing. And if that proves successful, we would like to move to Phase III by creating a demonstration program to encourage customs officials to deploy this new tool.

Support K-9 Artifact Finders and be a part of this exciting and groundbreaking project. Give today!

Your donation is tax deductible because RED ARCH is recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Be one of the first 50 people to donate $100 or more and receive a signed copy of Roger Atwood's book, Stealing History. (Limit one per donor, please).

“Riveting … takes readers on a thorough investigation from war-ravaged Iraq to northern Peru” 
               - The Chicago Sun-Times

REF ARCH would like to thank its Board of Directors and the following experts for their enormous help developing the K-9 Artifact Finders program:

Dr. Michael Danti , Principal Investigator and Academic Director of ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiatives and a Penn Museum Consulting Scholar.

Domenic DiGiovanni , Customs and Border Protection Officer (Ret.) at U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Dr. David "Lou" Ferland , Executive Director of The United States Police Canine Association and retired police chief.

Peter Herdrich , Chief Executive Officer at Cultural Capital Group, LLC.

Dr. Cynthia M. Otto , Executive Director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center.


  • Anonymous
    • $50 
    • 7 yrs


Rick St. Hilaire
Lebanon, NH
Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

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