Archive for working dogs

Friends and trainers honor working dogs

Posted in police dog teams, police dogs with tags , , , , on June 7, 2009 by wardogmarine

By LAVINIA DeCASTRO • Courier-Post Staff

Sirius ran into the World Trade Center’s Tower 1 on Sept. 11, 2001, and never came out.

Grace searched for people in the ruins left behind by hurricanes Ike, Hannah and Gustav.
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CHRIS LaCHALL/Courier-Post
Gloucester Township Patrolman Mark Pickard shakes hands Saturday with Dave Hahn of Pitman. Hahn’s German shepherd, Schultz, was one of the guests of honor.

Elias apprehended a burglar inside a service station and helped keep $75,000 worth of drugs off the streets.

All three are service dogs.

All three were among the first 20 canines to be inducted in the area’s first wall of fame dedicated to service dogs during a ceremony on Saturday in Gloucester Township.

“Our canine heroes have a home now in Gloucester Township,” Mayor Cindy Rau-Hatton said.

The ceremony, held at Veteran’s Park, took place during the annual Gloucester Township day.

This is the fourth consecutive year in which service dogs were honored in the township, but the first time a wall of fame was dedicated to them.

“Every year, it gets larger and larger and we include more dogs,” said Lillian Kline, president and founder of Our K9 Heroes, the nonprofit organization that sponsored the event.

The wall of fame with the names of the first inductees will be located inside the municipal building, Kline said.

“They’re all dogs that we have honored in the past,” Kline said.
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CHRIS LaCHAL
Lillian Kline of Pine Hill and her German shepherd, Hope, take part in a procession honoring working dogs. Kline is president and founder of Our K9 Heroes, which sponsored Saturday’s event in Gloucester Township.

Inductees include dogs from New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Kline said. Among them were two Philadelphia Police Department dogs, four Camden County Department of Corrections dogs, an Evesham Township Police Department dog, two Gloucester Township Police Department dogs and various therapy and mobility assistance dogs, including Kline’s own dog Hope.

Kline, who suffers from cerebral palsy and arthritis, has had six service dogs.

The idea to honor her canine companions came after one of her dogs, Tara, was attacked.

“They were a bunch of young punks,” Kline said of the attackers. “They wanted to see if she would bite.”

After the 1994 incident, Tara was too traumatized to return to work, but Kline kept her until she died at the age of 12.

“After her assault, I made a promise to her that I would honor those who were like her,” Kline said.

Her work resulted in the first ceremony of its kind — dedicated to all working dogs, not those those that performed extraordinary deeds.

“This is very nice, to honor the police dogs and the service dogs, especially the service dogs,” said Bobbie Snyder of Williamstown, who has three yellow Labradors trained to perform various duties. “A lot of people would be lost without their service dogs.”

Kline also received an award for the time and effort to recognize these often neglected canine heroes.

“This is a woman who has not let her disability keep her from giving back to the community,” Councilwoman Crystal Evans said.

Reach Lavinia DeCastro at (856) 486-2652 or ldecastro@courierpostonline.com

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Raritan students remember Vietnam War dogs, handlers

Posted in air force teams, Miscellaneous with tags , , , , , on May 19, 2009 by wardogmarine

by Veronica Slaght/For The Star-Ledger
Monday May 18, 2009, 8:58 PM

When students in Evelyn Van Nuys’ seventh grade history class were studying the Vietnam War, they learned that thousands of dogs served in the military, attacking enemy soldiers and sniffing out explosives. They also learned that many of these “war dogs” were abandoned and forgotten after the war.

The J.P. Case Middle School students decided the heroic canines and their handlers should be remembered, so they joined with their teacher to create a memorial at the Raritan Township school.

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Veronica Slaght/For The Star-Ledger
Students at the J.P. Case Middle School in Raritan
Township decided a memorial to the dogs lost in the Vietnam War.

The memorial to war dogs and their handlers was dedicated at a ceremony this afternoon.

The black granite slab was donated by Rich Kulinski, and the students raised $4,000 to have it etched. It bears a Terry Waldron sketch of a war dog named “Fluffy” and his handler, and a poem called “The Soldier Dog,” written by Vietnam veteran Joe Ferrara. It also lists the nine New Jersey military dog handlers who were killed in action in Vietnam.

Today’s event drew local veterans’ organizations, politicians and members of the public to honor “courage at both ends of the leash.” Veterans’ organizations included Hunterdon County Bulldogs Chapter 957, Military Order of Purple Hearts Chapter 27, Vietnam Vets of America Chapter 452 and American Legion Post 159.

The attendees were joined by about 500 students.

During the ceremony, students and veterans placed flowers in front of the memorial for the dog handlers who died in Vietnam. The program also featured a student choir singing “Where Have All The Flowers Gone,” Lebanon Mayor Mark Paradis and Dan Schultz performing Echo Taps, and Rose Holden singing “America the Beautiful.”

According to Van Nuys, dogs were considered military equipment and left in Vietnam at the end of the war. The Gifted and Talented and seventh grade students attended a special assembly featuring veterans in the community and John C. Burnam, military dog handler and founder of the National War Dog Memorial in Washington D.C.

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Veronica Slaght/For The Star-Ledger
Senior airman Rodreques Boyd, from McGuire Airforce Base, with Cici, a German shepherd who has been to Iraq twice. The two have been training together and will start their first joint tour of in September.

In addition to inspiring her students to honor war dogs, Van Nuys also inspired Flemington resident J.T. Gabriel. Gabriel formed the nonprofit organization K9 Soldiers to collect and donate necessary goods to the K9 teams at Fort Drum, Lakehurst Naval Air Station, McGuire Air Force Base and Bolling Air Force Base.

To make a donation to K9 Soldiers call at (908) 284-0284 or visit k9soldiers.org.

Gabriel also arranged to have representatives from these bases attend the dedication, which was performed with full military honors.

Senior airman Rodreques Boyd came to the event from McGuire Airforce Base with Cici, a German shepherd who has been to Iraq twice. The two have been training together and will start their first joint tour of duty in September. Boyd, originally from Atlanta, said he thought the memorial was “awesome.”

Peter Abramchak, who goes by “Pittstown Pete,” said he is glad the school did this. Abramchak served in Vietnam and is a member of the Marine Corps League. He said some military dogs are trained to attack, while others are used to sniff out bombs.

“The dogs deserve to be remembered,” he said.

Qatar Military Dog Show Enhances Bilateral Relations

Posted in Foreign Dog Teams with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2009 by wardogmarine

All pictures and Story by Dustin Senger
This article was found here: Qatar Dogs

CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar – Forty-seven members of the Qatar military police exhibited working dog capabilities for U.S. service members at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, April 13. The first-time event was coordinated to enhance bilateral relationships between the two nations’ armed forces, following talks between Maj. Gen Thamer Al Mehshadi, Qatar army military police commander, and Col. David G. Cotter, U.S. Army Central Area Support Group Qatar commander, March 26.

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“I’ve seen a lot of dog shows before but this was really good – especially the drug and bomb detection,” said U.S. Air Force Jennifer Asia Gonzales (center), from Chicago, Ill., after a Qatar military working dog exhibition for U.S service members at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, April 13. Gonzales was enjoying a four-day pass from duty in Iraq, by participating in the U.S. Central Command rest and recuperation pass program in Qatar. Also on pass from Iraq (far right): U.S. Air Force Brianne Gordon-Garcia, from Charlotte, N.C. and Army Pfc. Sharmeka Reed, from Hollandale, Miss.

Surrounded by curious spectators, Sgt. Maj. Abdulla Al Ghanem, Qatar army military police canine trainer, directed the demonstration of fitness, skillfulness and obedience. Several German and Belgium shepherds (Malinois), along with an English springer spaniel, traversed through various obstacles and mock scenarios. The dogs showcased aggressive attack procedures, situational restraint during riot control and hostage rescue, as well as detection of narcotics and explosives hidden on persons and vehicles.

“I like how obedient the dogs are,” said U.S. Air Force Jennifer Asia Gonzales, from Chicago, Ill. She was attending the demonstration while enjoying a four-day pass from duty in Iraq, by participating in the U.S. Central Command rest and recuperation pass program in Qatar. “I’ve seen a lot of dog shows before but this was really good – especially the drug and bomb detection.”

“This is paving the way for more military integration in the future,” said Lt. Col. Nasser Al Halbadi, Qatar army military police canine unit commander. “We plan to continue these joint training opportunities, so our military units learn from one another.”

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Belgium shepherds (Malinois) react after stopping a “detainee” escape during a military working dog exhibition for U.S service members at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, April 13. The dogs showcased aggressive attack procedures, situational restraint during riot control and hostage rescue, as well as detection of narcotics and explosives hidden on persons and vehicles.
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Lt. Col. Nasser Al Halbadi, Qatar army military police canine unit commander, accepts a token of appreciation from Col. David G. Cotter, U.S. Army Central Area Support Group Qatar commander, after a Qatar military police working dog exhibition for U.S service members at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, April 13. The first-time event was coordinated to enhance bilateral relationships between the two nations’ armed forces, following talks between Maj. Gen Thamer Al Mehshadi, Qatar army military police commander, and Cotter, March 26.
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A German shepherd locates a Qatar army military police canine trainer by following nearly 200 meters of tracks during a working dog exhibition for U.S service members at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, April 13. Several German and Belgium shepherds (Malinois), along with an English springer spaniel, traversed through various obstacles and mock scenarios to demonstrate fitness, skillfulness and obedience.
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A German shepherd searches for explosives during a Qatar military working dog exhibition for U.S service members at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, April 13. The dogs traversed through various obstacles and mock scenarios to demonstrate fitness, skillfulness and obedience.
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Col. David G. Cotter, U.S. Army Central Area Support Group Qatar commander, and Maj. Gen Thamer Al Mehshadi, Qatar army military police commander, finalize talks at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, March 26. The two military officers discussed ways to enhance bilateral relationships between the two nations’ armed forces. An exhibition of Qatar military working dog capabilities was immediately offered to the U.S. military installation.
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An English springer spaniel searches for explosives during a Qatar military working dog exhibition for U.S service members at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, April 13. The dogs traversed through various obstacles and mock scenarios to demonstrate fitness, skillfulness and obedience.
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Sgt. Khalid Ahmed H. Sulaiti, Qatar army military police canine handler, during a military working dog exhibition for U.S service members at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, April 13. The dogs showcased aggressive attack procedures, situational restraint during riot control and hostage rescue, as well as detection of narcotics and explosives hidden on persons and vehicles.
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A Belgium shepherd (Malinois) leaps over a vehicle to apprehend a “terrorist” during a Qatar military working dog exhibition for U.S service members at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, April 13. The dogs traversed through various obstacles and mock scenarios to demonstrate fitness, skillfulness and obedience.

Coalition Dogs Chase Down Insurgents-Bite Them

Posted in Military Working Dogs, Working Dog News with tags , , , , , , , on August 15, 2008 by wardogmarine

Attack on NATO patrol in AFGHANISTAN kills 2

Associated Press, from the International Herald Tribune

KABUL, Afghanistan: U.S.-led forces have killed more than 36 insurgents in a series of clashes and airstrikes in southern Afghanistan, the coalition said Friday. A militant attack on NATO patrol killed two alliance’s troops.

Groups of militants began launching attacks Wednesday on a coalition reconnaissance patrol in the south, using rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns and small arms fire, the coalition said.

Coalition troops “returned fire with small arms and close air support,” destroying several vehicles and killing more than three dozen insurgents, the statement said. Capt. Christian Patterson, a coalition spokesman said the operation is still ongoing. He would not disclose the exact location of the clashes.

Southern Afghanistan is the center of a six-year-old Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan that is gaining strength and spreading to the east. At least 93 U.S. troops have died in the country so far this year, a pace that would make 2008 the deadliest for American forces since the 2001 invasion.

In a separate incident, militants attacked a NATO patrol with a roadside bomb and small arms fire in eastern Afghanistan Friday, killing two troops, the alliance said in a statement. NATO did not provide further details on the attack and did not release the nationalities of those killed. But most of the troops in the area are American.

The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan reported Friday an unusual operation involving dogs that were used to attack and help capture at least two suspected Taliban militants fleeing coalition forces.

The dogs bit two of the fleeing militants in the operation Thursday in eastern Paktika province, which targeted a wanted Taliban subcommander, a coalition statement said.

“Two militants attempted to flee and were pursued by coalition military working dogs,” the statement said. “Both militants received dog-bite injuries, one of which required treatment on scene by coalition medical personnel.”

Reports of using dogs to attack militants in Afghanistan are rare, though dogs employed by the coalition have been seen at checkpoints and are used to sniff for explosives. Last month a British dog handler and his dog we shot dead while on patrol in southern Helmand province.

In Islamic tradition, dogs are shunned as unclean and dangerous. But dog-fighting is a popular sport in Afghanistan, a conservative Muslim country.

1st Lt. Nathan Perry, a coalition spokesman, would not say what kind of dogs were used in the raid, but said the troops will “use dogs when we need to.”

Eight suspected insurgents were detained in the operation, including the two bitten by the dogs. Perry said he did not know if the targeted Taliban subcommander was among those detained and the statement did not specify

In other violence, a roadside bomb in Helmand province Friday killed four police and wounded five, said Mohammad Hussein Andiwal, the provincial police chief.

In the province’s Marjah district, Taliban militants attacked a high school serving 300 students late Thursday, burning books and classrooms, Andiwal said.

Elsewhere in the south, a battle between militants and police late Thursday killed four insurgents, said Juma Gul Himat, the provincial police chief of Uruzgan province. He said one policeman was wounded.

More than 3,200 people have died in violence across Afghanistan so far this year, according to an Associated Press tally of figures provided by Afghan and Western officials.

Dog Kennel sniffs out trouble

Posted in Navy dog teams, Working Dog News with tags , , , , , , , on August 14, 2008 by wardogmarine

By MCSN Kenneth AbbatePeriscope Staff(www.kingsbayperiscope.com), Kings Bay, Georgia

Dogs are thought of by many as man’s best friend. Nowhere is that statement truer than at the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay Dog Kennel, where the dogs there can be depended on in life or death situations.

The kennel’s mission is to provide support both to security and the commanding officer for antiterrorism and to prevent drug trafficking at NSB Kings Bay. By completing their mission, the kennel supports the overall mission of the base by ensuring the safety of everyone on the base. The kennel consists of four dog handlers and their K-9s, with one dog and handler deploying on an IA.


MA1(SW) Michael Brandon gives his dog Aron a bath outside the kennel. Brandon says that this task is usually done on Fridays during the kennel’s field day which consists of washing each dog kennel and cleaning the dogs. Photos by MCSN Kenneth Abbate 

The typical workday for the kennel master-at-arms is to arrive to the kennel early in the morning and feed the dogs one of their two meals for the day. After feeding the dogs, handlers take their partner to perform daily training exercises unless they are scheduled to perform vehicle or building inspections followed by random patrols of the base.

“I think that our job here at NSB Kings Bay is very important because this is a very large base and with the dogs we can assist in providing the best all around security of the commands and their staffs,” said Master-at-Arms 1st Class (SW) Michael Brandon. “In my opinion, it is very critical to have these dogs here because of what they can do that we can’t. Their noses are a hundred times better than humans and they can do the job twice as fast.”

Each handler and their dog are assigned from the moment they arrive to the base and each creates a bond with one another to help each other grow as individuals and as a team. Without their hard work and continuous training to improve as a team, the kennel would not be as successful as they are now at doing their job.

“The idea is to leave one handler with one dog during their tour at Kings Bay,” explained Brandon. “With IA’s that come up for Iraq or Afghanistan, sometimes we have to switch handlers with others dogs to help the mission.”

 The bond between MA2 Wilkonson Kinyon and his Military Working Dog Yossi still stands strong after three years together. 

“If not for the IA’s, the goal is to keep handlers with they dogs for the entire tour so they can continue to grow and bond with one another in order to achieve our goals. It would be very difficult to have to keep training a new dog every few months because the dogs will tend to lose that bond with their original handler.”

This bond between handlers and their dogs does not go unnoticed. NSB Kings Bay Executive Officer Cmdr. James Haigh feels that keeping the dogs with their original handlers for the entire tour, helps them both get better at their jobs and is instrumental to helping them accomplish their mission.

“Each of the dogs have their own personality just like the handlers have theirs, which sometimes do not mix well together, but the kennel master is responsible for assigning the dogs with their appropriate handlers and as it turns out they have done a great job,” said Haigh.

 MA2 Terrell James takes his dog Ano through the kennel’s obstacle course in order to keep his dog’s skills sharp.

The dogs are remembered as war heroes and proud members of the military after they retire from service either due to age or medical issues. Yossi, who worked with Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Wilkonson Kinyon for three years at Kings Bay, is retiring from service after eight years. This specific retirement is special for the kennel because the command has made it official that his handler, Kinyon, will take the responsibility of looking after of Yossi.

“Just like all good Sailors, dogs want to retire, whether it be because of physical reasons or age,” Haigh said. “Yossi has been a great dog, but has had some hip problems that have hindered him. So if we could have found someone to take him on board it would be great. Fortunately, it was his handler Kinyon, which makes it even better because the dog gets to continue his life where we know he will be taken care of very well. Anytime you can get that marriage between handler and dog, it is a good thing,” Haigh concluded.

 Military Working Dog Ano enjoys playing with the big ball during his free time at the kennel’s obstacle course. The handlers feel that it is important to have fun with the dogs from time to time by teaching them the difference between play and work time.

This article is from the Kings Bay Periscope in Kings Bay, Georgia

Border Patrol K9 Units Highly Effective

Posted in police dogs, Various Teams, Working Dog News with tags , , , , , on August 12, 2008 by wardogmarine

The Sniff Patrol: Border Patrol dogs find drugs, humans

Fernando Echavarri-Tucson Citizen(www.tucsoncitizen.com)
Austen led the search at sunset.
He walked through the southern Arizona desert looking left and right with his nose close to the ground.
Austen, a groenendael, or Belgian shepherd, sped through brush, tall weeds and rocky trails, leading Border Patrol agents to bags and sacks used to smuggle drugs. But the drugs, and those who transported them, were long gone.
FRANCISCO MEDINA/Tucson Citizen
K-9 handler and instructor Christopher Jbara works with his dog Brita, who alerts on a truck at the checkpoint near Tubac.
The drug spot is close to a dirt road not far from a house south of Green Valley.
Agents said the area is known as a meeting point for people carrying drugs across the border and drivers who take them north.
What Austen smelled was drug residue left on the bags used to carry drugs, most likely 25 to 50 pounds of marijuana.
The canine unit is one of the Border Patrol’s tools for finding people and drugs smuggled across the border.
 FRANCISCO MEDINA/Tucson Citizen
Handler Ray Rivera watches as his dog Zarrah hits on some drugs during a training exercise in a warehouse on the West Side of Tucson.
The Tucson sector has more than 70 dogs as part of its K-9 unit.
“We are seeing an increase in dogs in our sector, helping us get to situations faster and screen vehicles much quicker,” Border Patrol spokesman Michael Scioli said.
So far this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, agents in the Border Patrol’s Tucson sector, which has about 3,100 agents, have arrested 281,201 people trying to cross the border illegally. That’s a 26 percent decrease from this time last year, when there were 378,239 arrests, Scioli said.
Last year agents seized 897,535 pounds of marijuana and more than 177 pounds of cocaine. This year they have seized 720,121 pounds of marijuana and more than 70 pounds of cocaine, Scioli said. Not all of those seizures are the result of dogs.
At least one dog is always working at the Interstate 19 checkpoint, which is a high-traffic stop.
Michael Lawler, Tucson sector K-9 coordinator, said checkpoints are the most difficult environment for dogs to work in because of the distractions.
“There’s wind, distracting odors, agents working around them, other dogs and, of course, the 1,500 vehicles that drive by every hour,” he said.
One of the sector’s top dogs – which agents did not want to name for security purposes – has found 42,889 pounds of marijuana with a street value of $34 million, 249 pounds of cocaine valued at $8 million, 10 pounds of methamphetamine worth $300,000, 1,500 suspected illegal immigrants and $70,000 in cash since 2001.
Lawler didn’t want to provide more details on how the dogs are used because he said smugglers use that information to adjust their smuggling tactics.
In the past couple of months, agents have come across false alarm signals from their dogs at the checkpoints.
FRANCISCO MEDINA/Tucson Citizen
K-9 handler and instructor Christopher Jbara and his dog Brita.
Christopher Jbara, an agent and K-9 instructor, said he was recently working the checkpoint with Brita, his 3-year-old dog, when she alerted him to a car.
“We searched the car thoroughly and found nothing.”
He said the car had most likely been contaminated on one side of the border or the other and it was likely the driver was not aware.
“They do this so my dog hits the smell, forcing us to pull the car over for a second inspection, while the car with the load tries to sneak by a few cars behind,” Jbara said.
The contamination could have come from a small amount of marijuana left on the car, cocaine residue or water from a bong used to smoke marijuana.
“Any little residue and my dog will alert me to it,” Jbara said.
He said the car’s windshield had been washed by a window washer on the street before crossing the border, and the water used to clean it could have been contaminated with bong water.
“We have no confirmation of how these cars are being contaminated, but we are checking each car, and when our dogs alert us, we check the cars behind it, too.”
Every dog in the canine unit is trained to find both drugs and people.
“I couldn’t even try to explain how these dogs find that one concealed person in a van full of people, but they do,” said Lawler.
“That’s the part of the job an agent couldn’t do alone. That’s why we have these dogs working with us every day,” Lawler said.
The Border Patrol is neither breed- nor sex-specific when it comes to buying or breeding their dogs.
“It’s all up to the dog’s drive,” said Robert Lukason, staff instructor of the U.S. Border Patrol National Canine Facility.
FRANCISCO MEDINA/Tucson Citizen
Border Patrol K-9 handler Richard Deanda works his dog Austen as they search spots south of Green Valley.
Each dog working for the Border Patrol has gone through an extensive training program that starts as early as eight weeks after birth.
After the “puppy test,” dogs are tested at four, seven, 11 and 14 months, then begin the 10-week training program, said Lukason, who is in charge of training at least 150 dogs per year at the national training center in El Paso.
The dogs are trained to work along the U.S. borders with Canada and with Mexico. This year, 650 dogs are working nationwide with the Border Patrol and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The working life of the dogs varies depending on their location.
Some dogs work in the field, even in mountain areas. Others work at checkpoints. For the most part, they work from seven to nine years, Lukason said.
“The fitness level of these dogs doesn’t compare to a house dog,” he said. “These dogs are trained to work hard, long hours almost every day.”
Lawler’s dog, Baldo, is a 92-pound, 6-year-old Belgian malinois and German shepherd mix. He has helped agents find 20,000 pounds of marijuana, 8 ounces of cocaine and 560 people since the end of 2004.
“We spend most of the day with our dog. They live with us, and they work with us,” Jbara said. “I end up spending more time with my dog than with my family sometimes.”
FRANCISCO MEDINA/Tucson Citizen
Handler Ruben Dominguez gives his toy as a reward after finding some drugs during a training exercise at a seized vehicle lot in Tucson.
This article is from the Tucson Citizen-www.tucsoncitizen.com

Drug Dogs Effective at Arizona Schools

Posted in police dogs with tags , , , , , , , on August 3, 2008 by wardogmarine

 

Great article from the Arizona newspaper East Valley Tribune 

District says drug dogs’ school visits effective

AMANDA KEIM, East Valley TRIBUNE

Drug-sniffing dogs have found illegal substances three times in the three years police canines have been invited to Scottsdale high school campuses for searches.

But despite drugs turning up only a few times, school and police officials say the program is a good deterrent for students.

The Scottsdale Unified School District governing board approved bringing police narcotics dogs to campuses for random locker searches in May 2005. Since then, the school district has scheduled 10 searches a year, two on each of the four high schools located in Scottsdale city limits and two at Sierra Vista Academy, the district’s alternative school.

The program came in response to a high-profile report on a drug ring involving 146 Valley students, teens and young adults released by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office earlier that year. Most of the people involved lived in Scottsdale.

The random searches generally involve an officer and a dog going to a school at 3 p.m., once school has let out for the day, said Scottsdale police Sgt. Chris Coffee, who is in charge of the department’s K-9 unit. They meet school officials and then search a row of lockers designated by administrators.

While two searches per campus are penciled in a year, the actual number of checks depends on the department’s scheduling, Coffee said.

Schools aren’t charged for the service. The police department doesn’t have a cost breakdown for the program because it doesn’t charge for any services and schools are treated like any community member, said Sgt. Mark Clark, police spokesman.

During the 2007-08 school year, drug-sniffing dogs went into Scottsdale schools 11 times, according to police. While there were no arrests, drugs were found twice: marijuana in a sink drain at Sierra Vista Academy and something similar at Desert Mountain High School.

A Tribune review of records from the first two years of the program found there were eight random searches of Scottsdale schools over the 2006-07 school year.

In 2005-06, the first year of the program, there were nine random searches, none of which turned up drugs.

Outside of the random searches, narcotics dogs were called to Desert Mountain twice to inspect cars that administrators believed held marijuana in 2005-06. Both searches resulted in arrests.

A dog was also called to Sierra Vista Academy in 2006 to inspect a room where administrators believed a student had snorted cocaine. While the dog found a piece of foil that was believed to have been used for drugs, cocaine wasn’t discovered. There was no arrest.


A NOSE FOR NARCOTICS: Scottsdale police officer Travis Kerby and his partner, Lex, take part in a recent narcotics dog training exercise.Milissa Sackos, the school district’s executive director of student and community services, said she believed the program was working well.

While Sackos said she couldn’t speak to a particular program on its own, she said everything combined, including school resource officer presence at schools, character-building curriculum and chemical awareness programs, affect student choices.

“We would like to believe it is our overarching preventative measures that are making an impact,” Sackos said. “A single program in isolation I don’t think can take credit for any type of decline for drug and alcohol possession.”

And while school is out when the searches are conducted, there are still enough students on campus to create a buzz.

“It’s a great deterrent when you bring a dog onto campus,” Coffee said. “The students are excited, they want to know why the dog is there. And the student grapevine gets working.”

Governing board president Karen Beckvar said the board didn’t have any plans to review the program in the short term.

She said she’s fine with keeping the searches as long as they remain free to the district.

“It doesn’t seem to be causing any disruption on the campuses,” Beckvar said. “I haven’t heard any complaints and that’s always a good sign.”

When told the searches found drugs three times, Beckvar said the program still had a purpose.

“The value of it was not in search itself, but in the deterrent effect.” Beckvar said.

“People don’t want to get caught.”

This article was found at www.eastvalleytribune.com