Blackshear Police Department will soon grow their K9 division with the addition of Duke, a three-year-old chocolate labrador. Duke is currently in narcotics training at Deep South K9 in Waycross.
The male lab comes to BPD as a donation from the Georgia Police K9 Foundation. He’ll be assigned to Officer Breanna French with dual responsibilities as a drug dog and for presentations at area schools when needed. French is a school
resource officer at Blackshear Elementary School.
French has never worked as a K9 handler before, but is excited for the opportunity.
“Chief asked if I’d be interested in having a K9 and I told him ‘absolutely!’” she says.
The Foundation’s donation of Duke could save BPD as much as $10,000 for the purchase of another K9. The city will pay for training costs and other related expenses from seized drug funds. Police Chief Chris Wright estimates that cost will be $1,500 - $2,000.
“We were looking for a dog that would be good for public relations, demonstrations with kids,” says Wright. “At the same time, we want to have it available to everybody else if we need it (for other police duties).”
German Shepherds and Belgain Malinois are the breeds typically trained for K9 teams, but they aren’t as personable as labs, Wright says. Duke will be well-suited for public relations tasks and interactions with students in Pierce County Schools.
The department is down to just one K9 right now after recently retiring a dog from duty, and could use another team member on the streets, too, Wright says.
Police dogs are most commonly used to sniff out drugs, bombs or other illegal substances. They also help with search and rescue operations. The sense of smell in dogs is reportedly 50 times more sensitive than a human’s, enabling them to be the most proficient method of detection officers have.
In Georgia, a dog’s alert establishes probable cause for officers to conduct a search.
“It’s an incredible tool we can use,” Wright says.
The average service of a K9 is 6-7 years, but the longest a dog has ever served BPD was 12 years.
K9 Duke began job training last week. He’ll be at Deep South K9 for two or three months before hitting the streets. French will also train with Duke as his handler before he’s cleared for duty.
“I hope to help get a lot of these drugs off the streets before they get in the hands of our kids,” French says. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to bring the dog around the kids and have positive interactions with a K9 handler and not be scared of them.”
Duke was donated to the Georgia Police K9 Foundation by Rich Hardin, owner of Double H Canine Training Academy in Louisville, KY.
“I was asked to be an instructor at the Georgia Police K9 Foundation State Seminar in October 2019. While there, I was able to see the incredible work the organization does in assisting active and retired law enforcement K9s. I wanted to give back in some way. K9 Duke was selected to be a detection K9 and I feel he will be a valuable asset to the community he serves,” Hardin says.
The Georgia Police K9 Foundation worked with Deep South K9 to identify a law enforcement agency in need of a working, single purpose dog like K9 Duke. Wright reached out to Deep South a few months ago so they called BPD when Duke became available.
Deep South K9 has trained numerous narcotic/tracking K9s for agencies throughout the state. Duke was transported from Kentucky to Georgia by Ray Mills with Fluffy Transport.
About Georgia Police K9 Foundation: The nonprofit’s mission is to assist active and retired law enforcement K9s in the State of Georgia. The Foundation helps raise awareness across the state of the contributions made by police K9s and works to protect Georgia’s four-legged officers by providing them with safety equipment such as bullet-proof vests, heat alarm systems and Naloxone in the event a K9 is directly exposed to any opioids during a search and seizure. For more information, visit www.gpk9f.org.