The Fresno Sheriff’s Department is looking for a replacement for a K-9 that passed away earlier this month. Wednesday, the K-9 unit was training and testing a new recruit.
The Sheriff’s K-9 unit is currently made up of 12 male dogs. “It’s like having a second deputy with me,” says Deputy Scott Schwamb of his K-9 pal Tug. Sgt. John Reynolds of the Sheriff’s K-9 unit adds, “Their presence is a great deterrent on scene,” says Sgt. Reynolds.
Fresno’s breeds include german shepherds, labs and malinois. “What we have found with the malinois is they’re built for speed.” The labs and shepherds specialize in hunting. Jimmy is a member Fresno’s force; he’s a 3-year-old German shepherd and hunting is his specialty. “His best quality is tracking, he's trained to track,” says his owner and partner Ericka Rascon.
The dogs’ noses make them invaluable. “[A] dogs olfactory sense is at least 60 times better than humans,” says Schwamb. The dogs pick apart scents; it leads them straight to hiding suspects. It’s a story Scott and his Belgian Malinois Tug understand. “He located a suspect in a point of concealment we weren’t able to see,” says Schwamb. Tug’s find saved Scott from a potentially deadly situation.
K-9’s will work thousands of cases during their 6 to 7 years on the force. They are athletes with extraordinary capabilities and their bark is as bad as their bite.
“She has a high hunt drive,” says Elizabeth Koenig of her Dutch Shepherd Hemmy. The Shepherd is trying out for the Fresno team. She spent the day training around gun fire; she also hunted and attacked suspects. If she makes the team, she would be the only female on the force.
Fresno’s crew is tough, but the biggest K-9’s don’t always finish first in this fleet. The smaller breeds are becoming the biggest asset. “Small breeds you can put in an attic, a crawlspace; it’s a multipurpose dog and those dogs are lasting longer for us,” says Sgt. Reynolds.
The K-9 crew specializes in detecting bombs, finding drugs and searching for suspects. They work hard but enjoy their time off. “The bond created with the time spent together, plus the added stress on the street, it’s hard to describe there’s nothing like it,” says Reynolds.
The added protection does not come cheap, K-9’s initial training can cost up to $20,000. The price tag to add one K-9 to the force can range from $4,000 to $10,000.
Nationally there are 10 to 15,000 state and local K-9 teams. The dogs have been aiding agencies for over 50 years.
Christina Lusby Reporting.