Aiken, SC (WJBF) – Extra protection is on the way for some Aiken police dogs. Last year, 26 K-9’s were killed in the line of duty in the U.S., and another 8 have been killed, so far, this year.
The U.S. Police Canine Association (USPCA) is hosting events to fund bulletproof vests for police dogs. The Aiken County Sheriff’s Office received one of these vests Monday for a K-9 unit. Besides gear, The USPCA is hosting trials in Aiken this week to certify police dogs and help keep them safe.
These next couple of days 56 K-9 unit teams from Wilmington to Richmond County will participate in the detector dog trials in Aiken. The US Police Canine Association says each dog can be an invaluable asset to a law enforcement agency. Calvin Jeffcoat, the Region 2 USPCA President explains, “What we would smell like pizza, they can smell the dough, and the tomato sauce and pepperonis. They can break down each individual odor and specify, and show us what they’re trained on.”
These canines are trained to sniff out miniscule traces of explosives or narcotics. But they have to be certified before they are put into the field to insure their safety. ”We have what we call an ORT test. Odor recognition test we have 18 cans. We have 6 blank cans, we have 6 cans with distractors, and we 6 cans with small amounts of explosives. The dogs have to show proficiency on each explosive.”
Some handlers worked with a dog by their side for more than 30 years. They say nothing can beat a well-trained dog as a work partner. Brett Neal has worked with 7 dogs over 30 years. He says, “some dogs, I’d rather work with a dog then some people believe it or not. They’re always a man’s best friend. It’s fun.”
But these companions are facing a danger increase recently. Not only is the training important, but protective gear can also go a long way in saving a K-9’s life. “Everybody knows what’s been going on with the officers, as far as loss of life, duties and all that. But the canines also we’ve been having a huge amount, these last few years of canines being killed,” says Jeffcoat.
The USPCA hopes to use better training and new protective equipment to defend the dogs keeping us safe. The USPCA will be holding a golf tournament next Friday with the proceeds going towards outfitting K-9 units with protective vests.