- Associated Press - Friday, April 1, 2016

WOODS CROSS, Utah (AP) - The minute Ranger the bloodhound leapt out of his police car, his nose hit the ground, searching for a scent to follow.

Ranger, a 9-month-old puppy working for the Woods Cross Police Department, is the first bloodhound to join a police agency in Davis County. Like many K9s of the same breed, Ranger has a central purpose: tracking people down.

“He loves to sniff,” said Woods Cross K-9 officer Corey Boyle, who owns and trains Ranger.

The 85-pound puppy’s nose is constantly focused on the floor, his comically floppy ears trailing at its sides. He’s a friendly dog and isn’t afraid to run up to people with a slobbery greeting.

That amiable attitude is part of what makes Ranger valuable to the department. Though police dogs have traditionally been used for drug sniffing, apprehending crime suspects and even intimidation, area law enforcement agencies are finding an increasing number of ways to use canines - including using them to build relationships with the community.

Woods Cross Police Chief Greg Butler said Ranger isn’t an apprehension dog, meaning he’s not used for chasing and attacking criminals. Sometimes his top-notch sniffing skills are used to lead police to suspects, but they’re most valued when it comes to finding lost children or adults who’ve gone missing, perhaps due to a health issue.

“If Ranger finds one lost child or a person with Alzheimer’s, he will be worth his weight in gold,” Butler said.

At a time when distrust in police can be a hindrance to departments, friendly police dogs like Ranger also help officers connect with the community. People tend to stop and talk to officers more when they have police dogs with them - sometimes because their children run up, excited to pet the pups.

Many local law enforcement agencies also take their dogs into classrooms to teach kids about K-9s, and Ranger is no exception. Boyle said the bloodhound sometimes visits kindergarten classrooms around the area.

“Mostly they want to squish his face and touch his long ears,” Boyle said.

Plenty of other law enforcement agencies around the area - including Bountiful, Centerville and Ogden police departments, as well as the Weber and Davis county sheriff’s offices - keep canines on staff.

Unfortunately, not every agency in the area can afford the dogs. Weber County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Lane Findlay said a good K-9 can cost between $5,000 and $10,000, and that doesn’t even include the dog’s training, the officer’s training, special equipment needed for the dog, food costs and medical expenses.

Because of their high cost, some departments have relied on donations to get K-9s. For example, a German Shorthaired Pointer named Bo was given to Woods Cross 18 months ago. Donations and grants have also helped Bountiful and Centerville buy dogs, as well as food and bulletproof dog vests.

When northern Utah departments that don’t have dogs need one in an emergency, though, other police agencies will come to their aid. Since the Clearfield Police Department’s last dog retired five years ago, Assistant Police Chief Mike Stenquist said other agencies have been extremely willing to help his own.

In addition to using K-9s to find people and build relationships with the community, local police departments regularly use their dogs for narcotics and weapons detection. Dogs are also used to clear out buildings in emergency scenarios, said Davis County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Steven Sanford, who heads up the department’s K-9 unit.

“Their sense of smell is so good, so they can go faster,” Sanford said. In fact, he said one dog can clear a building in less time than five officers could.

And while sniffing out narcotics in lockers, vehicles and homes is common, Centerville Police Department Chief Paul Child said it’s not uncommon for concerned parents to request officers check their teens’ rooms for drugs.

Some departments’ dogs are used for multiple purposes - like apprehension and narcotics detection - while others are specialized in one area, much like Ranger.

When the dogs’ workdays are done, they usually go home with their handlers. Boyle, for example, has made a home for Ranger, as well as a retired West Bountiful police dog he trained, who’s named Vader.

The dogs not only become handlers’ trusted colleagues, but members of their families.

Though having police dogs requires a lot of resources, Ogden police K-9 unit leader Lt. Kevin Cottrell said his department hasn’t ever considered discontinuing their work with K-9s.

“They’re a very valuable asset,” Cottrell said. “They more than earn their keep.”


Information from: Standard-Examiner, https://www.standard.net

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