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Tag: police dogs

From “throwaway” dog to police canine

kayos

The wife of a Philadelphia police officer is proving that police dogs don’t have to be expensive European imports.

Carol Skaziak, after seeing too many dogs languishing in shelters, started an organization called Throw Away Dogs.

Established two years ago and based outside Philadelphia, the program rescues neglected shelter dogs and works to rehabilitate and train them for police work like narcotics detection and patrolling.

Since beginning her work, nine out of 12 dogs she has rescued have been placed with police departments across the country.

“I pour my heart and soul into it and all I ask for these departments is to just give my dogs a chance,” she told NBC News.

Unlike most police dogs, who commonly are expensive purebreds purchased from Europe, these home-grown mutts are donated to departments in need.

billtarsandkayos“This is a huge amount of money that we are saving,” she said. “It will save (a police department) anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000, $10,000.”

Assisting her in the effort are K-9 handlers from area police departments.

The program puts the dogs through a three-month training period, and while not all will earn spots on police forces, Skaziak says all dogs that go through the program find a home — something they didn’t have before.

“I will follow through with every dog from start to finish. Not all dogs will make it through K-9 school and I am OK with that outcome. I will then find a perfect loving family for that dog that will love and treat them like part of their family. It’s just a different kind of badge they will be wearing,” she notes on the organization’s website.

While she doesn’t believe every dog can be trained to be a police dog, there are many in shelters who have the high play drive it takes for the job.

After a graduation ceremony this year, two “throwaway” dogs were placed with the Roanoke Police Department, and a third with the police department in Roanoke, Va.

Skaziak, who is married to a Philadelphia police traffic officer, came up with the idea for Throw Away Dogs in 2013, while doing public relations work for a shelter in Philadelphia.

“I was upset about it, because people were throwing these dogs away like trash,” Skaziak told the Roanoke Times.

(Photos: Officer Bill Tars and Throw Away Dog Kayos in Roanoke, by Heather Rosseau / The Roanoke Times)

Heat has killed 11 police dogs this summer

wix

If it seems you’ve seen a lot of stories about police dogs dying of heat exhaustion this summer, it’s because you have.

Since the last week of May, 11 police dogs have died from the heat, and nine of those cases stemmed from dogs left in hot police cars, according to the Weather Channel.

The 11 deaths this summer compare with four nationwide in 2014 and three in 2013, according to records kept by the Officer Down Memorial Page.

The latest death came last week in Kohler, Wisconsin, when a police dog named Wix (pictured above) died in a squad car as his handler worked at a PGA Championship event.

Wix died as the result of heat exhaustion after the air conditioning unit in the vehicle malfunctioned, and the heat alarm in the vehicle failed to go off.

Wix, a Belgian malinois, was on special assignment with his handler at the Whistling Straights golf course. His handler found him unresponsive in the vehicle when he went to check on him.

Several other police dog deaths this summer have been blamed on faulty air conditioners.

In Oklahoma, a Muldrow Police Department dog named Zeke died from heat exhaustion after the air conditioner in his handler’s patrol car malfunctioned.

His handler was inside the police station working on a case and left Zeke in the car for at least an hour. At some point the air conditioner malfunctioned and began blowing only hot air. His handler returned to the car to find him dead.

Zeke had served with the Muldrow Police Department for four years.

Two more police dogs died in the same incident in Hialeah, Florida; and in Jim Wells County, Texas, deputy Latham Roldan was fired from the department after the K-9 he left in his squad car died from the heat.

(Photo:Brown County Sheriff’s Department Facebook page)

Two police dogs die in Florida after being left in vehicle for six hours

jimmy

A Hialeah, Florida, officer has been suspended without pay pending an investigation into the deaths of two police dogs that he left in his parked vehicle for six hours or more.

The K-9s – Jimmy, 7, a bloodhound, and Hector, 4, a Belgian Malinois — were assigned to Officer Nelson Enriquez, who left them in a police SUV parked outside his home in Davie after his shift ended.

According to the Sun-Sentinel, he has worked 13 years for the department, the last seven as a K-9 officer.

At a news conference Thursday, Hialeah Police Sgt. Carl Zogby called the incident “a terrible tragedy. Every member of the Hialeah Police Department was beyond fond of Jimmy the Bloodhound and of Hector. We were in love with those dogs.”

Zogby described Enriquez as “extremely distraught … He has lost two beloved members of his family.”

jimmy2Enriquez is married with two children who were also very attached to the dogs, Zogby said.

Enriquez returned home from his shift at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

“He did not remove either dog from the cargo compartment of his marked police vehicle,” before entering his home, Zogby said. The SUV has K-9 compartments, called cradles, for each dog.

Enriquez discovered the dead animals about 5 p.m.

The bodies of the two dogs were taken to the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine, which will perform necropsies.

Davie police are investigating the deaths and Hialeah police are conducting an internal affairs investigation.

Jimmy, the bloodhound, was donated to the Hialeah Police Department by the Jimmy Ryce Center, which was formed by the parents of a nine-year-old boy who was abducted, raped and murdered while walking from his school bus to his southwest Miami-Dade home in 1995.

Don and Claudine Ryce created the Center to provide free bloodhounds to police departments. The Ryces felt that if a bloodhound was used in their son’s case, he may have been recovered alive.

(Photos: At top, Jimmy fetching; lower photo, Jimmy with Enriquez, by Allison Diaz / Miami Herald)

What do marijuana-sniffing dogs and newspaper reporters have in common?

phelan

What’s a working dog to do? You learn your trade, hone your skills, toil away, only to find out that the world around you has evolved to a point where those skills are no longer much appreciated.

It’s why you can’t find a blacksmith too easily nowadays. It’s what happened to the elevator operator, the milkman, and, at least from my biased and disgruntled point of view, the newspaper reporter.

Such too was the case with Phelan, a marijuana-detecting Labrador retriever in the employ of the police department in Lakewood, Colorado.

With the passage by Colorado voters of Initiative 502 — legalizing the recreational use of small amounts of marijuana — the skill Phelan was best known for is no longer much in demand there.

In fact, his  biggest asset has become a liability, the News Tribune reports.

Phelan was handed his pink slip this week and sold to the state Department of Corrections, where, in his new job, his inability to distinguish between marijuana and other drugs won’t be a problem — all drugs being illegal behind bars.

The same story is playing out in Washington state,  where voters also legalized marijuana use, and where police departments are figuring out whether to cease training new dogs in marijuana detection, put their existing dogs through “pot desensitization” training or just retire them and send them out to pasture, according to the Associated Press.

Take it from me, pasture sucks. Dogs and people, I think, prefer having a mission.

But Phelan’s mission, at least in the two states where moderate amounts of marijuana are now permitted, no longer much needs to be accomplished. Worse yet, alerting to small amounts of marijuana could mess up prosecutions in cases involving other, still illegal, drugs.

Say Phelan alerted to drugs in the trunk of a car. Phelan’s inability to distinguish between heroin and marijuana — or at least specify to his handler to which he is alerting — means any subsequent search by officers could have been based on Phelan detecting an entirely legal drug, in an entirely legal amount.

That means the “probable cause” the search was based on might not have really existed, and that means any evidence of illegal drugs subsequently found in the search would likely be tossed out.

Thus Phelan, unless he were to be retrained to drop marijuana-detecting from his repertoire — not easily accomplished — has ended up going from cutting edge law enforcement tool to an old school has been.

Drug detecting dogs — traditionally trained to alert to the smell of marijuana, heroin, crack cocaine, methamphetamine and cocaine —  can’t specify what they’re smelling, much less the quantity it might be in.

In Washington, the new law decriminalized possession of up to an ounce of the drug for individuals over 21, and barred the growth and distribution of marijuana outside the state-approved system.

Dog trainer Fred Helfers, of the Pacific Northwest Detection Dog Association, said abandoning pot training is a “knee-jerk” reaction: “What about trafficking? What about people who have more than an ounce?” Still, he’s helping departments who want to put their dogs through “extinction training” to change what substances dogs alert to. That takes about 30 days, followed by a prolonged period of reinforcement.

The Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission removed detecting marijuana from its canine team certification standards this year, and no longer requires dogs be trained to detect it, but some others say, given large amounts of pot are still illegal, it can still be a useful skill for a dog to have.

In Pierce County, prosecutor Mark Lindquist believes new dogs are the answer — dogs trained in sniffing out the other drugs, but not marijuana. He’s not convinced dogs can be re-trained. “We’ll need new dogs to alert on substances that are illegal,” he told the Associated Press.

Other police departments, like Tacoma’s, aren’t making any changes.

“The dog doesn’t make the arrest, the officer does,” said spokesperson Loretta Cool. “A canine alert is just one piece of evidence an officer considers when determining whether a crime has been committed.”

Phelan was one of two drug-sniffing dogs on the police force in Lakewood, Colorado. He’ll be replaced by Kira, a Belgian Malinois  who was trained not to alert when she smells marijuana. Duke, a Labrador retriever mix with the old-school training, will remain on the force for now.

Phelan, though, will be moving on, and I sympathize with the crime-fighting Lab.

His new gig in the slammer is clearly a step down the career ladder — not unlike going from being a newspaper reporter detecting corruption and injustice to an unpaid blogger who mostly (but not entirely) regurgitates material already written.

And, for Phelan, there’s the added insult of being sold for the lowly sum of one dollar.

Surely — old school as his talents may be — he was worth more than that.

K-9 partner among those paying last respects to slain Kentucky police officer

figo

Figo wasn’t with his partner when the 33-year-old police officer was shot and killed alongside the road, but the German shepherd attended the funeral and paid his respects.

Jason Ellis, a K-9 officer with the Bardstown Police Department in Kentucky, was shot and killed last Saturday when he stopped to remove some debris from the road, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Police said he was shot multiple times with a shotgun by an unknown assailant.

Ellis was buried Thursday after a funeral service held on the seventh anniversary of his taking the oath as a police officer in Bardstown, a town of about 12,000 people, located 40 miles southeast of Louisville.

The funeral at Parkway Baptist Church, just off Blue Grass Parkway in Bardstown, drew law enforcement officers from Chicago, Pennsylvania, Ohio and across Kentucky, many of them K-9 officers who brought their dogs.

Attendees filled the sanctuary’s 1,000 seats, 500 more seats in a fellowship hall, and were lined up along the walls. After service in the church, there was a 20-mile procession to the rural cemetery in Chaplin where Ellis was buried.

At the funeral, Ellis was remembered as a family man, friend and a hero. Bardstown Police Chief Rick McCubbin said Ellis “paid the ultimate sacrifice doing what he loved: being a police officer.”

(Photo by Jonathan Palmer / Lexington Herald-Leader)

Famed NYPD bloodhound dies in his sleep

A bloodhound from North Carolina who went on to find fame in the New York City Police Department died this weekend at age 10.

Scooby, whose all-knowing nose played a key role in tracking down a cop killer during an interstate manhunt, passed away in his sleep about 9 a.m. Saturday, police said. He’d been suffering from an undisclosed illness, according to the New York Daily News.

The bloodhound was most noted for assisting in the 2007 apprehension of two suspects who had fled the city after gunning down two officers who had pulled them over in Brooklyn for driving a stolen BMW.

Officer Russel Timoshenko, 23, was shot in the face and died a few days later. Officer Herman Yan, his partner and now a detective, was wounded but survived.

The two suspects, Dexter Bostic and Robert Ellis, managed to escape the city and make it as far as the Poconos in eastern Pennsylvania, where they hid out in the woods.

Scooby, joined by six other police dogs and about 300 police officers from several states, launched a manhunt in the woods, based on reports of the two suspects having been seen in a nearby rest area.

Scooby took part in the search that night, and is credited with — when the search resumed the next morning — tracking down Ellis, who was found resting against a tree. Bostic was later apprehended as well.

Bostic was convicted in December 2008 of murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Ellis was convicted only of weapons possession, according to the New York Post, and was sentenced to 15 years.

Could cadaver dogs be replaced by vultures?

Skilled as dogs are at finding dead bodies, police in Germany think they’ve found an animal even more adept at the task.

Police in Walsrode, Germany, say they have trained a vulture named Sherlock to lead them to cadavers.

By placing a GPS device on his leg, they can track him and respond — I’d hope before he’s eaten too much of the evidence.

“If it works, it could save time because the birds can cover much more area than sniffer dogs or humans,” officer Rainer Herrmann told the Daily Mail.

The turkey vulture, a natural scavenger, feeds almost exclusively on carrion, finding its meals through keen vision and a sense of smell that allows it to detect the gasses produced during the decay of dead animals from as high as 3,000 feet in the air.

“‘It was a colleague of mine who got the idea from watching a nature programme,”  Herrmann said. ”

Sherlock can even find remains in woodland or in thick undergrowth. Unlike sniffer dogs, who need regular breaks, Sherlock doesn’t seem to get tired and can cover a far larger area.

Sherlock is being trained at Walsrode, the largest bird park in the world with 650 different species.

Trainers hope to assemble a squadron of crimefighting vultures, but — given that the vultures aren’t native to the area, would have to be raised from chicks to be tame, and require lots of training — it will be a while before they are called to duty.