The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office’s newest recruits will begin getting their paws wet next week.

Deputies Donnie Dunn and Tony Davis concluded a two-week training session this month with their new partners, Dino and Rollo.

Dino, a 14-month-old German shepherd/Belgian Malinois mix is paired with Dunn; and Rollo, an 18-month-old Belgian Malinois is paired with Davis.

The animals begin their careers on the force next week following the intense training sessions with their handlers.

According to Sheriff Steve Pelton, the new K-9 units feature dual-purpose dogs, explaining that the animals are trained in “tracking and apprehension.”

“We are tired of saying that crime is driven by drug activity,” Pelton told The Missourian. “We have a fully staffed office, so now that we have the manpower we think this is a great tool to combat criminal activity in the county.

“Much of the crime in the county begins with the long-existing drug problem this county is facing,” he added.

The K-9 units are a direct result of Proposition P, approved by voters in April, Pelton said.

“Although, there was no Proposition P funds spent on the canines, with this measure passing it has helped the sheriff’s office with retaining the current deputies and has encouraged more to apply for openings that existed,” he explained.

Dunn and Davis are not new to the sheriff’s office, however, the deputies both have prior experience as canine handlers with other agencies. The deputies were chosen from a pool of internal candidates who sought the new positions.

Beginning Sept. 9, the deputies participated in a two-week training course in Midlothian, Texas, at Sector K-9, where Rollo and Dino were trained.

“They worked on drug detection, criminal apprehension, article searches, tracking and trailing,” Pelton said. “These dogs will be huge assets to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office with combating illegal drugs.”

The canines will live with their partners and train daily, according to Pelton. They will be on call 24/7, and ride in the patrol car with the deputies in specially marked vehicles.

“When that deputy goes to work, the dog goes to work,” he added.

Because the units will be living in the county and always on call, they can respond more quickly to assist in the search for a person, or during narcotics cases.

“I see this as very beneficial to Franklin County residents,” Pelton said.

Mutual Aid

Prior to Dino and Rollo joining the force, the sheriff’s department has relied on assistance from other departments when in need for a K-9 unit.

Both the St. Clair and Pacific police departments have dogs, however, if needed by the sheriff’s office there could be delays. The animals may already be conducting work with their department or the trainer may not be on duty, Pelton said.

The sheriff’s department also has sought help from K-9 units in Jefferson County and Eureka.

In April, the county enlisted the help of search dog teams from St. Louis County, St. Charles County and the Missouri Department of Corrections (MDC) at Potosi. There were six dogs, including four bloodhounds with the MDC.

Now that there are K-9 units already in the county, the animals can begin working much more quickly.

Pelton added that Dino and Rollo would be available to other agencies in need of their services.

“Especially inside the county,” he said. “This is a great tool for all citizens of Franklin County.”

Training

According to Pelton, Deputies Dunn and Davis studied case law as part of their comprehensive training. That includes topics such as reasonable suspicion and probable cause.

Franklin County has a bite suit that is used to continue the training for the dogs and their handlers. The suit protects handlers from injury as they train the animals. It was paid for from a grant, Pelton said.

The K-9 units also will appear at public relations events. The goal is to educate the public on the services the dogs provide.

Pelton added that police dogs work an average of eight to 10 years.

By Gregg Jones | Missourian