PSO’s K-9 Unit Has Diverse Skillsets to Serve Citizens
Pasco Sheriff’s Office has one of the largest and most diverse K-9 units in Florida. PSO’s K-9s keep Pasco County safe with their natural talents and trained skills. K-9s perform tasks that would otherwise take PSO significant time or manpower to achieve. These unique abilities help deputies on a variety of calls, from searching for missing people or evidence to providing comfort to those who need it most.
Training is imperative to a K-9’s work and the specific training requirements are based upon a K-9’s specialty. Initial training can span from 16 weeks to over a year before responding to calls for service. PSO’s patrol K-9 teams train for 16 weeks, building skills such as tracking missing people, conducting building and area searches to locate evidence, apprehension and obedience. Bloodhounds, which are trained for tracking, train for nearly a year before responding to their first call. Some of PSO’s K-9s can perform additional tasks as a “dual purpose” K-9. In addition to patrol work, dual purpose K-9s also detect specific scents such as narcotics, explosives, accelerants used in arson cases and other evidence. PSO K-9s continue to train weekly throughout their careers to maintain their abilities and adaptability to work in the diverse environments Pasco has. These skills help deputies bring resolution to a call much faster than deputies working alone. This in turn allows deputies to get back to taking calls for service across Pasco County, instead of spending significant time on one scene.
One of PSO’s most common calls for service is to find missing people, and many K-9s are trained in this skill. While patrol dogs can track those who have just gone missing or ran away from a scene, PSO also has Bloodhounds, which have natural abilities to track specific scenes after hours-long delays, through large crowds and across diverse natural elements. PSO’s K-9 unit also includes more unique skills when it comes to finding those that are missing. PSO is one of the only law enforcement agencies to have a search-and-rescue, or “live find,” K-9 on its roster. This dog can find those missing following a natural or man-made disaster, such as a building collapse or a hurricane. Additionally, PSO has human remains detection K-9s, including a K-9 embedded with a forensic investigator. This ensures that the K-9’s finds are well-preserved and a trained investigator can immediately begin searching for answers for the loved ones of the person they’ve discovered.
When it comes to scent detection, PSO’s K-9 unit is ready for a wide variety of cases. Dogs trained in narcotics detection are paired with PSO’s Highway Interdiction Team, which helps disrupt the flow of narcotics on Pasco’s roadways. PSO also has a K-9 trained to detect the presence of electronic storage devices, such as USBs, computer hard drives, memory cards and more. This K-9 is often used in cases involving child pornography, where the K-9 helps detectives locate storage devices that are concealed and would otherwise not be found. PSO K-9s can also detect the presence of accelerants used in arson cases, or the presence of explosive devices. In addition to locating these items, scent detection K-9s also help investigators determine if these items were not involved or present in cases. K-9s trained in patrol work, particularly in building and area searches, also help locate evidence such as stolen items, weapons and more.
PSO introduced Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) K-9s to the agency in 2020. AAT K-9s help ease difficult situations by providing a calm presence to those who need it most. Individuals experiencing a crisis can be uncomfortable when speaking with a deputy. Two of PSO’s AAT K-9s partner with detectives on the Behavioral Health Intervention Team, who often meet with those in crisis or those experiencing a mental health challenge. Others are paired with Community Engagement deputies, who strengthen relationships with citizens throughout the county. Many of PSO’s AAT K-9s were selected from Brevard County Sheriff’s Office’s “Paws and Stripes” program, in which inmates train shelter dogs basic obedience skills and transform them into calm and confident companions, while also learning valuable life skills themselves.
PSO’s K-9 unit is proud to serve Pasco County and keep citizens safe. PSO is incredibly thankful for the community we serve, as the funds to purchase, train and equip all of PSO’s K-9s comes from community donations from citizens, groups and businesses; none of the funds come from tax payer dollars. We are deeply grateful for these generous donations that allow us to have the multi-skilled and expansive K-9 unit to best serve our community. If you are interested in learning more or donating, visit PascoSheriffCharities.org.