Rescue Dog Brings Debut Of OUPD Canine Unit

Posted on:

< < Back to

There’s a new member coming to the Ohio University Police Department, and he’s already dressed in black.

Alex, a Labrador retriever mix who was found through the help of a Columbus Labrador rescue, was selected to become the first canine unit at the OUPD. The dog will be brought in for bomb-detecting and to sweep for big events like football games.

“As of right now there is no resource for explosives detection in Southeast Ohio,” said OU Police Chief Andrew Powers. “We thought if we really want to go along with Office of Homeland Security standards, we should be proactive about this.

The dog was purchased through a grant with the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program, through which the department paid $28,000 in start-up costs. The program is run through Ohio Homeland Security and funded by the United States Department of Homeland Security.

The start up costs included $8,000 in training which will be conducted through the Columbus Fire Department’s Bomb Squad K9 Unit. This training is also for Officer Tim Woodyard, who will be Alex’s handler.

“(Alex) is trained on live explosives,” said Woodyard, who is completing his fifth week of training in Columbus, with five more weeks to go. “The dog treats it like food, he sniffs for it and finds the explosive and gets rewarded with some food.”

Woodyard said the skills the dog uses to find explosives are much like smelling the different ingredients of a dish.

“Where we would walk into a room and smell spaghetti cooking, a dog would smell tomatoes, and garlic, and pasta,” Woodyard. “So Alex is trained to smell certain molecules of explosives.”

Alex is being trained to track the smell of C4, dynamite, and other powders used for explosives.

Woodyard is a 14-year veteran of the department, and he and three others applied to be the canine handler. The trainer for the Columbus bomb squad division interviewed the candidates, and Woodyard was chosen.

This is the first time that a bomb-sniffing dog has been deployed by the department, according to Powers, but other regional departments share canine units for patrol and drug detection. The State Highway Patrol has a unit, along with the Athens County Sheriff’s Office.

The Athens Police Department had Jersey and handler Krishea Osborne, but the unit has not been replaced since Osborne and Jersey’s retirement earlier this month. Chief Tom Pyle has said that bringing the unit back was not out of the question, but more funding would be needed to do so.

Powers said that because OUPD has been allowed by other agency to share their dogs, Alex will be made available regionally to assist other agencies as well.

“It’s sort of a way to pay it forward for all the help they’ve given us,” Powers said.

The department also hopes to acquire another dog to join the unit, but won’t know whether or not that’s possible until the first of the year when funding sources and a new budget are available.