Sheriff’s K-9 dog program expands
Drug dogs and patrol dogs assist county deputies
Program has grown from one to six dogs in two years
Accompanied by Jack, a 2 -year-old black Labrador, Sheriff’s Deputy Alan Barger spoke to the Paso Robles Rotary Club last week about the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department K-9 program.
Beginning with only one dog in 2010, the K-9 force has increased to six dogs, two dogs specializing in drug enforcement and four dogs serving in patrol roles. In 2012, the dogs assisted in 59 apprehensions, of which only four required the dog to attack the individual.
Interestingly, the drug dogs are considered “free spirits” in that they are trained to explore, search everything, and not be restricted to particular ways to search. These dogs do live easily in the home environment of their handler.
Patrol dogs, conversely, assist the officer, are obedient and responsive to the commands of the handler, lead a more strict life, and are not allowed free run of the household when off duty.
While both dogs have keen senses of smell, and the patrol dogs can detect drugs, they primarily assist in the apprehension of perpetrators. The dogs are with their officer 24-7 and live with the officer and his/her family. Each dog costs about $6500 plus another $2500 for equipment. Drug dogs are taught drugs, not bombs, and are not cross-trained for bomb sniffing duties.
Jack is trained to alert to the presence of drugs and to get as close to the drugs as possible. Using a passive alert, Jack will focus, detect, and stay, but will not damage the drugs or evidence. Certification of each drug dog is required for the evidence to be used in court. Each drug dog is trained to detect illegal substances and to ignore legal drugs. Jack demonstrated his capabilities and found a drug “stash” under the desserts table.