County field goes to the dogs

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k9

Project will mean a place to train K9

CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE – Volunteers painted six large boxes in a field near the Cape May County jail Thursday, April 19.

They also put together six hurdles, a 6-foot cat walk, and low-crawl and broad-jump obstacles.

It’s for training dogs that search for people, narcotics, explosives and fire accelerants.

Cape May County K-9 Unit Sgt. Beth Perednas compared the training agility course to a shooting range or a police academy, but for dogs.

“It’s [a K-9 training agility course] something we’ve wanted for a long time,” said Robert Nolan, Cape May County undersheriff. He said a training course has been the wish list for at least three years.

The dogs and handlers will be able to bond, and handlers will be able to exercise, Perednas said.

“It’s training upkeep,” she said.

The Home Depot supplied the material, equipment and workers for the agility course, which was built to U.S. Police Canine Association specifications. Employees from area Home Depots, including Cape May and Atlantic counties, volunteered their time toward the project.

The agility course will make dogs healthier and better responsive, Nolan said.

The course will allow the dogs to remain “up to speed,” said K-9 handler Nolan Harris. “So it will really advance our dogs now,” he said.

He’s been with the K-9 unit for about a year.

“It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun,” Harris said.

Before putting together the obstacle course in Cape May County, dogs and handlers had to go elsewhere to train, like Atlantic County.

Now Cape May County K-9 unit officers can train in the county. Other K-9 units will be able to as well.

Undersheriff Nolan said it takes 18 weeks for patrol dog training, and 14-16 weeks for specialized training, like searching for explosives.

“I am absolutely thrilled about this project and the cooperation we are getting from Home Depot. Our officers will be using the agility course to keep their canine partners in top physical condition and simulate obstacles that they could encounter on a daily basis,” Cape May County Sheriff Gary Schaffer said in a prepared statement. “I look forward to the possibility of hosting regional competitions with the USPCA [United States Police Canine Association] and partnering with our local police academy to bring the best K-9 training available to this area.”

The K-9 unit has been in existence since the mid-1980s, people involved with the K-9 unit said during interviews April 20.

“We have reduced the number of canines in our unit from a high of 13 to presently having eight dogs,” Schaffer said. “We can definitely provide more services with the additional patrol dogs. We have crossed trained the dogs in various scent detections, while at the same time reducing the maintenance cost of food, training and medical with less dogs. I am extremely proud of our K-9 officers and their partners and the dedication they have to the community.”

The K-9 unit has increased patrol dogs from one to four, with each being crossed trained in either narcotics or explosives, according to a press release. The sheriff’s office has two trained bloodhounds used for search and rescue and an accelerant detection dog. The sheriff’s office will have a fourth K-9 officer and patrol dog graduating from K-9 training academy in Atlantic County in May.

“We like to support the county,” said Ann Marie Shaw of the Cape May County Dog Obedience Training Club. “This is our community outreach activity.”

She and club member Carolyn MacMullen were painting boxes in the field April 19 near the county K-9 unit building in Cape May Court House. During training, the dog will search inside the boxes for a person, for example.

The agility course project comes from the Cape May County Sheriff’s K-9 Unit being chosen for a “Home Depot Build.”

The Cape May County Dog Obedience Training Club donated $500 toward the course, and volunteers also came out to help.

Kim Hayes of Ocean County also helped put together the course April 19. She has a district position with The Home Depot, which covers six stores, including the one in Cape May County.

“It’s part of what Home Depot does – they like to give back,” she said.

Cape May County Freeholder Leonard Desiderio said he appreciated the efforts of The Home Depot employees.

 

Kim Hayes of Home Depot paints part of the K-9 training agility course April 19. Kim Hayes of Home Depot paints part of the K-9 training agility course April 19.

Ann Marie Shaw Carolyn MacMullen of the Cape May County Dog Obedience Training Club help with the K-9 training agility course. Ann Marie Shaw Carolyn MacMullen of the Cape May County Dog Obedience Training Club help with the K-9 training agility course.

 One the K-9 unit dogs chases K-9 handler Nolan Harris during a demonstration April 19 near the Cape May County jail.  One the K-9 unit dogs chases K-9 handler Nolan Harris during a demonstration April 19 near the Cape May County jail.

 


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