Lady to join police fight against drugs
Police welcomed a new four-legged officer Friday who will be a valuable asset in helping to sniff out illegal drugs.
Lady, a 17-month-old Belgian Malinois/Dutch Shepherd mix, replaced Betsey as Morgan City’s police K-9 officer. The dog will be used strictly for narcotics. She is not an attack dog, but also is not a petting dog, Lady’s partner K-9 Officer Dexter Garner said.
Betsey, a Belgian Malinois, was retired in February and is now cared for by Morgan City Police Sgt. John Schaff.
Garner had to go through a bonding process with the dog knowing exactly what to do and when. “Learning how to read the dog is one of the main issues of the job,” Garner said.
Lady is the fourth narcotics dog Morgan City police have used.
Though Lady is not supposed to be a petting dog, Morgan City Police Chief Travis Crouch said he has had the dog over to his house, and she has gotten acclimated to him and his family.
Garner went through two weeks of intensive training with the dog at K-9 Concepts in Broussard. Garner has been a Morgan City police officer for about two years and has known since childhood that he wanted to do this when he saw his first K-9 Unit dog, he said.
Garner enjoyed going through the training process with the dog, he said. It takes hours of training to get the dog to recognize certain narcotics, he said. Once the dog is trained, practically nothing will stop her from detecting the scent of narcotics, which include marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and their derivatives, Garner said.
Garner said learning to read the dog was challenging, but he likes the challenge. Garner demonstrated how Lady sniffs out drugs and said a dog’s sensitivity to smell is anywhere from 40 to 100 times better than humans’ sensitivity to smell.
If someone handles marijuana and grabs a car door handle, the dog would smell the scent, Crouch said. The dog’s nose is so sensitive that she can find marijuana inside of a gas tank in PVC pipe, the chief said.
The dog needs a social structure to attach to so she lives with Garner and his family.
Lady is trained to sit by the spot where she smells narcotics and is rewarded with a toy when she performs the task during training.
Obedience training for drug dogs begins when they are puppies, Garner said. When the dogs are shipped to the U.S. from overseas, they go through a rigorous scent processing and scent familiarization for 12 to 16 weeks, he said.
Lady came from Holland and was purchased with money from the Morgan City Police Department’s narcotics account, St. Mary Parish School Board money, and the St. Mary Parish Council, Crouch said.
The dog will be used extensively in the school system for DARE week, and whenever the school wants to do drug searches or demonstrations, Crouch said. “Any other agencies need them, him (Garner) and the dog, they’re there. No questions asked. They go,” Crouch said.
Crouch said the dog is a good tool for police, but “nothing beats good old-fashioned investigative work.”