Archive for the ‘Animals with Jobs’ Category

Officers pay tribute to police dog with kidney failure

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

plymouth-dogPlymouth, Mass., police offered a moving tribute to one of their fellow officers, a German shepherd named Kaiser, last week. Kaiser was euthanized after an increasingly difficult battle with kidney disease. Members of the department lined the walkway of the Court Street Animal Hospital, saluting Kaiser as he walked in one last time. His partner, Officer Jamie Lebretton, on the Plymouth Police Working Dog Foundation Facebook page: “I will never forget you or our accomplishments. You made me a better person, a better handler, and a better cop. Till we meet again Kai. I love you and will miss you daily.” WBZ-TV (Boston) (5/31), The Enterprise (Brockton, Mass.) (6/1)

PLYMOUTH (CBS) — Plymouth Police gathered Friday to say goodbye to their friend and K-9 partner German Shepherd Kaiser.

On Wednesday, the Plymouth Police Working Dog Foundation announced that Kaiser was suffering from kidney failure and would be laid to rest on Friday.

Kaiser battled this disease with vigor and toughness like I have never seen before. Although, as of late, the disease has taken the upper hand forcing him out of his craft and ultimately out of this world,” Officer Jamie Lebretton wrote on the foundation’s Facebook page.

 Kaiser joined the force in 2011 after being donated to the police department by a local family. He worked primarily with Officer Lebretton.

Shortly before noon, officers gathered outside the Court Street Animal Hospital to salute Kaiser one last time.

He was laid to rest in the Angel View Pet Cemetery in Middleboro.

Afterward, Lebretton posted the following to his friend and partner on Facebook:

“RIP my boy. I could not have asked for a better partner or friend. May you rest easy and wait for me at that sacred bridge. I will be there my friend. I will be there. I will never forget you or our accomplishments. You made me a better person, a better handler, and a better cop. Till we meet again kai. I love you and will miss you daily.”

Marine, dog reunited in surprise ceremony

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

dog and marineDES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — When Marine Sgt. Ross Gundlach served as a dog handler in Afghanistan, he told the yellow lab who was his constant companion that he’d look her up when he returned home.

“I promised her if we made it out of alive, I’d do whatever it took to find her,” Gundlach said.

On Friday, he made good on that vow with help from some sentimental state officials in Iowa who know how to pull off a surprise.

Since leaving active duty to take classes at the University of Wisconsin this summer, Gundlach, of Madison, Wis., had been seeking to adopt 4-year-old Casey.

The 25-year-old learned Casey had finished her military service and had been sent to the Iowa State Fire Marshal’s Office, where she was used to detect explosives.

Gundlach wrote to State Fire Marshal Director Ray Reynolds, explaining the connection he felt with the dog. He even has a tattoo on his right forearm depicting Casey with angel wings and a halo, sitting at the foot of a Marine.

“He’s been putting a case together for the last two months, sending me pictures … it just tugged on your heart,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds decided to arrange a surprise. First, he got in touch with the Iowa Elk’s Association, which agreed to donate $8,500 to buy another dog for the agency.

“We have a motto in our association that as long as there are veterans, the Elks will strive to help them,” Iowa Elks Association president Tom Maher said.

Then, Reynolds came up with a ruse to get Gundlach to Des Moines, telling Gundlach he needed to come to the state Capitol to plead his case in front of a “bureaucratic oversight committee.”

When Gundlach arrived with his parents, Reynolds told them the meeting had been delayed and invited them to join an Armed Services Day celebration in the rotunda. There, hundreds of law enforcement officers, military personnel and civilians were seated, keeping the secret — until they brought out Casey.

When Gundlach saw Casey, he put his head in his hands and cried. She licked his face, wagging her tail furiously.

“It was a total surprise,” he said. “I owe her. I’ll just try to give her the best life I can.”

His father, Glen Gundlach, seemed just as surprised.

“It’s unbelievable … the state of Iowa, I love ’em,” he said.

Gov. Terry Branstad officially retired Casey from active duty during Friday’s ceremony, thanking the dog for a “job well done.”

During the 150 missions they performed together, Gundlach said Casey never missed an explosive — she caught three before they could be detonated. He credits her for making it back home safely.

“I wouldn’t be here … any kids I ever had wouldn’t exist if Casey hadn’t been here,” he said.

Dogs learning to pick up cancer’s signature scent

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

dogs11The University of Pennsylvania and the Monell Chemical Senses Center are training three dogs to help detect compounds produced by ovarian cancer, providing a possible way to detect the disease in its earliest, most treatable stages. Early-stage ovarian cancer, which has a 90% survival rate, is difficult to detect, and later stages carry a worse prognosis and kill 14,000 U.S. women annually. The Kaleidoscope of Hope Foundation is funding the research with an $80,000 grant. (Philadelphia) (5/6)  Sam Wood, PHILLY.COM

In the battle against ovarian cancer, three puppies at the University of Pennsylvania will be on the front lines.

The pups – Ohlin and Thunder, both Labradors, and McBain, a Springer Spaniel – have been conscripted to lead the charge in a novel collaboration announced last week between Penn and the Monell Chemical Sciences Center.

Ovarian cancer claims the lives of more than 14,000 women every year and is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women in the nation. The new collaboration takes aim at the silent killer with a combination of chemistry, nanotechnology — and dogs.

Turns out, each cancer has its own odor. And what better sensor is there to detect a faint scent than a dog’s nose?

Researchers at Penn and Monell recently received an $80,000 grant from the Kaleidoscope of Hope Foundation to develop new ways of sniffing out gynecological malignancies.

Using man’s best friend to detect cancer isn’t new. Studies in California, Chicago and Europe in the last decade have employed trained canines to detect lung and breast cancer.

A group in Sweden had done some preliminary investigations with dogs and ovarian cancer, but the professor in charge is retiring and he was using his own personal dogs, said Dr. Cynthia Otto, director of the Working Dog Center and Associate Professor of Critical Care at Penn Vet.

“He’s been advising us along the way to we don’t repeat the same mistakes he made along the way,” Otto said. “We haven’t done cancer work before.”

Ovarian cancer is notoriously difficult to detect in its early stages because its symptoms — constipation, weight gain, bloating, or more frequent urination — are easily confused with other ailments.

If it’s diagnosed early, though, ovarian cancer has a survival rate of 90 percent. Unfortunately, its often not detected until it is too late. An effective screening protocol doesn’t yet exist and a doctor’s sight and touch haven’t been enough to detect cases in its first stages.

Each cancer has its own signature scent, however. And even before ovarian cancer can be detected by current methods, it creates minute quantities of “odorants,” Otto said. A doctor’s nose isn’t nearly sensitive enough. But the odorants can be sensed by trained dogs.

In the new program, scientists from Penn Medicine’s Division of Gynecologic Oncology will take tissue and blood samples from both healthy and ovarian cancer patients.

The samples will be analyzed by chemists, scientists working with nanotech – and the puppies at the Working Dog Center.

We’ve been training them since they’ve been 8-weeks old,” Otto said. “They’re all fabulous and they are very strong in olfaction.”

They already have experience with bomb sniffing and human remains detection. Cancer detection isn’t that much different, she said.

The dogs will be exposed to healthy samples and cancer samples in containers they can’t access, but are vented so they can smell them.

“We’ll train them to alert us when they discover the samples of cancer patients,” Otto said.

When they distinguish the correct one, they’re rewarded with food or a toy.

“Some are very much into their ball,” Otto laughs. “We will do what makes the most sense for each dog and what makes the dog want to work.”

Contact staff writer Sam Wood at 215-854-2796, @samwoodiii or

Conservation dogs sniff out endangered animals

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Peppin DogBy Elizabeth Devitt

Megan Parker carries poop in her purse. At least she does when she’s working with her dog Pepin, who’s trained to track the scat of endangered wildlife.

Having the right scent on hand allows Parker to direct her dog during a search.

Parker and Pepin have helped conservation workers protect wildlife all over the world. With Pepin’s superior sense of smell, the 7-year-old Belgian Malinois has tracked everything from endangered kit foxes in the San Joaquin Valley to the perilously small population of Cross River gorillas in the mountains of Cameroon.

“Scat is a gold mine of information,” said Parker, one of four co-founders of Working Dogs for Conservation, a nonprofit group of six biologists who trained

Scientists can extract DNA — the genetic blueprints found in cells — from scat samples to check the sex of animals and learn who’s related to whom. Stool can also be used to evaluate diets, test hormone levels and check for diseases. By mapping areas where samples are found, an animal’s home range can also be determined. All that information helps conservationists keep tabs on endangered animals without having to hunt, trap or tag them.”People see and hear the world,” said Parker. “But dogs are really good at this because they smell the world.”

With samples of wolverine and cheetah scat from her stash, Parker recently demonstrated Pepin’s search skills. From the moment Parker fastened a bright orange service-dog vest on Pepin, the dog focused on finding his target scents. He sniffed relentlessly around a cavernous lecture hall and trotted briskly among 50 people seated in rows of chairs. In less than 10 minutes Pepin made his finds, alerting Parker by promptly sitting down and throwing her a hard stare.

Pepin is one of nine dogs on staff at Working Dogs for Conservation. A mix of breeds — retrievers, border collies and German shepherds — most of the dogs come from shelters where their high-maintenance traits made them great for detection training, but not so perfect for the easy life of a pet.

The dogs all live with their handlers. That close relationship is part of what makes their teamwork so successful, said Parker. In the field, the dogs work off-leash. So it’s critical to know the dog well enough to know whether he has truly found a target or is just testing the handler, she said.

With highly sensitive noses, dogs such as Pepin have proven they find samples quickly and more accurately than human-based methods, said Alice Whitelaw, another cofounder of the group. Reliability matters because testing scat samples from the wrong animals wastes time and money. Using dogs is also less costly than capturing and radio-collaring animals, which are intensive efforts in terms of manpower, money and handling the wild animals, she said. So far, the dogs have worked on 38 projects in 11 countries.

Scat isn’t the only thing these dogs can find. With scent-discrimination capabilities at least twice as good as those of people, the dogs have nosed out specific plant species — a critical skill on islands where one invasive species can wreak havoc on the rest of the ecosystem, said Whitelaw.

Pepin recently learned to sniff out snares. Poachers use small coils of wire to illegally trap lions and other animals for meat; an elephant can suffocate if a snare entraps their trunk. In two months, Parker and Pepin will travel

Megan Parker, director of research for Working Dogs for Conservation, gives the go-ahead to Pepin to hunt for wolverine scat at Dinah’s Garden Hotel in Palo Alto, Calif. (LiPo Ching)

to Africa to see if they can find these traps faster than the wildlife workers — or the hapless animals.It takes about four weeks to train a dog on a particular scent. Pepin knows fifteen targets, ranging from invasive snails to endangered plant species and gorilla dung — and, now, snares. The handlers borrowed dog training techniques used for narcotics, bombs and body detection, and modified them for wildlife work. They train the dogs at least twice a week to keep up their scent skills, said Parker.

All the dogs work for play. Every time Pepin finds a target, Parker rewards him with an all-out game of tug with the dog’s favorite toy. Although a tug toy sounds like little reward for a lot of work, the psychology of dogs evolved to rely on people for social reward, said Brian Hare, co-author of “The Genius of Dogs.” If you take a dog with a natural instinct to search and add the bonus of being with humans while searching, you’ve got a powerful ally when a sense of smell is the best avenue to discovering what you are looking for.

Pepin and his canine colleagues aren’t the first dogs to work the wildlife conservation beat. In 1997, Sam Wasser, at the University of Washington, collaborated with Barbara Davenport, a former narcotics detection dog trainer, to assist conservation scientists by training scat-detection dogs. Davenport even taught a dog to follow the scent of whale poop from a boat deck. Now, several universities and private groups have trained dogs to aid wildlife research efforts.

This month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced four new four-legged hires — Viper, Butter, Lancer and Locket — to nose out illegal wild animals and contraband, such as elephant tusks and rhino horns, coming across the borders.

“We need all the resources we can possibly muster to help wildlife,” said Georgeanne Wedergren, a zoo docent who watched Pepin work during a noontime presentation. “I’m so glad they save shelter dogs, too.”

Search dogs to help put dent in illegal wildlife trade

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Specially trained wildlife detector dogs, named Viper, Butter, Lancer and Locket, have just completed training alongside handlers and will soon begin working at important U.S. import sites including UPS’ global air hub in Louisville, Ky. Other cities where the dogs will conduct searches include Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago. The program is an effort to address the increasing trade in body parts of protected species. San Jose Mercury News (Calif.) (free registration)/The Associated Press (4/9)

 LOUISVILLE, Ky.—The U.S. government wants to try to do something about a growing trade in items such as elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn and is enlisting the help of another animal to accomplish that.

The first class of wildlife detector dogs and their handlers have finished training to search for protected species and will soon be stationed at key ports of entry around the country, including Louisville, Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago. The four retrievers are Viper, Butter, Lancer and Locket.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official Ed Grace says some species are being dangerously threatened by rapid growth in global trade.

Louisville is among the locations being targeted because the city is home to UPS’ worldwide air hub. Fish and Wildlife says the dogs may visit facilities elsewhere as well.

N.Y. considers tougher laws protecting canine officers

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

ApeThe New York state Senate approved a bill that would make the act of injuring or killing a police dog a felony. It is a misdemeanor under current law. The bill gained momentum after an FBI law enforcement dog, Ape, was shot to death while helping apprehend a suspect. Ape, a Czech German shepherd, was fatally shot by the man, who police said killed four people. The bill now goes to the state Assembly. The Post-Standard (Syracuse, N.Y.) (3/25)

Oneonta, NY — The state senate has passed a bill co-sponsored by Senator James Seward that would toughen punishment for people who kill or injure police animals.

The bill increases the penalty for killing or injuring a police animal from a misdemeanor to a felony. The legislation now goes to the state assembly for consideration.

There has been renewed interest in the bill following the shooting death of FBI police dog Ape during a raid on a barricaded gunman blamed for the deaths of four people in Herkimer County earlier this month, said Seward, R-Oneonta.

“I call Ape the ‘Hero of Herkimer’ for his courageous sacrifice and feel he, and all police animals, deserve our respect and gratitude,” Seward said in a news release. “Ape gave his life to protect others and that kind of bravery should be honored.”

Gunman Kurt Myers is believed to have killed four people the morning of March 13 before holing up in an abandoned building in the village of Herkimer. After a lengthy standoff — in which a police robot was unable to locate Myers — Ape accompanied officers into the building.

Myers shot and killed Ape while firing at the group. Officers returned fire and killed Myers. Ape was mortally wounded and died after last-minute attempts at rescue by a veterinarian at the scene.

“There is one detail that is clear – we owe a great debt of gratitude to the police and others who responded to the multiple scenes, put their lives on the line, and sacrificed to protect us all and that includes K-9 officer Ape,” Seward concluded.
Ape, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, received a memorial service and burial near the FBI training center in Quantico, Va. The Czech German Shepard had been on duty less than a month.

Supreme Court sides with drug-sniffing dog

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

By ,   Feb 19, 2013 10:20 PM EST  The Washington Post

The Supreme Court on Tuesday sided with a drug-sniffing German shepherd named Aldo in ruling that police do not have to extensively document a dog’s expertise to justify relying on the animal to search someone’s vehicle.

The unanimous court overturned a decision by the Florida Supreme Court. That court had thrown out a 2006 search of a man’s truck after Aldo “alerted” to the smell of drugs, saying police must compile detailed evidence of the dog’s reliability before probable cause to search the vehicle is established.

 Justice Elena Kagan said the Florida court  had gone too far, and suggested that proper training and certification of the dog — rather than how it has performed in the field — might be enough for law enforcement’s purposes.

“The question — similar to every inquiry into probable cause — is whether all the facts surrounding a dog’s alert, viewed through the lens of common sense, would make a reasonably prudent person think that a search would reveal contraband or evidence of a crime,” Kagan wrote.

“A sniff is up to snuff when it meets that test. . . . Aldo’s did.”

The case was one of two the court accepted regarding drug-sniffing dogs from Florida. It has not decided the other, which concerns whether police may bring a dog to someone’s home and then use the dog’s “alert” to the presence of drugs as probable cause for getting a search warrant.

At oral arguments, that case — involving a chocolate Lab named Franky — caused considerably more debate among the justices.

Aldo’s case came from the Florida Panhandle, where Officer William Wheetley stopped Clayton Harris because of an expired license plate. Wheetley found Harris nervous and shaking, and the man refused Wheetley’s request to search his truck. Wheetley brought out Aldo, and the dog alerted to the smell of something on the driver’s side door handle.

Wheetley used the alert as probable cause to search the vehicle and found the ingredients for making methamphetamine. Wheetley was convicted, but the Florida Supreme Court reversed the conviction.

The Florida high court, citing a growing body of evidence that dogs often make mistakes or are influenced by their handlers, said judges had to consider a long list of specific findings, including how the dogs perform in the field.

Kagan said that went too far, and was at odds with previous U.S. Supreme Court decisions that prescribed “a more flexible, ­all-things-considered” approach. She noted that defense lawyers who had specific concerns about a dog’s qualification could still make such a case to a judge.

The case is Florida v. Harris.


Canines make rounds at Mesa, AZ Hospital

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

If you visit Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa, you may see a K-9 team patrolling the halls: a majestic, 68-pound Belgian Malinois imported from Holland and his handler, security Officer Brandon “Rudy” Morgan.

The dog, Stuka, is named after a type of World War II German bomber plane.

Stuka’s calming presence is used in the emergency room when someone on street drugs, spice or “bath salts” comes in angry and aggressive. The dog is used in the neonatal intensive-care unit when a mother gets angry that her infant is being taken from her by Child Protective Services. Stuka also has searched rooms for illicit drugs and weapons.

But mainly just his presence is enough.

“He’s 99 percent deterrent,” Morgan said. “I’ve had people see the dog and get up and leave. They might have something on them, or they might be here for no good reason.”

Morgan and Stuka, who patrol all seven floors of Cardon Children’s Medical Center and the four floors at nearby Banner Desert, walk 12 miles a day. Another dog takes the night shift.

The dogs are among a stable of canines at all Banner properties in Arizona as well as North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley, Colo. Other hospital systems around the nation visit Banner sites when planning to start a canine program.

The Banner dogs are imported from Europe and are trained to receive commands in their native languages of Dutch, German or Czech.

At Banner Desert, Morgan said, if a person becomes aggressive with a doctor, Morgan or another officer intervenes with the dog.

A tight, sensitive bond exists between Morgan and Stuka, and if someone’s movements raise Stuka’s suspicions, he’ll alert Morgan.

“Nine times out of 10, he’s right,” Morgan said. “He’ll pick up on someone’s mannerisms before I do. … Many times, that person has become a problem in the hospital, and instead of me telling (Stuka), it’s (the dog) telling me.”

“I usually give a warning first before I deploy the dog,” he said. “We practice crisis prevention. He’s the last resort.”

Stuka, who is sensitive and alert, does not like people making exaggerated movements, which Morgan said is one of the dog’s “triggers.” Stuka will communicate with a whine.

“He lets me know that guy is not doing what he should be doing.”

Stuka usually goes without his muzzle but wears it in the emergency room and on Mondays, when more people than usual are walking the hallways.

Stuka lives with Morgan, his wife and two small children, and when the dog is not working, he’s playful and loving.

All handlers are certified through the National Police Canine Association, and training is constant.

Handlers and dogs participate in competitions that include handler-protection scenarios, bomb-sniffing exercises and agility.

Dogs will compete in the 11th annual Desert Dog Police K-9 Trials on April 13-14 at Scottsdale Stadium, sponsored by the Arizona Law Enforcement Canine Association.