- Associated Press - Saturday, January 2, 2016

CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) - Some work in police and fire departments are left to some of the furriest and hardest working employees in the field - the canines and accelerant dogs.

Accelerant dogs are trained in such a way that if they don’t work, they don’t eat, according to Terry Ooms, Illinois State Marshal investigator in Springfield.

“Our dogs only eat when they train or work,” he said.

Ooms said his dog, Jules, 4, eats out of his hand after training, and she will only eat out of his hand until she retires.

He said Jules trains every day, multiple times a day. Ooms keeps Jules on her toes by not feeding her the same time every day or the same amount each day.

Jay Crippen, a captain and arson investigator with the Carbondale Fire Department, said although the dogs work to eat, the point is to keep them wanting to work because they must be ready at all times.

“You never know if you are going to have one fire a week, or three fires in one day,” Crippen said.

Crippen is on his second dog, Kermit The Dog, 3.

Kermit is the third dog in the department. His first dog was Pal, which he was matched up with in 2006, and retired in 2014. The first dog in the department, Beau, was matched up with the fire chief in 1996.

The handlers of the dogs are matched up through the Maine Specialty Dog Program, and are certified through the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in conjunction with the Maine State Police, Ooms said.

He said the dogs are trained to seek out accelerants that somebody would set on fire. Also, sniffing people or a suspect’s clothes is part of the training during an arson investigation.

“The dog cuts our investigation time down drastically,” Ooms said. “Without the dogs it would take me hours to comb through a fire scene.”

In Southern Illinois, Carbondale is one of the fire departments that has an accelerant dog outside of the state marshal’s office.

Crippen said the department was able to secure its first dog because it had a higher call volume than surrounding towns and there wasn’t an accelerant dog near the city.

Ooms said the dogs live with the handler and are with them every day.

“It’s my partner,” he said. “The dog is the best tool that I have. Out of all the fancy equipment that we carry, the dog in the No. 1 tool.”

In the Carbondale Police Department, K-9 Officer Jake Lustig fights crime with his canine Ciko, 7. They have been together for the past four years.

Lustig said there are three dogs in the police department - Ciko is a German Shepard and the other two dogs are Belgian Malinois.

He said the dogs are used to locate narcotics, for tracking purposes and perform building searches.

“We set training and scenarios up so they can be as successful as possible when it is a real-life situation,” Lustig said. “Narcotics are hidden in spots and we have the dog go in and search that area to locate where the drugs are at.”

He said the officers and the dogs train a minimum of 16 hours a month. The dogs are with the handlers all day, every day, including living at home.

Just as with an accelerant dog, the police dogs train every day, even if its a five-minute session or an eight-hour day.

“We are always doing something with them,” Lustig said.

Instead of food being the reward for police dogs, it is a toy. Every time Ciko successfully completes a training session, Lustig will give him a chew toy or a tennis ball to chase after.

If the fails, he keeps training, but Lustig said he is always positive.

“It is positive reinforcement when they complete the task the way it was supposed to be,” he said.

Carbondale Police Chief Jeff Grubbs was formally a K-9 officer. He worked with his dog, Tommy, from 1998 to 2004, he said.

Grubbs said canine units are highly specialized teams which not only enhance the ability to located hidden narcotics, but also another layer of safety for the officer and citizens with human detection capabilities.

“The bond the officers and their police canine form is immeasurable,” he said. “And, having been a canine officer myself, I can tell you the police canine units we have in place, not only in our department, but in this region, are some of the best police canine units you will find anywhere.”

Lustig had nothing but great things to say about his partner, saying he is a very loyal dog.

“He is my buddy,” he said.

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Source: (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan, https://bit.ly/1SQcp3v

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Information from: Southern Illinoisan, https://www.southernillinoisan.com

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