Welcome to the Highlands County Sheriff's Office Canine Unit. I am proud to take this opportunity to let you know about our Team. Our canine unit consists of seven canine teams. Currently we have four dual-purpose teams, one narcotics team, and three bloodhound tracking teams. Each canine team is made up of one handler and one canine, the type of canines we use for our dual-purpose teams are Belgian Malinois. Our Teams have placed in the top ten in several state and national training competitions. These teams perfom numerous functions.
A trained canine can be a useful tool for law enforcement in the detection of narcotics which are transported in a motor vehicle. This method can be conducted safely without removing anyone from the vehicle. Canine's also assist in the search for illegal narcotics during search warrants. Using the canine team on search warrants to check for narcotics is safe and saves time from manually looking for drugs in hidden locations.
- High Risk Building Searches
Canines are be trained in the ability to locate and apprehend suspects on command in a building. This will keep deputies from having to enter when a suspect is in the building and is possibly armed.
Canines can clear a large area looking for suspects or alert his handler of a suspect's location with an area being searched.
Canines can locate items left or dropped by fleeing suspects. Canine teams conduct training in the detection of human scent on articles. When an item with fresh human scent is located, the canine will alert the handler of its location.
- Apprehension of fleeing suspects
The canine teams are able to physically apprehend a fleeing suspect on command, and can be commanded to stop at any time during the apprehension. This includes "recalling" the canine before the canine engages the suspect.
The canine teams are trained to approach/search vehicles when a "felony stop" has been made. If a canine team is on scene, the canine will search the vehicle after the last known person has been extracted.
Canines are trained to protect their handler if he/she becomes involved in a physical altercation.
Canines are trained to track fleeing suspects and apprehend on command. This is a valuable tool when the suspect fleeing is violent or possibly armed and would put a conventional tracking team at risk.
- Community Relations (Public Demonstrations)
By conducting demonstrations, the public becomes more familiar with the use of these types of canine teams. The community is able to see the type of training the team does along with the high level of control the handler has with the canine.
This is perhaps one of the most valuable assets a dual-purpose canine team gives to our Office. Once a canine team has established themselves within a community, the criminal element becomes very aware. During the dispersal of large crowds, the criminal element may challenge a Deputy Sheriff, but very few challenge a canine team.
Other than dual-purpose canines the Highlands County Sheriff's Office also utilizes Bloodhounds for tracking. The Bloodhound tracking teams consist of one Bloodhound and one handler. As previously mentioned the Highlands County Sheriff's Office has three tracking teams. The reason we use Bloodhounds for tracking purposes is the Bloodhounds incredibly sensitive olfactory system and their great stamina. Some of the situations in which we utilize our tracking teams are listed below.
The Highlands County Sheriff's Office receives numerous calls for service each year which are for children who have wandered away from their homes and gotten lost.
In Highlands County we use our tracking teams to search for, recover and return home safely many Alzheimer patients.
In many cases suspects attempt to run from Law Enforcement Officers. We use our tracking teams to locate and apprehend suspects in many cases. We also respond to other jurisdictions to assist them with these same type issues.
Bloodhounds are a great tool for public relations. Most times they are very friendly dogs and they love the attention. Their tracking ability coupled with their scent discrimination they really put on great shows for those attending or requesting demonstrations.
Due to the recent press canines teams have received from around the state, the Highlands County Sheriff's Office have received several donations. The Highlands County Sheriff's Office has used these donations to purchase both body armor for our dual-purpose canines and cooling vest for our tracking canines. The canines, canine handlers, and I would like to thanks those who made those generous donations.