The county Sheriff’s Office announced its newest deputies Wednesday — four-legged detectives with keen noses for crime.
Sheriff Ian Parkinson and three deputies assigned to the office’s canine program showed off the dogs — Jacco, a Belgian shepherd, and Nico and Gonzo, two German shepherds.
“These dogs are perfect for the large area we patrol,” Parkinson said. “It’s unbelievable what they can do. They have tremendous searching capabilities.”
Jacco, a rambunctious animal nearly 2 years old, will be used to sniff out drugs and hunt down suspects alongside handler Deputy John Franklin.
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The athletic, brown-and-black dog with long, pointy ears and powerful hind legs tugged strongly at the leash held by Franklin while eagerly greeting reporters Wednesday.
The Sheriff’s Office spent about $60,000 on the expansion of the canine program from asset forfeitures that the office received from past busts.
Costs include the fees to purchase the dogs (Jacco, who came from Belgium, cost about $8,000) as well as equipment to outfit three patrol cars with gadgets.
The cars include remote door openers and ventilation to accommodate the animals, who ride in the back seat.
The Sheriff’s Office also will continue to use a drug-sniffing Labrador named Jack who has rooted out hundreds of pounds of illicit narcotics in past searches.
The new dogs will be tasked with locating suspects and missing people in addition to drug-sniffing duties.
Sheriff’s Deputy Allen Barger said the dogs are trained to sniff disturbed soil and trampled grass when searching for suspects on the run.They also find drugs such as methamphetamines, cocaine, marijuana and heroin.
During training, they’re offered a treat if they succeed in finding drugs, which encourages them to look for the narcotics while on actual patrol duty.
They have the ability to bite if necessary. But they first bark loudly in the face of a suspect to keep them from fleeing.
Parkinson said the office’s canine, Jack the Labrador, has “more than paid” for his keep and is used several times each week.
The new dogs will undergo certification and further training before starting their positions in about six weeks.
Actual identification cards were made up for the canines, documenting their official employment with the office.