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Sandy Journal

Sandy City Police retire, hire K-9s

May 26, 2016 11:05AM ● By Chris Larson

Seven-year-old Sandy City Police K-9 Hook is living the good life now.

The dark-faced male German Shepherd chases tennis balls instead of suspects while his replacement, K-9 trainee Bronx, will soon take his place with the Sandy City K-9 Unit. 

Hook was retired from drug detection and apprehension in March 2016 after his handler officer Clayton Swenson was promoted to sergeant in the same month. Sgt. Swenson purchased Hook from the city and Hook will be a family pet now. 

Police public information officer Sgt. Dean Carriger said Hook was very successful as a police dog with a career that matched police dog's life expectancy.

Hook was born in Czechoslovakia and purchased by Von Liche Kennels in Denver in 2008. Sandy City purchased Hook in Sept. 2009 for what Carriger described as a "bargain price of $8,000." 

Hook has several cash seizures, drug seizures and criminal apprehensions to his name. He is credited with assisting in large drug and cash seizures.

In July 2015, Hook correctly indicated drugs in a storage unit of a suspected drug dealer. Police seized over $37,000 and 2 pounds of marijuana. 

Hook also assisted in 10-pound and 20-pound marijuana seizures in 2011 and in 2012, respectively. 

Hook was also name "Top Dog" at the Utah Peace Officers Association K-9 Trials in 2013.

"It would have been counterproductive to invest the time and money necessary to get him reacquainted with a new handler, taught and go through the certifications for how much more time of service that dog was expected to provide us," Carriger said. 

Now former UTA Police officer Kaley Erickson and K-9 Bronx, a pure-breed male German Shepherd, will complete the 6-month Utah Peace Officer and Standards Training for drug detection and apprehension. 

Erickson was hired in Sept. 2015 and began the Peace Officer and Standards Training in April 2016. However, injury has temporarily delayed Bronx's and Erickson's training. 

Havoc K9 donated Bronx to Sandy City in March 2016 free of charge. Average prices of dual purpose drug detection and apprehension police dogs range from $5,000 to $10,000, Havoc's Executive Director Ricki Draper said.  

Havoc K9 is a non-profit that purchases puppies and trains them with basic obedience and bite skills. 

Bronx, then named Ayko, was donated to Havoc K9 was donated by local breeder Kampfer Hund after being identified by a trainer. He then spent eight weeks with puppy raiser Sara McKinzie. The raisers and trainers provide socialization, obedience, and basic bite and scent detection/

"It's like we take them through high school," Draper said. "Then the department takes them though college and trains them with in the certifications." 

It costs Havoc K9 $3,000 per puppy, per year to train and supply their operations, cost that Draper says she is paying mostly out of pocket. 

Carriger said extensive training is required to get and keep the state K-9 certifications that assure a K-9 unit's effectiveness for a municipality. 

"It's not just something that you can do with the dog in the car and start working day one," Carriger said. He also said that the training is what builds a dog and an officer into a team that understands each other's "quirks."

Those quirks, Carriger said, are essential to assuring that the dog and the handler understand one another, noting that ineffective communications make K-9s effectively useless.

He also said that police dogs are highly valued an protected by their handlers and other officers because of their designation to go into initial high-risk situations before officers. 

"A dog is a very effective tool," Carriger said pointing out that effective K-9 units help the police do things that human's couldn't do on their own. He specifically noted a police dog's ability to search for people and substance by smell. 

Draper said Ayko-now-Bronx bonded with Erickson quickly, which she says is notable when police dogs are often seen as tools rather than partners. 

"We put so much time and effort into these puppies and we love them just like they are family members," Draper said. "To have a handler take over and treat them like a family member means a lot to us.

Sandy police maintains four K-9 units.