Sheriff gets 2 recruits: trained dogs

October 09, 1994|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

Two new hires with impressive Eastern European credentials received guaranteed lifetime contracts with the Harford County sheriff's office last week and immediately began special training assignments, Sheriff Robert E. Comes said.

They are Ison and Dan, two German shepherds that are graduates of the "Schutzhund" discipline program in Europe. They were purchased for $3,500 each through a Hampstead kennel owned by Robert and Lisa Barrett.

"The Barretts guarantee that the 2-year-old champion purebred dogs are in excellent health, have sound hips and will work for life," said Sgt. John Cavanaugh, who directs the sheriff's K-9 Division.

Ison and Dan, who respond to Slovakian commands, were already trained in obedience, tracking and attack skills when they arrived. Purchasing pretrained dogs will save money, the sheriff said.

Dogs donated to the sheriff's office for police work must train with their handlers for a minimum of 14 weeks, said Capt. Jesse Bane, who head's the sheriff's patrol division.

Pretrained dogs usually need about 10 weeks to adjust to their new handlers.

"There's no guarantee a donated dog will be accepted for training, or pass training," Captain Bane said. "Some work well for eight to 10 weeks and just quit or fail to bond with the handler, and the time and expense is lost."

Considering savings on medical expenses for the dogs and the salaries of two handlers for a minimum of 10 weeks, Captain Bane said purchasing the pretrained dogs would save the county at least $2,200.

Sheriff Comes said other police agencies have started to purchase pretrained dogs.

"We had to add two more K-9 units and felt this was the best way to go," he said.

Ison and Dan were selected for their "sociable" temperaments and their "ball work," the sergeant said. Dogs that display a powerful retrieving instinct in returning a thrown ball make excellent candidates for cross-training in drug interdictions.

"Temperament is also a high priority because of liability concerns," said Captain Bane.

"We must have dogs who can work among the public, around children, without any fear that the dogs will suddenly attack a civilian," Sergeant Cavanaugh said.

The new dogs already have begun training at the Baltimore County Police Department's K-9 school in Catonsville. Deputy 1st Class Donald Hindenlang is training with Ison, and Deputy 1st Class Kevin Shrader is training with Dan.

Bonding between a dog and handler usually takes two or three weeks, Sergeant Cavanaugh said. The dogs will remain with their handlers 24 hours a day.

Sergeant Cavanaugh said Ison and Dan will complete training in December and begin patrol work.

After the dogs spend some time on patrol duty, they will be considered for cross-training in drug interdiction, he said.

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