The partnership will include three certified narcotics-detections dogs: Ceco, from the Walker County Sheriff’s Office, handled by Jason Hare; Sheri, from the Sumiton Police Department, handled by Scott Karr; and Yogie, from the Dora Police Department and handled by Ronnie Phillips.
“We are open to any other dogs who may want to join in the future,” Karr said.
Although each of the dogs handles the day-to-day operations for its agency, searching large areas, such as schools, is a challenge for a single dog.
“There aren’t enough detector dogs for any one agency to be able to search a large area,” Karr said.
Walker County Sheriff John Mark Tirey said that the cost of acquiring and training these special dogs made it prohibitive for any agency to own enough dogs to serve the citizens.
“Dogs are extremely expensive for an agency,” Tirey said. “We only have one dog, as do the other agencies around who have dogs. The entire county will benefit from our agencies working together.”
In addition to performing large-scale searches, the dogs will also train together twice a month to keep their detection skills sharp.
The drugs used for the training exercises are certified by the Drug Enforcement Agency and maintained legally by Sumiton Police through their DEA registration.
Karr also said that the handlers and dogs working together to train regularly will increase each handler’s accountability for the required training.
Although there is no state-mandated requirement for narcotics detection canines, the national standard requires annual certifications.
“We’re still training to the national standard,” Karr said. “But this enables us to certify and train locally.”