The winners (by a nose) in top US sniffer dogs competition


Associated Press

GALLOWAY, N.J.

One of America’s best law-enforcement officers at sniffing out hidden explosives is 8 years old, already going gray and loves nothing more than chewing vigorously on a white cotton towel to unwind.

Hemi, a chocolate Labrador assigned to the campus police force at New Jersey’s Stockton University near Atlantic City, won a nationwide competition last week for police dogs trained to sniff out explosives.

Another New Jersey dog took top honors for dogs trained to find hidden drugs. Luna, a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois assigned to the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department, bested all comers in sniffing out drugs.

The United States Police Canine Association had the Detector Dog competition, which featured more than 100 dogs from across the country. Police dogs from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Iowa, North Carolina, South Carolina, Missouri, Maryland, Virginia, Florida, Tennessee and Washington, D.C. competed, as did dogs from the FBI and CIA. There even was a dog from Mexico’s Fiscalia General, the national prosecutor’s office.

Sgt. Tracy Stuart, Hemi’s handler at Stockton, which hosted this year’s competition, said it’s considered the Super Bowl for sniffer dogs. And Hemi was quick as a flash in sniffing out hidden traces of explosives.

“He crushed it,” she said. “It makes a momma proud!”

The dogs are trained from a young age by exposing them to the scent of whatever it is they will search for, which might be various narcotics, explosives, or even bodies. The one cadaver dog that competed was literally in a class by himself.

Many dogs are trained to sit still directly in front of what they’ve found until their handler arrives. That’s what Hemi did during a demonstration Stuart conducted for reporters after the dog had competed.

It can cost $10,000 to $15,000 or more to properly train a police dog, depending on what he or she is assigned to do, Stuart said.

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