Two veteran drug/patrol K-9 "officers" are officially retired, and the Statesboro Police Department recently acquired two replacement dogs that are ready to roll when it comes to helping their human partners solve crimes.
Belgian Malinois Desoto, nine years old, will now have a new home, while the department's other retiree, another Belgian Malinois named Sam, age 8, will spend the rest of his days with his handler, Cpl. Eric Sims. But both Sims and K-9 Officer Nathan Bolton have energetic new dogs that are young, full of drive and ready to do their parts in sniffing out illegal drugs.
The retired dogs were dual purpose (Narcotics and Patrol trained), but newcomer Max, a 20-month-old black German Shepherd, and Bruno, a 23-month-old Golden Labrador Retriever, will only be drug dogs, Sims said.
Sims and others with the Statesboro Police Department had settled on another dog, a female shepherd, but when they went back to Southern Coast K9 Kennels in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., they saw Max, he said.
Both did well at the kennel, but when they took them for some one-on-one work at a nearby park, putting their own training aids out, Max blew them away, he said. "Max was the strongest performer." He liked the other dog's looks better, but Max "outdid her a good bit." So, it was Max who became the next Statesboro Police K-9 "officer."
Bolton said Bruno was the best dog available, and while some may not think of a lab being a police dog, Bruno proved his worth when he went for accreditation. He scored 100 percent, which is not that common, he said."I haven't seen that (scoring 100 percent) much at all."
So, in spite of Bolton having fallen in love with a female shepherd, there was no contest; Bruno won the toss. "She just didn't work out" he said. "Bruno outperformed her."
The dogs cost $6,500 each, with Sam being funded through seized drug money and Bruno being paid for with a grant, Sims said. Both dogs are kept at their handler's homes, and the handlers are paid an additional amount of money aside from regular salaries as compensation for the daily care. The city pays for veterinarian care and food. Sims said the K-9 unit switched from Science Diet to Purina, which is a comparable food and costs less.
"We spent a whole day looking at labels," he said.
While Max is hyperactive and ready to roar, retired Sam enjoys being a pet, Sims said. "He's not people friendly so he's not able to interact with others without me."
Bolton said DeSoto lives with a family out west now, and Bruno is taking over his duties with gusto. Sims said a parent recently asked why the dogs were so unruly during a recent exhibit at a school. Simms said "I told her that's not unruly - that's drive."
Both he and Bolton are spending a lot of time getting to know the new dogs and forming relationships. The dogs take to their handlers naturally, since "all the good stuff) - food and attention - come from the handler. "They look to us as a pack leader," Bolton said.
"We spend more time with these dogs than we do our kids," Sims said.
While both Bruno and Max came from Southern Coast K9 Kennels, the Belgian Malinois dogs came from overseas.
Desoto originated from Europe where he received the majority of his training. He was then imported to the United States by a private vendor. Sam originated from Holland and received his patrol training there while receiving his narcotics training from a private vendor in North Carolina.
Both K-9s Max and Bruno are certified to detect marijuana, crack cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and black tar heroin, said Statesboro Public Safety Director Wendell Turner. So were Sam and DeSoto.
"K-9 Desoto and Sam's extraordinary olfactory system was utilized on the streets of Statesboro as well as surrounding communities to alert officers to the presence of narcotics and suspects," he said. Since the dogs' purchase in 2004 nd 2006, "DeSoto and Sam were deployed in well over 800 instances. These deployments included, but were not limited to, traffic stops, armed robbery scenes, home invasion cases, and burglary incidents."
As a result of their efforts, over 80 felony arrests have been made, well over 100 misdemeanor cases initiated, and several thousand dollars were seized, he said." These arrests and asset forfeitures would not have been possible with human abilities alone."
Bolton and Sims both said they feel sure Bruno and Max will fill DeSoto's and Sam's positions well.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at 912-489-9414.