All These Sheriff's Dogs Want For Christmas Is To Catch The Bad Guys

BRANDON, FL — While dogs throughout Hillsborough County dream of treats and toys beneath the Christmas tree, the members of the Hillsborough County K-9 Unit slumber with visions of catching bad guys in their heads.

Tracking and catching criminals is something these four-legged law enforcement officers routinely do every week.

Nevertheless, although they’re highly trained working dogs, these furry crime fighters wouldn’t mind finding treats and toys beneath the Christmas tree like their non-working counterparts.

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The Hillsborough sheriff’s K-9 unit is made up of 24 German shepherds, Belgian Malinois, German shepherd/Belgian Malinois mixes, bloodhounds and German shorthaired pointers. Each dog has a specialty, such as bomb or narcotics detection or fugitive apprehension.

All the dogs complete 480 hours of training with their handlers to be certified as a law enforcement canine. Once certified, each canine is given its own sheriff’s office personal identification number and badge. They begin working at the age of 1 to 3 years old and retire at the age of 9 or 10, spending their leisure years at the homes of their handlers.

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Among the latest additions to the sheriff’s K-9 unit are two German shorthaired pointers appropriately named Watson and Holmes who were recruited to bolster safety and sniff out drugs and other contraband at the county jails on Orient and Falkenburg roads.

“Through technology, canines and training, no one is taking more steps to prevent the spread of contraband than the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office,” said Chronister when he introduced the dogs who began their duties Sept. 4. “These K-9 partners are an invaluable asset to our efforts in preventing the introduction of drugs and contraband into the jails, thereby enhancing overall security and order.”

After completing 200 hours of training, Holmes and Watson, both 1 1/2 years old, conduct routine visitor checks, inspect incoming packages and perform pod searches.

“We hope these K-9s serve as a deterrent to inmates and visitors who might otherwise attempt to introduce drugs into the jail,” said Chronister. “The presence of these new team members will allow us to reduce violence, disputes and health hazards among inmates.”

Saving their barks and bites for the bad guys after receiving commands from their handlers, the sheriff’s K-9s often serve as ambassadors for the sheriff’s office, permitting children to pet them when they’re not on duty.

“The dogs are a treasured part of the sheriff’s office and any law enforcement agency,” said the sheriff. “To that end, state law helps protect law enforcement canines by making it a felony to injure or kill a police dog.”

Residents are always welcome to drop off gifts or make donations to purchase protective gear, such as bullet-proof vests, for the dogs or their retired cohorts at any sheriff’s office.

In addition to Watson and Holmes, members of the K-9 unit include Koa, Daffy, Champ, Morrell, Smoke, Drago, Toby, Wrigley, Specter, Echo, Calypso, Butch, Millie, Chance, Gus, Kurfew, Finn, Tonto, Major, Mary Lou, Roy, Mick, not to mention, Mason.

Mason is the sheriff’s office’s first station dog and the sixth K-9 to be adopted through the K-9s for Warriors station program, which relocates trained service dogs to police and sheriff’s stations to help first responders “decompress” after a challenging call.

Before retiring and becoming a station dog, Mason was trained to be a service dog for a military veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder and can recognize anxiety and stress in people.

“At times tensions run high, but Mason’s friendship will help keep spirits up and remind us that no one walks alone,” said Chronister.

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