K-9 Make a Splash at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
WEEKI WACHEE – Yesterday, close to fifty police K-9 teams gathered at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park for their annual water training event. K-9 Units from Hernando, Pasco, Citrus, Manatee, Polk, Hillsborough, and Pinellas County have utilized the park for the past seven years for their regional training.
Officials say initial training for police dogs is 16 weeks with twice month maintenance training and 8 weeks for narcotics training. When their training is complete, K-9 are used to capture fleeing suspects search for missing or endangered people and detect illegal narcotics.
According to Deputy Jason Jernigan, deputies must first submit a request for a dog, then they must complete a military style physical fitness test, and spend a year and a half training before they become a certified a K-9 handler. Following certification, the partner selection process starts by sending deputies to New Smyrna Beach where they spend time with a vendor looking at dogs. Hernando County Deputy, Brandon Cox, is the youngest trainer on the K-9 force at age 30, and has spent a lot of time learning training techniques from senor deputies. He says, “Sometimes we view up to 20 dogs a day before a connection is made.”
Most of these dogs are imported from abroad; specifically for use by law enforcement and they must receive a thorough examination before they are accepted. The most common breeds used regionally are Belgin Malawas to Dutch and German Shepherds. Average cost for these animals start at around $8,500 – post training, the dogs can be valued up to twenty thousand dollars or more.
A K-9’s career with law enforcement is between 8-10 years, before they are forced into retirement. Retired K-9s spend the remainder of their lives in the homes of their handlers – their “lifelong” partners.
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