Antiracism and Detection Dogs with Kassidi Jones

In this episode of K9 Conservationists, Kayla speaks with Kassidi Jones to talk about antiracism and detection dogs.

Science Highlight: Handler beliefs affect scent detection dog outcomes

Links Mentioned in the Episode:

Reading list

Where to find Kassidi: Instagram

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Science Highlight Summary: “Handler Beliefs Affect Scent Detection Dog Outcomes”

  • A study published in Animal Cognition in 2011 revealed how handler beliefs influence scent detection dog outcomes. 
  • Handlers led to believe targets were present in certain areas resulted in false alerts. This suggests potential handler cues influencing dog behavior.

Kassidi Jones Interview Highlights

  • Introduction: Kassidi discusses the intersection of dog companionship, Black dog guardianship, and anti-blackness in the dog world.
  • Detection Dogs’ Historical Roots: Tracing back to hunting, early instances noted in New Zealand and Germany in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • Racism in Detection Dogs: Manuals discussing training dogs to track scents associated with black individuals during slavery reveal the racist ideologies prevalent at the time.
  • Modern Implications: The conversation highlights how detection dogs were used in drug enforcement during the War on Drugs, disproportionately targeting black communities and contributing to illegal searches and arrests.
  • Handler Bias: Referencing a study, it’s noted how handler beliefs can impact detection dog performance, suggesting biases, especially racist ones, can influence dog behavior.
  • Police Dogs and Racism: From patrols capturing enslaved people to modern policing tactics, instances of violence involving police dogs disproportionately targeting black individuals indicate systemic racism within law enforcement.
  • Lack of Diversity: The discussion points out the lack of racial diversity in conservation dog work, emphasizing the need to address this to create more inclusive spaces.
  • Structural Barriers: Structural racism presents barriers to entry for marginalized communities, including financial constraints and limited opportunities such as unpaid internships, hindering diversity in the field.
  • Parachute Conservationism: Highlighting the issue of “parachute conservationism,” where outside experts conduct research without meaningful engagement, perpetuating a colonial mindset and undermining local communities’ agency.
  • Community Engagement: Emphasizing meaningful involvement of local communities in conservation efforts, particularly those most affected by environmental issues, as essential for creating sustainable solutions.
  • Financial Aid and Mentorship: Initiatives aimed at increasing diversity, such as offering financial aid and mentorship opportunities, aim to lower barriers to entry for aspiring conservation dog professionals.
  • Awareness and Action: Raising awareness and taking concrete actions to combat racism within the conservation dog community, including critically evaluating funding sources and promoting diversity in panel discussions and seminars, is crucial.

Ongoing Reflection and Learning: Encouraging continuous examination of practices and advocacy for anti-racist initiatives within the field to promote inclusivity and equity.

Transcript (AI-Generated)

Kayla Fratt 

Hello and welcome to the K9Conservationists podcast, where we’re positively obsessed with conservation detection dogs. Join us each week to discuss ecology, odor dynamics, dog behavior, and everything in between. I’m your host, Kayla Fratt, and I’m one of the cofounders of K9Conservationists, where we train dogs to detect data for researchers, agencies and NGOs. Today, I’m joined by Kassidi Jones to talk about anti-racism and detection dogs. So Kassidi, as she’ll tell us a little bit more about, is a fifth year PhD student at Yale studying racism and has a strong interest in dogs and racism.

Kayla Fratt 

So she and I were connected by Mei who is in our conservation dog handler course. And I joined a webinar that Kassidi gave on all about allyship and anti-racism in the dog world. She has also given talks on how anti-dog legislation and policies interact with racism, and how that impacts the lives of dogs and other people. And really, she has just been a very interesting voice to get to know over the last couple months for me, so I think you’re really going to enjoy this. We’re going to learn a lot about the history of dogs, how they were used in patrols for escaped enslaved people, and much, much more. We’ll talk a little bit about colonialism. It’s, it’s a good it’s a good episode, I really enjoyed it. I hope that you cannot hear my cat Norbert purring throughout most of the episode, but he was on my lap, making, making lots of happy cat noises. It was either that or he was off of my lap, bouncing off the walls. So we compromise with purring.

Kayla Fratt 

So before we get into though, we are going to read our science highlight for the week. I had a different article picked out. But instead because of what you’ll hear a couple of minutes into this episode, Kassidi and I were talking about handlers and beliefs and how racism on the part of police officers or border patrol officials could influence the impact of their dog’s behavior. And that led me to think about this article. So it is titled, Handler Beliefs Affect Scent Detection Dog Outcomes. It was published in Animal Cognition in 2011. And the authors are Lisa Lit, Julie Schweitzer, and Anita M. Oberbauer. So in this in this study, basically what they did is they took 18 detection dog teams, so they were primarily bomb and drug dogs. They took them to a church that had never before been used for dog training, and they led the handlers to believe that in each of the four search areas, there could be up to three targets placed out for the docks, then what they did is they had rooms that were clean.

Kayla Fratt 

So the rooms were unmodified, they had a room that was a marked clean room or a mold marked no room. So they took a piece of eight and a half by 11, red construction paper and they taped it to the door of a cabinet. Then they took an unmarked decoy. So they took some sausages and a tennis ball, and hid those in the bottom of a pot as a way to kind of hopefully, so And basically what they’re looking at between those two is the mark tunnel in theory is going to be confusing to the handler, because we’re going to see a piece of red paper, they might think, oh, gosh, that’s where the height is that it’s been marked. And then there’s the unmarked decoy. So that again, was a Slim Jim sausages. And that in theory is going to confuse the dog and get the dog to show some extra interest and potentially cause the handler to make an alert. So it’s kind of they’re looking at which of those is going to be more tricky for the handlers.

Kayla Fratt 

And then there was a fourth condition of a mark to decoy. So they they took the sausages and the tennis ball, and they hit it. And then they also put out some bread construction paper on the outside of that. So it had both confusing things. They also did some they like rubbed the slim sausages on the outside of each of the containers, so that it smelled like sausage on the outside to make sure that it wasn’t that like one of them had more odor escaping than the other and therefore was more confusing than the other. The study was done double blind. So there was the handler and their dog and an observer. None of them knew how many hides there were or where they are, and spoiler, there actually was nothing hidden anywhere.

Kayla Fratt 

So all three, all four rooms were completely blank on every repetition. The experimenter did walk into the room with either weed or gunpowder or both, but those were those remained in sealed bags. So the the canine trainers saw that person go in they saw them carry all of the training material and then those training materials were immediately removed from the area without ever being opened. So they did enter the building but should not have contaminated the building in any way. Over the course of all of these runs, there were 225 false alerts, every single alert in this study was a false alert, because there should have been nothing out there, there were 21 a total clean run. So about 15% of the time, the handlers were actually completely correct. There also were multiple runs, where, despite being told that there could be up to three targets in the search area, handlers reported four or five alerts. So unclear whether they were mistreating their dog or hadn’t read the instructions or what. And what they found was that there were more false alerts on the marked null and the mark to decoy versus the completely no room.

Kayla Fratt 

So in other words, the they were more clean runs in unmarked areas, so in the null and unmarked decoy condition, so again, that’s completely empty room, or the room where they did hide the slim gems and the tennis ball. So the dogs were less fooled by the slim jims and the tennis ball, than the handlers will were fooled by the marked down null or marked decoy. One of the other things I found interesting when I was reading through this paper is that on the ordered runs, you saw a pretty big decrease for almost every single team and the number of false alerts on their third round, and then a peek around to their sixth round, and then there was another drop off around round eight. So the authors write that “The handlers belief that scent was present may have insufficient motivation to identify alerts even when the handlers were clearly aware that the dog had not provided a fully trained alert response behavior. Alternatively, the handlers beliefs were sufficient to generate a form of confabulation. broadly defined confabulation refers to the false beliefs that may be unrelated to actual experienced events.” The authors go on to say, “It may be more parsimonious to suggest that the dogs respond not only to scent, but to additional cues issued by the handlers as well. This is especially plausible sense in training alerts are literally originally elicited through overt handler cueing, which could be a verbal command, physical prompting, etc.”

Kayla Fratt 

So finally, because the study didn’t include videotaping of the dog handler team performances, there’s no way to identify which conclusion would be appropriate as far as whether the handlers were just reading into their dog’s behavior, or whether or not the dogs were showing change of behavior at all, or whether the dogs were actually showing an alert, which is interesting. Actually, I did have an observer. So I’m surprised that the observer wasn’t making notes on whether or not they saw changes of behavior or a final trend response, but I guess, guess not.

Kayla Fratt 

And then there’s table number two is really interesting. Here, it shows all of the different areas that the dogs made false alerts in each given room. So in the first room, the no room, most of the false alerts were on the air conditioner, there was 11 false alerts on the air conditioner 10 On the first aid kit, nine on the wall heater, and then it kind of goes down from there, one dog alerted to a pencil sharpener, one dog alerted to a table, or again the handlers called alert. Then when we get into the markers, rooms in the marked no room 32 false alerts on the marker nine on the easel, six of the tall cabinet and then kind of down to like one alert on the trashcan, for a total of 57 false alerts in that room. Then when we get into the unmarked decoy, there were 18 of false alerts on the decoy sent. So did definitely feel some dogs but then there were 15 false alerts on the piano, seven false alerts on the wall heater and on down to again, one dog alerted on the table. Then when we get into the marked decoy condition, there were 29 false alerts on the marker, which again, so that’s the piece of paper and Slim Jims and a tennis ball 12 false colors on the clear banner, and then dropped off really abruptly down to three alerts on the oven, three alerts to a toolbox. And again, one dog alerted to the Trash Can dogs like alerting to trash cans and tables, which I would actually be really interested now I bet that somewhere that we tend to put our hides a lot in training, so the dogs may tend to attend to that. Or maybe the handlers know that they tend to put stuff there so they attended to it.

Kayla Fratt 

Again, I would love to know more about the study with some actual video and actually confirming whether or not the dogs are showing changes of behavior. What sort of over handling or over cueing are the handlers participating in I think it would be absolutely fascinating to see what sort of hovering or prompting or circling or staring the handlers may be doing. And whether that leads or follows any dog behavior of crabbing, or bracketing or increased sniffing or anything like that. Like I would love to see if you’re actually getting significant changes of behavior from the dog before the handler or whether the handler is really leading the charge. But again, nobody I’m nobody does this, or nobody has done that yet. And of course, it is possible that there was actually target odor out in the environment. But they were rooms at a church building that had never been used for detection dog training, it’s pretty unlikely there were explosives or drugs that had been stored in those rooms. And then some handlers also suggested the possibility that the dogs were following previous dogs and alerting at at locations at which to the dogs had salivated or otherwise left trace evidence. It and then the author’s go on to say that this would not explain the difference in patterns of alert between marked and unmarked conditions, or the variation and alert recreate locations across all conditions.

Kayla Fratt 

Then, this is interesting the the author’s go on to say this would be also be unlikely given the extensive training and certification processes required of all these teams. But honestly, you would think that you wouldn’t get 225 false alerts from dogs that had gone through extensive training and certification processes. So I don’t know how much we can really rely on those processes. After all, with this sort of thing. I will also say like I do empathize a little bit with the handlers here because man, writing that many blank searches in a row with someone evaluating you is very stressful, but that is also what you should expect, particularly as a bomb dog. But also honestly, as a drug dog handler, like, you’re gonna have a lot of blank searches. So without further ado, that was a very long science. This is just a fascinating study that I absolutely love.

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Kayla Fratt 

We will get to the interview about anti-racism and detection dogs with Kassidi Jones. Well, welcome podcast, Kassidi, thank you so much for being here.

Kassidi Jones 

Thanks for having me.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah. So why don’t we start out with you telling us a little bit about who you are and what you do for work. And if you I don’t even know if you’ve got a dog, tell us about about your pets, if you’ve got any as well.

Kassidi Jones 

Okay, so I’m Kassidi. I am a fifth year PhD candidate in African-American studies in English at Yale. And my dissertation is on 19th century African-American eco-poetics. But I started an Instagram account for my dog, I do have a dog, her name is Ginger, two years ago, and a weird kind of intersection was formed, or I just started thinking about and doing research about the history of dog companionship, Black dog guardianship, and anti-blackness and racism in the past and present in the dark world. So I did a webinar, which is how you found me, Kayla, about a pretty expansive sweeping history. I tried to cram a lot of information into an hour and it turned into an hour and a half. But yeah, now I just look for little interesting tidbits of information that reveal how racism creeps into the dark world.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, no, we love that. And I got Yeah, I totally forgot that. Because I follow you on Instagram. I just, you know, we forget things. Yeah. And I actually wanted to give out a shout out to our student Mei was actually the one who sent me your webinar and suggested we speak to you. And she’s in our K9Conservationists handler course right now. So shout out that one of those. Shout out to Mei, she’s been really good at finding us finding us guests. She’s given me a couple of really good suggestions lately, but you’re the first one that we’re actually recording with. So why don’t we start out with Yeah, congratulations. Big Question. This could probably be like an entire graduate seminar course. But what are what are kind of the broad strokes of the history of detection dogs? And you know, specifically like our detection dogs, not our farm dogs or our hunting dogs, but dogs that are actually finding people or things that people maybe are hiding?

Kassidi Jones 

Okay, that’s interesting, because I was wondering what you meant, when you asked specifically not for farming are hunting dogs detection dogs aren’t my field. I don’t work in conservation. I hadn’t really heard of it as a thing until you sent me an email. So this is my first time coming to this history as well. And from what I saw detection with dogs started with hunting, but for dogs that are not tracking people, I guess, specifically your game. The earliest I could find for conservation was 1890 in New Zealand, where folks were looking for kiwi and Kakapo birds. Yeah. So I also saw in the 1890s, Germany using dogs to detect unexploded mines and Americans, adopting German shepherds to also look for unexploded mines in North Africa, but that was in the 20th century. And then later in the 20th century, it was all about drugs. Most of what I could find when I looked for detection, dogs was looking for criminal activity, using dogs not necessarily looking to help people, which was disappointing.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, yeah, that is one of the things that’s interesting about the history of detection dogs is, I guess, I guess finding unexploded mines is probably a good thing. That’s probably a life saving measure in most cases. But yeah, there’s a lot a lot of war on drugs and a lot of War on Terror stuff, particularly in the more recent history. So yeah, where, how, and when, and where does racism show up in that history, like our history of detection dogs, and again, like, I think because conservation dogs are such a small field, we always looking out at the search and rescue world, the bomb dogs that drunk dogs, like, we were not a big enough field that we can just learn from each other. And maybe there’s racism that shows up in our conservation dogs as well. I think we can touch on that a little bit later. But particularly, it may be some of the other places that we draw our history from.

Kassidi Jones 

So the first place I could find racism and detection in dogs together was in reading guides for training Negro dogs that we’re tracking right now. I know it’s not great. It’s not great. It starts with slavery, unfortunately, as many of the things that I ended up talking about do. But I’m seeing manuals of people talking about how to train dogs to detect a particular scent, and that we get really into the bio essentialism of race. They’re when they’re trying to make an argument for black people having a specific smell that isn’t environmental. It’s the smell that black people produce inherently.

Kayla Fratt 

Wow. Yeah. I Yeah. Okay. Like, this is like the the place that my brain goes is, I wonder how that worked for them? Because you would like, yeah. Yeah, because I mean, obviously, dogs can track individual people. And I could see, I would assume that enslaved folks, we’re not getting necessarily the same diet as the ruling class. So I can see how there could be something that dog is picking up on. But yeah, I have a hard time believing that there’s like a genetic difference there.

Kassidi Jones 

Right. And I’m sure that there was something specific being picked up on because they definitely successfully trained dogs to specifically hunt black people, for sure. They did a great job at that. I just don’t think the strategy of saying and this is what black skin smells like, I don’t think that worked particularly well. And if they were picking up on something, that people writing these manuals thought it was blackness and not, I don’t know, lard, or some sort of Yeah, portion of the diet that was specific to that class of people. Uh huh. Yeah. Yeah. And then you get into drugs and it stays

Kayla Fratt 

racist. Let’s see. Let’s go into it. Yeah. Let’s talk a little bit about Yeah, dogs and the racism of the war on drugs.

Kassidi Jones 

Yeah, it’s, I don’t even know where to begin there. It seems so obvious to me that I don’t know how to tell that story. But in case you don’t know, I guess the War on Drugs definitely disproportionately targeted black communities. I feel like as a conservationist, you would have to be very aware of the fact that dogs pick up on human cues pretty well, like I kept coming across the Clever Hans phenomenon. That’s unheard of.

Kayla Fratt  

Yes. And if you want, I can explain it for the listeners, or if you want to know Yeah, so for any of our listeners who aren’t aware, clever, Hans was a horse that supposedly could do math. And this was a long time ago. I’m not sure how I always imagined it kind of being in the 1800s. But I guess I’m not sure for, I’m not sure. And basically, what ended up coming out was that the horse wasn’t doing math. He wasn’t actually doing six times three or whatever. But he was picking up on AI now kind of a bummer. Picking up on extremely subtle cues that his handler or trainer was giving and the handler or trainer this is a really important part of the story, was completely unaware that he was giving those cans It wasn’t that he was tricking anyone he was he wholeheartedly believed it. And I’ve heard different accounts of whether it was that the trainer was dropping his chin a little bit, or maybe lifting his chin because basically what the horse would do is the horse was pulling out the ground until he reached the right number. And what was happening was that the the handler was getting some very small cue, maybe an exhalation of breath or a shift of the head that told the horse he had reached the right number, the horse then stopped pulling, and then the horse got rewarded, because he had done the math correctly. So the trainer thought. So very, very important animal training effect for us to all be aware of, because we all are at risk of creating clever, Hans’s with our own animals.

Kassidi Jones 

Right. And it’s cute when it’s a horse doing math, but it’s not as cute when you have a racist police officer trying to figure out whether or not there are drugs in somebody’s car. So yeah, they found a lot of inaccuracies. Obviously, with detection dogs trying to pick up on any illicit materials, especially in car stops, but also just like, black people out and about, like people walking around the airport would be approached by these dogs. The handler would get excited, I guess, about finding something. And so that dog is worth working extra hard to please that person who wants to catch this black person in the act of something. So I read that it was about 50%. Accurate. And then also, that’s real bad. Yeah. Yeah. But these this evidence is being used to justify illegal searches. It’s being used in court against people. But it’s not accurate enough. 2013, the ACLU in Illinois reported that black motorists were 55% more likely than white more motorists to be subjected to a dog sniff, but white motorists were 14% more likely than black motorist to be found with contraband during the search. So 1000s of black people who aren’t doing anything, are having their days interrupted, potentially being traumatized, because not everybody is comfortable with dogs. And not everybody is comfortable with police officers in their personal space. And usually for nothing, or at least half the time for nothing. Yeah,

Kayla Fratt 

well, and I can see as well, even as someone who obviously, personally is very comfortable with dogs, and pretty comfortable working with, you know, big pointy Shepherd type things. I still, when I was actually here’s a slightly related story, I was crossing the border from the US into Mexico, about three weeks ago, and they had a big Belgian Malinois sitting there ready to search vehicles going across the border. And had they wanted to search me again, even as someone who has nothing to hide and be is very comfortable with dogs, I still would have been very nervous about that. Yeah. And I know, it’s something that we have had to work very hard on with both of my dogs to teach them that I can ask them, hey, check here, or check this out and kind of ask them to look at something specific, without actually causing them to alert on nothing. The first, you know, 200 repetitions of that with my dog barley. If I asked him to look at something and kind of specifically directed him towards something, he was going to alert to it. And again, like go dog training, can in theory, remedy some of these sorts of things. But it only goes so far to counteract biases of the handler. And there have been some really interesting studies. I’ll try to pull this one up. And maybe I’ll actually I’ll put it in as a science highlight at the beginning of this episode. There’s something there’s a study titled something along the lines of handler belief, effects detection dog performance, where basically, yes, if you and I think this was more of like a trial where you kind of like, you tell the handler, hey, there’s, there’s two hides in this room. And then you tell them, then you send them in the dog to search the room, and there’s one or zero hides, and I’m getting this a little bit wrong. We’ll, uh, we’ll explain it more in the science highlights which people will have already heard by the time I’m explaining this now. They, the dogs basically performed much, much, much worse if the handlers had been lied to about what was out there. And that’s kind of used as a proxy for if you’re a racist police officer and you see a black person who has the audacity to wear a hoodie and walk through their neighborhood. I can imagine that you would get very similar results where the dog is just queueing into into whatever that handler is. Believing

Kassidi Jones 

Very interesting. I found the article and I’m definitely going to read it immediately after the

Kayla Fratt 

Great. Yeah, we can read it together as soon as we’re done. Yeah, so gosh, I am not at all surprised. Just circling back to the slavery thing. I think when I was doing some research, particularly on tracking and trailing dogs, it really seemed like, a lot of the places that came up very early on were mostly slave patrol dogs. So, yeah, what else? What else comes up in our in our history of our detection dogs?

Kassidi Jones 

Okay, so we covered Negro dogs, I guess we shouldn’t call them that anymore. It’s weird in academia, they want you to be accurate. And that’s the language that was being used to describe them. But I and I also don’t like the word slave. I usually work use enslaved person and slave people. Yeah. Its slave at a loss for what to call them there. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. A little clunky.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, enslaved person. Dog is a little a little long. I mean, I guess you could do. I was gonna see an ESP dog. But that, that that’s totally different. Okay. We’re clearly not going to solve this right now.

Kassidi Jones 

Interesting. Yeah. Let me know what your suggestions are. Somebody send me a DM if this has already been covered, because I haven’t found it yet. So we’re starting? Well, I, my research strikes. I’m sure there’s a lot of ground to cover. But my research started in the 18th century in Cuba, where dogs are being trained to corral enslaved Africans and indigenous people that moved to Jamaica, and that will move to the US self. Or folks we’re using a Cuban Bloodhound, which was they say that it was a Spanish word dog mixed within English Mastiff and sent down oh, gosh, and it kind of I know, right. Terrified. Yeah, sorry. Exactly. Especially when it’s several God. So these are being used for white and slavers to recapture the human beings they consider property if those people are to escape. And there’s a lot of they’re like pictures, not photographs, but like a lot of drawings depicting the situation just because it was extremely common and so ubiquitous that you can find in the mid 19th century newspaper clippings, of people advertising, how skilled their dogs are saying they never lose a cent. No matter how far someone gets away, their dog will find them and drag them back to you. It’s really gruesome, but these people are very proud of their dogs detection skills. In the end, that’s what they’re advertising, but it’s for really violent and gross calls.

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Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, definitely. Well, and I know this is not a perfect analogy, but just imagining the terror of that. And the only thing I can think of is, I think maybe the best terrifying dog scene I’ve ever seen was the one on Game of Thrones where Ramsay bowl after I think it was Sansa and Theon, and anyone who hasn’t seen Game of Thrones is just totally rolling their eyes now, but I mean, we’ve all seen we’ve all seen this depicted in movies, but I think the the really intense level of terror is only captured well in a couple.

Kassidi Jones 

Yeah, I agree. And then that’s 19th century moved into the 20th century, police dogs kind of start booming. They come over in the early 20th century, but it didn’t really pick up until around the civil Civil Rights era when again, dogs are needed to control black mobility. There are black people in the streets protesting and they need to be contained or redirected. And white police officers turned to their tribe and Trustee tool, canine units to handle that for them. It’s to me it’s a pretty clear direct lineage from these patrols to capture enslave people to the Civil Rights Management, that the the tactics that the police force used, and then you get more modern, or even later in the 20th century with the war on drugs into the 21st century, where dogs again are being used as a tool to sniff out and punish black people. I share this stat a lot. But I don’t know, I’m probably going to keep repeating it just because I find it so disturbing. So after Mike Brown is murdered in Ferguson, the Department of Justice does this investigation into the Ferguson Police Department. And part of that investigation is looking how their canine unit is used. And they found that every single, every single stop and involved the canine every single violent interaction between a civilian and a dog was where racial information was provided that person was

Kayla Fratt 

black. How I think I remember hearing that on pod save the people at some point. But gosh, yeah, that stat is one that is just never going to fail to disturb. And I think one of the things that came to mind for me, as you were talking just now is that I think, if you were if you were, if you’re the sort of person to be the devil’s advocate, don’t. But I like I could hear someone saying, well, but in the case of a detection dog, like, I mean, I think we’ve already demonstrated that, if you don’t have anything to hide, you still have something to worry about. Because handler beliefs can affect our performance. Dogs can be used in court to, you know, for search warrants, and all sorts of things. And I think one of the things that really complicates particularly police dogs is when these dogs are dual trained, you know, it’s, you’ve got a dog that sure, in this case, the handler has maybe directed the dog to just perform a search. But this dog also is trained and apprehension and a lot of cases and in other cases, you don’t know you know, that melanoma, but I, and I saw the US Mexican border. I don’t know if that dog was also trained to take people down. And I’m not going to ask, and I think yeah, and yeah, that that is something that should not be ignored, particularly with these police dogs is that they’re not they’re not single purpose dogs. And even if they are a lot of times as a civilian, you would not know whether or not that dog and like, I don’t even know if you would know the difference if you’re not kind of a capital D dog person, right?

Kassidi Jones 

Which most people are not. People, again, are just trying to go about their daily lives and are not going to stop and be like, Well, I don’t know, this breed seems to be more useful for its network than anything. Yeah. I don’t think they’re going to take that chance.

Kayla Fratt 

No, no. Well, and honestly, as someone who has been bitten by a miniature pinscher, I don’t really care if it’s just a car. Yeah, I was picking up a birdcage on Craigslist. I wasn’t even working as a trainer.

Kassidi Jones 

Not on your day off.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, like just latched on to my knee for no reason. I guess I wasn’t getting. But anyway, the point being, it doesn’t have to be a big ship, scary 90 pound German shepherd to be intimidating. And especially when your freedom is on the line, even if this dog isn’t the sword. You know, the threat of imprisonment and losing your job and everything else involved with that is honestly, just as scary.

Kassidi Jones 

Yeah, that’s a good point to keep in mind that there’s more fear than physical violence.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah. Okay. So I’m sorry, I interrupted a little bit. Back to Back to gosh, the Ferguson Police Department.

Kassidi Jones 

Oh, really? That’s a mic drop moment. For me. I have nothing. That it’s just really crazy.

percentage was 100 100.

Kayla Fratt 

And I have heard similar stats for a wide variety of police departments. And I don’t even want to know what the numbers are for other places like Border Patrol.

Kassidi Jones 

Yeah. Yeah, I’d rather not. But I’m sure I will have to find out one

Kayla Fratt 

day. Yeah. Now I’m like, well, now I’m gonna probably Google it later. Yeah,

Kassidi Jones 

I might as well. No. Yeah.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah. Yeah. So I think then kind of maybe the next question and this maybe should have been my first question is if you’re in the audience, and you’re a conservation dog person. Even if we grant that conservation dogs maybe don’t have a directly racist history, which I think there are areas where we could quibble with that you and I aren’t necessarily going to because I’m gonna have to track down another expert for that. But yeah, why? Why does this matter? Anyway? You know, why? Why would knowing the history of detection dogs in general matter so much, if we’re just doing conservation, we’re just here to save. Save the pollinators. You No,

Kassidi Jones 

that’s cute. I think that as people who claim to love dogs claim to love the planet, I think part of that requires showing love to each other to fellow human beings. I think sometimes, and this, I’m not trying to throw shade at anybody, but there are people who like to hide behind the dog, if at all to kind of avoid the ways that they benefit from our are complicit in basically the dog world’s white supremacy. But I think we all of us can only benefit from opening the space up, I think all of us can only benefit from bringing more black and brown people into the very white micro niches of the dog world. I’m thinking of like, show dogs and sports. And I can’t speak to how many black folks are working in conservation with you. But if I had to guess I wouldn’t say it’s too many.

Kayla Fratt 

Now, frankly, the only ones I have worked with or gotten to know directly have been on the African continent, not here on the US. And yeah, I could be wrong about that in the US. But I have not personally met anyone yet. Who is black? And doing conservation dog stuff.

Kassidi Jones 

Yeah. And I don’t think you’d be the only one to say that. So that’s something to question, right? Why is the bubble so small? I’m sure none of you will. I can’t say none. But a lot of you aren’t going around thinking that black people are not allowed to participate in conservation with me. But if we’re not doing anything to change the environment, and I’m talking about the environment of the conservation world, dog world to invite more non white people in then we’re just kind of accepting that that’s the way it is, if we’re not changing it, or accepting it. Yes. And that’s where knowing the history comes in handy.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. And I think and we’ve talked about this previously on the podcast about, you know, some of it is more of a structural racism problem. I mean, and this holds true for a lot of dog stuff, capital D dog stuff, where, you know, it’s expensive, and it’s time consuming. And you need a lot of privilege to break into this field or, or something, you know, like, sure, there may be people who have a lot of combination of grit and luck to get into this field as well. But you know, for example, and we talked about this, in my interview with Gail Sanchez, so much of conservation relies on the ability to do unpaid internships, and dog training is not dissimilar. Most novice dog trainers spend quite a bit of time working for very little or no pay, and save that submission. Yeah, it’s really, really common. You know, like, I got my start volunteering for a couple years while I was in college. And then I worked in an animal shelter for $13 an hour in Denver, fully 50% of each paycheck went towards rent. Yeah. And it was miserable. And I think, you know, that’s where that structural racism can come into play as just a whole other barrier. And then we can get into, you know, if there’s nobody that looks like you in the room, then it’s a lot harder to imagine yourself entering the room. And there’s all sorts of other things actually there. But, you know, the, the structural racism, and the massive underfunding of a lot of these programs is certainly at play.

Kassidi Jones 

Absolutely. Those are all really great points. I feel like there are steps to be taken to break down some of these walls to bring more people in, I’m sure you would love if more people were conservationists for conservation.

Kayla Fratt 

People, ya know, we want this field to grow. And we want more diverse fasting holders. And we want people with Yes, exactly. Yes. All of it.

Kassidi Jones 

It’s only going to grow faster if we open the doors for as many people as possible.

Kayla Fratt 

Yes. Yeah. Exactly. And, and yeah, bringing in those people who are, I mean, gosh, most affected by climate change and biodiversity loss. And, you know, one of the other things that really bums me out currently about the state of this field is I also don’t know anyone who’s Native American in this field. And, you know, that’s extremely problematic, given kind of the conservation element of what we do. And again, I could be wrong. It’s not that I have done a complete survey of everyone’s racial ethnic makeup in the field. But I’m not aware of that as

Kassidi Jones 

well. Yeah. I just feel like even if the fact that nobody immediately comes to mind, I’m sure isn’t a result of you having your eyes closed. It speaks to what this says the field is right now. So I, there’s room for more. Ideally, I’m not in the conservation field, but there’s room for more. I think there is an outsider perspective.

Kayla Fratt 

Yes. And there’s room for more in the dog world. There’s room for more in the conservation world. And then like, gosh, we would love to have more people who are you know, in the center of those two Venn diagrams?

Kayla Fratt 

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Kayla Fratt 

So that we don’t have to keep doing and this actually gets into one of the things that I wanted to hit on. So we’re jumping around a little bit. But you know, one of the biggest things that I see is really troubling. And conservation is a lot of what we call parachute conservationism, which is kind of it’s a, it’s a specific type of white savior complex, where we kind of parachute in somewhere we do some work, get some research, extract our own PhD dissertations, and then leave and pat ourselves on the back saying that we’ve done a great job. And those communities don’t necessarily have as much say as they should, they don’t necessarily get any benefits. And they also certainly aren’t in control of what’s going on. And I think that’s really, really common in the conservation world in general. And it’s definitely something that happens a lot in the conservation Old World. And like you said, with the dog folks, like we kind of shroud ourselves in this idea of like, well, this is a highly specialized field, and you need experts to be able to do it. So we’re going to come in and do the work and help out and then leave. And we you know, again, we pat ourselves on the back over it. And I think that’s something that we really need to be examining more in this field. And again, I am actively trying to find someone who is more of an expert in, in this realm in within conservation to come on the show, and then I can, you know, Riff with them on the dog side as well. But anyway, that’s something I really wanted to make sure we got into this episode, because it’s it’s related but a little bit separate.

Kassidi Jones 

You know, part of that is decon. decolonizing, what we consider to be an expert, because I would argue that folks that are indigenous to a place know a lot more than most about taking care of the species of animals and plants that live there. Because they’ve been doing it for a very long time.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, yes, exactly. And it was something, you know, that we, we thought really hard about and talked quite a bit about when we were invited to go to Kenya, where it was like, oh, gosh, are we are we doing this now and what we can and I think reasonable people may be able to disagree on this. But what we came down on and decided is okay, they invited us, they’re asking for help. And our goal is to mentor these handlers to get them to the point that they can do this all on their own, hopefully mentor them enough that they can then mentor their own mentees in turn, and then this can become a self sustaining long term program. And that was what ultimately made me feel comfortable with going ahead and doing it. You know, because again, I wasn’t just coming in and just doing my own cheater research, and then leaving, like the goal really was to get Naomi and Edwin up and running and able to do it all on their own. So you know, again, maybe reasonable people can disagree, and maybe I still did something that was ashamed of it. But at least that was my calculus going in.

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Kassidi Jones 

Think people asking for help is a big difference. That’s a really good starting point. Yeah, wild concept. I know, but I

Kayla Fratt 

know. Yeah, yep. Yeah, we talked about that a lot on this show. I know. It’s, yeah, yeah. People actually, so far, at least our listeners are very receptive to it, which is really nice. Um, yeah. Okay, so going back, I think, why don’t we talk a little bit about? Like, how? How can we actually use this knowledge and some of this awareness. And again, this is just a starting point in the show notes, I’ll include some suggested reading and websites and places for people to go. And if you have any that you’d like to mention, feel free. But okay, what do we actually do with this? Now, you know, does this mean trying to do more research on who the mentors of a certain seminar giver are to decide whether or not you feel comfortable with them? How can we actually kind of take this knowledge and be more anti-racist going forward?

Kassidi Jones 

I think I like to start with taking stock of who’s in the room. So I like the idea that you have been invited to a place, especially if it’s like a panel conversation, I need to see representation on that panel, or it’s a non starter, there’s nothing for us to talk about, if we can’t get our act together as the panelists. I look at who’s funding certain things. That’s something that’s gotten me caught up before in terms of looking at research papers for information and and seeing that it’s founded by kill all the rhinos.org. I think purposefully inviting people to join you not even just for an event, where an educational event but inviting other people from other communities to join you or to learn more about these efforts. I love community engagement that is free. So if you have your own wisdom to share, perhaps looking up with a public library, in an underserved community and offering your services, offering your time to teach people about why conservation is important, why conservation dogs are important. People love dogs. I feel like you could find somebody to host you and introduce this field to people who may never get another opportunity to hear about it on their own, because people aren’t reaching out to them. What else can be done? What do you think?

Kayla Fratt 

I think? Yeah, I think really being cognizant particularly of where your money is going. For seminars or webinars, those sorts of things. I know that something that I think a lot about, because there is so much as a detection dog practitioner that I can learn from people who have decades of experience in the police or military, but really looking at who that person is and of what department they worked for, and whether or not I ultimately feel comfortable giving them my money. And I will say that personally, where I have come down on aspects of it is there are maybe some free podcast episodes are those sorts of things that I will listen to and learn from even if someone is not who I would like to support. And I know that can support them with advertising revenue, and moving them up in podcast ratings and that sort of thing. But that’s kind of personally where I have found that I draw the line. And it’s not dissimilar, honestly, to what I do with you know, I consider myself a broadly positive reinforcement based trainer, I’m really focused on the humane hierarchy and those sorts of things. That doesn’t mean that I can’t learn from a balanced dog trainer or a more traditional dog trainer, but I do try to do a little bit of due diligence to make sure that that person isn’t flat out abusing or harming dogs before I before I take too much away from them. So that’s, that’s one of the places I specifically really try to think about it. And then, as an organization, you know, one of the things that we’ve been really focused on is, okay, how can we bring more diversity into this field. And one of the ways that we’ve been doing that is trying to offer low cost mentoring, or even free mentoring and courses to people. And what we did like for our course that we’re currently running is, we anyone who got on the waitlist for the course could just check a button to say, Yes, I’m interested in hearing more about financial aid. And then the financial aid to get in the door was it was a very simple form. I’m not going to remember everything, but it was really like, what do you think you can afford for this course? What is this course going to do for you? And why do you think you Why do you think you should be here? Basically, I think we phrased it a little bit better than that, but that’s what’s coming to mind right now. And that was it and most of the people who asked for discounts, got them and some of them got, you know, an $800 course for free or for $100. You know, it was whatever, whatever they could afford to get in because again, we want we really want got more people at the table and we want more people coming in. And I think for, for me, even if even if I didn’t care about equity and diversity, I still like I’m still focused on the conservation side. And that means we need more help. We need more people in this fight. And that means that closing doors is just totally backwards. Again, even if I didn’t care at all about equity and diversity, which we do.

Kassidi Jones 

Yeah, that’s how I feel about rescue. How are we we being so exclusionary and then turning around and saying there aren’t enough homes there? Are you just won’t look at them? Because?

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, oh, my gosh, it is one of my favorite things. When I’m just like, when I’m having like, a funky mental health day, one of my ways that I, I vent steam on the internet is getting in fights with people who say that you can’t have high energy dogs in like XYZ situation. Yeah, like, oh, my gosh, yeah, absolutely. The rescue thing. There was a really interesting seminar that I was at, but gosh, back in, like 2016, where they had everyone in the room stand up. And then they said, okay, so sit down, if you have, if you don’t have a yard, sit down, if you know, and they went through all of these things. And by the end, this was a conference at the International Association of Animal Behavior consultants. And at the end of all of this, there was like three people left standing. And they were like, congratulations, the three of you are approved to adopt a dog from a rescue. And, again, these are this was a room full of some of the most dedicated animal behavior professionals out there. So yes, yeah, that’s a tangent, but a word they want to explore for sure. Well, is there anything that you kind of wanted to circle back to or explore on more anything else that you wanted to even turn around and ask me as we’re wrapping up here? Well, my

Kassidi Jones 

original question was how you’re distinguishing detection dogs from performing hunting dogs. But oh, yeah. Yuning. Yeah,

I can say more, if you want.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, no, of course, I think for for that. The way I think about it is mostly a distinction between kind of a dog? Well, gosh, when I when I wrote the question, What I meant was distinguishing between a dog that is kind of helping someone with subsistence, versus some a dog that is working with kind of a professional handler in a paid capacity. That’s not actually the distinction between a heart a farm dog and a detection dog because those, like a you One could easily easily argue that most hunting dogs and most farm dogs are functionally doing the same behavior as a detection dog. But because we were talking about history, I wanted to make sure that we were focusing on more kind of that professional side dogs that are going out and doing work with a person that is not related to subsistence.

Kassidi Jones 

Yeah, and then my other question was, what detection? What are you detecting what? What are you conserving? Yeah, that’s

Kayla Fratt 

us right now. So we’re actually kind of in between the field since right now. But my dogs and I just wrapped up some work on wind farms where we were finding bats and birds that had been hit by the wind turbines. We spent about three months. Wow. Yeah. Yeah, really, really cool work. And really, also interesting to think and talk about, you know, I’m someone who’s very pro green energy, and broadly pro wins. But it was it was definitely an interesting project. So it’s still kind of see like, gosh, yeah, there really, there still are downsides. But one of the cool things about that was, you know, we get to be the first step, and then figuring out how to reduce those fatalities. And how, how can we have wind farms around without killing so many hoary bats. So they’re using a lot of the information that we collected to try to basically create algorithms to turn the turbines off at key high risk times to reduce fatalities? Yeah, pretty cool. Very, very cool. Lots of math that is kind of beyond me. And yeah, there’s a good chance we’ll go back and do that again next summer. And then currently, what I’m up to is I am in the midst of driving the Pan American highway. So I’m currently in Mexico. By the time people hear this, I will probably make it to rica or Panama. And along the way, I’m meeting up with as many different conservation dog folks as I can Some of them are just conservation folks who don’t have dogs. Some of them are just dog folks who aren’t in conservation yet. And kind of offering mentorship guidance. In a couple of cases, we’re just grabbing lunch and just talking. And then in a couple of cases, I am actually going to be able to go out in the field and donate some of my time to help them with, with whatever projects they’re working on. So and that’s kind of, I’m calling this my gap year before I go back and start a master’s PhD program.

Kassidi Jones 

Oh, we go.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, so you five you must. I hope that means you’re close to done or are you on like the seven year PhD track?

Kassidi Jones 

No, I should be six years. So it should be my penultimate year. Fingers crossed. 2024. I’m out of here.

Kayla Fratt 

Okay. All right. Yeah. Fingers crossed for you. And yeah, those those humanities PhDs take forever. Yeah. Yeah, I’ve got a friend who just graduated with a dual Master’s in history, and something else history and it like it was like history and southwest studies or something like that. And yeah, gosh, it took her so long. And not because she slept, right? Yeah, yeah. Hats off to you.

Kassidi Jones 

Right. It’s just the process. I don’t know why. I don’t understand. But

Kayla Fratt 

yeah, I, I don’t have like expediency and efficiency are the first two words I would use to describe academia in general, as much as I love about academia. But you know, I hate a lot of things. So yeah, anything anything else you wanted to circle back to your asked about or riff on a little bit?

Kassidi Jones 

No, I think that’s all I got.

Kayla Fratt 

Amazing. Well, Kassidi, thank you so much. So you mentioned your Instagram up top, but is there anywhere else that you would like to direct people, whether that’s your personal, social media, or places to be found? Or if there’s any reading or books that you discovered, as you’re preparing for this episode that you think people should be sure to check out?

Kassidi Jones 

Um, no, you can just find me on my dog Instagram account. My personal Instagram account is just me taking film photos of things, though it’s not. There’s not a lot to learn over there. But if you want reading recommendations, I do have a reading list linked in my bio to all the books and articles that I’ve talked about on Ginger’s Instagram. And that’s free to download. So I can update it with the couple of articles that I read to get ready for this, but you should just look at all of them.

Kayla Fratt 

Yeah, I agree. Well, yeah, we’ll make sure to get all those links down into the show notes as well. So I’ll track those down. And, again, Kathy, thank you so much for coming on. I know I learned a lot and I hope some of our listeners did as well. And, and this is just this is just the start for everyone. But yes, yeah, definitely an important thing to be thinking about. And for everyone at home, I hope that you are also feeling inspired, empowered, ready to help change some stuff and maybe instead of going outside and being a canine conservationist, maybe, maybe today you know this is going to come out in January or February. Stay inside, make yourself some tea and read some, read some depressing statistics and make a plan for how you’re going to be more anti-racist as a conservation dog person in the future. As always, you can find our show notes and transcripts, you can buy stickers, you can join Patreon. All of that is over at k9conservationists.org. Until next time!