It’s a Working Dog’s Life: K9s Help Keep the Community SafeJul 14, 2021 03:33PM ● By ANN MARIE O’PHELAN
Some dogs love taking naps, the occasional walk and chasing after sticks. Others are eager to get to work. These working dogs can play critical roles in law enforcement. In Southwest Florida the Cape Coral Police Department (CCPD), Fort Myers Police Department (FMPD) and Lee County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) have K9 units that perform a variety of tasks, from sniffing drugs and explosives to helping patrol.
The CCPD K9 unit consists of eight dog teams—handlers and their dogs. Sgt. Justin DeRosso’s dog, Dallas, named in honor of the five Dallas police officers killed by a sniper in 2016, is a dual-purpose K9 trained to locate narcotics and people. “Our dogs are used to help track suspects and find missing persons,” explains DeRosso, who says he enjoys the challenges and rewards that come with working with a K9.
The CCPD dogs originate from Europe and are purchased when they are one year old, an age when they are ready for the five-month K9 school. Once completed, the dogs and their handlers are certified by the National Police Canine Association (NPCA) before they can work. Afterward, they train every week and recertify every year.
When the workday is done, the dogs go home with their handlers. “Dallas is a part of my family, and they are very attached to him. When we are home, he has free roam of the house,” says DeRosso.
At the Fort Myers Police Department, officer Ezra Padgham has a five-year-old K9 named Lord. “He is a dual-purpose dog that is certified in patrol and detecting explosives,” says Padgham. Patrol dogs are used to search buildings and areas for hidden suspects, track people, locate evidence and apprehend fleeing felons.
The best part, says Padgham, is “you always have a partner with you that has your back.”
The FMPD K9’s 480-hour initial patrol training meets Florida Department of Law Enforcement requirements. Detection training in drugs or explosives takes additional time. K9 teams are annually certified through the NPCA. The K9 unit trains every week to maintain readiness.
Once off work, the FMPD dogs go home with their handlers. “We play fetch with our dogs for exercise but, for them, working is their playtime. They are high drive and enjoy doing their jobs,” says Padgham.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office also has a K9 unit consisting of 22 dogs. The dogs are trained in various specialties, such as sniffing out explosives and finding missing people. As with all K9 units, they are also considered special members of the team.
All of the local K9 units seek donations to help with expenses such as costly veterinary bills, food, equipment and advanced training, as well as to purchase new dogs. For more information about donations, contact each agency.
Ann Marie O’Phelan is a Southwest Florida resident and regular contributor to TOTI Media.
FOR MORE INFO
1100 Cultural Park Blvd. South, Cape Coral
239-574-3223 (main number); capecops.com
2210 Widman Way,
239-321-7700 (nonemergency); fmpolice.com
14750 Six Mile Cypress Parkway,
239-477-1000 (nonemergency); sheriffleefl.org