BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) – The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office is training their K-9 unit with their aviation unit to reduce response times to rural areas of the county.
It’s something the sheriff’s office said they have been working on for a few months.
“The goal is to reduce response times to events that might happen out in the rural areas of Manatee County,” Sgt. Steven Schenard said. “Myakka City, Duette, things like, they’re an hour aware from us here, drive time.”
“If an event were to happen out there now we would be able to land a helicopter here at the dispatch center, fly the dog out to the event and we’d have a 10 minute response time or less instead of an hour.”
The sheriff’s office has nine dual-use K-9s. On Thursday, K-9 and Deputy Wolfe, K-9 Diesel and Deputy Gerholdt and K-9 Phantom and Deputy Sutton were involved in the flights and training exercise.
The K-9s are trained to follow human odor and footsteps after the helicopter lands and spread the scent.
Schenard said getting this far with the joint training has been a long process.
“We spent an entire day down at our hangars just getting our dogs used to getting in and out of the helicopter without the engine even turned on,” he said. “From there, we just kind of elevated and we turned the engine on but we didn’t go for a ride. And then we got them used to that.”
“We got them used to the pilots and the observers that are in flight suits,” Schenard continued. “And it ended a couple weeks ago with us taking a ride down the beach with the dogs up in the helicopter and now we’re here today to add the final step, which is an actual training event once the dog comes out of the helicopter.”
He said some of the dogs acted as if they were “going for a Sunday car ride,” but others were a little more excited.
The sergeant said all the officers were able to calm down and get used to the helicopter environment.
This joint training is unique in our area to Manatee County.
“We have a very unique county, a very large geographical county. So with 9 dog teams, we want to make sure we’re servicing east county residents just as well as we are people in Bradenton and things like that,” Schenard said.