The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office has added two new four-legged members to its canine force.
Fly, a 3-year-old German shepherd, and Baros, a 2-year-old Belgian malinois, were acquired in August from Vohne Liche Kennels in Denver, Ind.
“These are replacement dogs,” said sheriff’s Capt. Johnny Whittle.
They replace Rex and Renzo, both retired for medical reasons earlier this year.
The dogs were purchased for $22,000. The sheriff’s office condemnation fund, which is court-awarded money seized from drug dealers, was tapped for $10,000. The other $12,000 came from the county’s risk management department after one of the dogs was injured in a traffic accident and had to be retired, Whittle said.
After spending five weeks in Indiana for training, Fly, assigned to Deputy Joe Baker, became part of the unit in October.
“She listens to me pretty good,” said Baker, who speaks commands in German to his 76-pound partner.
Once Baros completes training with Deputy Matthew Gaylor at the Indiana kennel on Dec. 19, he will start working with the unit.
Those five weeks of training are crucial for the officer to learn how to work with the canine, and for the dog to master commands, Whittle said.
“That’s the initial training for the handler and the dog to get acquainted with each other,” he said.
Training continues every week at different areas in the county.
Whittle said Fly and Baros are dual-purpose dogs that can track people and sniff out narcotics.
Unlike bloodhounds, these dogs are trained to bite and contain a suspect if needed, Whittle said.
“They’ve saved a lot of officers all across the county from being injured or killed,” he said.