The K9 Countdown Continues! Check Out the Top 15 Contenders (so far) in our 2015 K9 Contest

Just one week remains in the annual Aftermath K9 Contest. To mark the occasion, our blog today examines the benefits of these specialized officers. We will also announce the top 15 competitors currently in the running for the $5,000 prize.

So what makes a K9 unit so important to police work? According to the online news source, PoliceOne, the start up costs of creating a K9 unit can be close to $30,000. That’s not including vet bills, food, and other expenses such as safety equipment and routine training. That’s a lot of money for any department, but the assets that accompany having a skilled K9 unit cannot be overlooked.

    The Role of the K9

Police dogs, commonly called “K9s,” assist police work in several capacities.The dogs themselves are specially selected from breeders who raise K9s solely as working dogs for law enforcement and military. Certain breeds, including Malinois and German Shepherds, are preferred over others for police work, while other breeds such as bloodhounds and beagles may be used for specialized tasks. A full list of dog breeds suitable for police work can be found here.

K9s are typically trained for one of the three types of work, as outlined below; further, one unit may consist of several dogs and their handlers, each trained in a specific area. Training begins at a young age, though the later part of training usually takes place after the dog is placed with a department and their handler. This allows the dog to bond with their unit. Sometimes a police dog is cross-trained in several capacities, but usually the dogs are specialized to one task. Training and obedience may mean different things to the dogs based on their job descriptions. For one dog, obedience may mean staying next to the human officer off-lead or after finding and locating a missing person, but to another dog it may mean being restrained on leash until released for pursuit of a criminal.

The needs and preferences of the individual handlers and departments vary, but most K9s fall into one of three categories:

Search and Rescue: Search and rescue dogs work by detecting human scent through one of several methods. Some search and rescue trained dogs are also “cadaver dogs,” trained to locate decomposition. These dogs are used during natural disasters, though they also help locate missing children and distressed or injured adults. Avalanche dogs also fall into this category.

Subject Apprehension: In some scenarios, it may be necessary to physically apprehend and detain a subject who is either running or hiding in an area that would put Deputies at risk. In these cases, handlers are extra cautious to avoid putting anyone, or the dog, at risk. The dog must be deployed within departmental guidelines. It is the responsibility of the handler to understand the guidelines as handlers make every attempt to apprehend the suspect without injuring them. These K9s are taught to be aggressive toward their target, at least enough to scare them into complying with the law.

Narcotics and Contraband Control: Also called “Sniffer” dogs, these K9s are taught to detect marijuana, cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines in buildings, vehicles, and luggage. When a dog locates drugs, it will signal the find with a passive alert – usually an unassisted sit position. Many military dogs also fall into this category – their ability to detect explosives have saved thousands of lives.

    Pick of the Litter: the Top 15 Competitors This Week

Despite the heavy costs, K9 units are a vital part of police work. They save valuable hours and manpower, and can speed up time-sensitive rescue efforts. In some situations, these dogs make all the difference in saving countless lives. The departments who have entered this year’s K9 Contest know the importance of the K9 mission. Today, we’re proud to reveal the top fifteen contenders (thus far!) in this year’s contest. They are as follows:

Longmont Police Department (CO), Hanover Park Police Department (IL), Summit Police Department (IL), Holliston Police Department (MA), Matteson Police Department (IL), NC K9 Emergency Response Team (NC), Lake County Sherriff’s Office (IL), Griffith Police Department (IN), Greece Police Department (NY), Willmar Police Department (MN), Mundelein Police Department (IL), South Euclid Police Department (OH), Wyandotte Police Department (MI), Fayette County Sheriff’s Office (KY), and the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office (IL).

It’s not too late to get your department or other local law enforcement agency in the running! The voting form is located on the main contest page. Click here to enter your local department. You have one week to enter your vote. The winning department will receive $5000 toward the creation or maintenance of a K9 program. Legal rules and other regulations are available here.

There is a limit of one vote per person per day – so be sure to stop in and vote often! To improve your chance of winning, check out this post for helpful tips and keep a keen nose to this blog for weekly updates!