Marion County Sheriffs Office Takes a Bite of the 2018 K9 Grant

Two weeks ago, Aftermath’s announced the winners of the 2018 K9 Grant Competition. During the month-long competition, over 1,000 police departments were nominated and more than 280,000 votes were counted. Winning departments included agencies in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Arizona. K9 units in 48 states were represented in this year’s contest and over $20,000 in grants were awarded to 14 departments.

Throughout the month of November, Aftermath is continuing to demonstrate an appreciation of these brave K9 officers and their handlers and coworkers by sharing their stories. This week we are privileged to introduce to you the K9 officers and handlers of the Marion County Sheriffs Office of Florida. The unit received the 4th highest total votes and was awarded a $1000 grant. Read on to discover more about these great animals:

Marion County Sheriffs Department K9Florida’s K9s

Marion County is the 5th largest county in the state of Florida and the largest law enforcement body in the county; over 500 sworn officers serve and protect 400,000 plus residents every day of the year in an area stretching 1,652 square miles.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office K9 unit was formally established in 1987. Just 9 K9 teams work tirelessly within the county’s numerous districts. This includes filling in for additional duties in small communities that do not have a K9 of their own.

The unit credits the office’s social media team and grant coordinator with their K9 grant win. One handler explained: “The public information office and grant coordinator printed out instructions on how to vote and distributed the information to everyone in the department. They pushed Facebook and Instagram posts every day to encourage everyone to get in their votes.”

The department is active on Facebook and maintains a website with photos of the teams and other information. Learn more about the Unit and see more photos on their website.

Marion County’s Working Dogs

The unit has currently has eight K-9 teams with a 9th pup and handler currently in training. Six K-9 teams are trained and certified for narcotic detection and two teams are certified in explosives detection. All eight teams are trained for patrol. Each team within the K-9 Unit completes an annual certification that is mandated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.  Along with detection training, all of the teams are also trained in tracking,

The current lineup of working dogs includes Adelmo and Drago (both 2 years old); OTOW (short for On Top of the World), Robo, and Nitro (all 3 years old); Tipster (4), and Zeus and Rambo (both 5 years old). At just 17 months old, Duder is the newest addition to the team and one of just two malinois (Adelmo is the other). The rest of the unit are all German shepherds. Marion County purchases their dogs from South Coast K9, which imports their dogs from special breeders in Europe, particularly Germany.

Marion County Sheriffs Office K9 UnitA dog’s life

The past two years have been financially challenging for the Marion County agency; they have turned over 6 dogs due to retirement. Thus, their unit is smaller than normal. Dogs typically retire around the age of 7 so they can enjoy the rest of their life in comfort. However, any dog that shows signs of discomfort may be retired sooner.

This means more expenses for a unit as each dog must be purchased, trained, and outfitted with special gear before they are considered fit for duty. This year, the grant from Aftermath will go toward outfitting Marion County’s newest team member, Duder, with all the necessary equipment, including leashes and harnesses.

Said one handler: “Though K9s are an essential tool to catch criminals, they also help aid in finding missing people, including the mentally ill, elderly people with Alzheimer’s, or young children with autism. It’s a good feeling to participate in a successful search where someone is returned home safe; the dogs feel that, too.”

Despite the serious nature of their work, the dogs all find time to just be dogs. The department hosts 3-5 demonstrations a month for groups and members of the community. The animals are all very social and each has their own individual personality. For example, Rambo, the elder of the group, loves to swim with his handler, Matt. And although he’s all business most of the time, he’ll also allow Matt to dress him up.

Aftermath Cares About K9s

We enjoyed speaking with the members of the Marion County K9 Unit and we’re excited to bring you to more stories of the K9 Grant winners in upcoming weeks. Be sure to keep an eye on our blog for great interviews and photos with the rest of this year’s top dogs!

Aftermath’s annual K9 Grant is just one aspect of the Aftermath Cares program, aimed at acknowledging first responders for their ongoing efforts to protect and improve their communities. For more information on trauma cleaning services, or to learn more about the relationship between Aftermath and law enforcement, visit our website.