LAKE WALES, Fla. (WFLA) – Florida arson dogs competed virtually to recertify on Thursday and among them were two K-9s and their partners from Lake Wales.
Paul Snider and K-9 Buffet, along with Jeff Batz and K-9 Booker, are from the Florida Office of the State Fire Marshal.
Outside of a pandemic, the dog and handler teams would have joined other arson dog teams across North America to train and certify in person but, for safety reasons, this year’s certification took place virtually.
Batz and Booker joined 8 On Your Side from Lake Wales for a brief demonstration of basic training efforts outside of a fire scene, which included a “Daisy wheel” with five “stations,” one of which contained a “hot can” of accelerant.
“Every morning, every night, we start our day good, we end our day good, with what’s known as ‘basics,'” Batz, who works with Florida’s Bureau of Fire, Arson and Explosives, explained.
Booker, and other dogs, will be trained daily with a canister of 50 percent evaporated gasoline.
The K-9 companion will be awarded with food, which is how they eat day-to-day. These dogs never see a food bowl, they are only fed out-of-hand from their handler while training or on the job.
“So they have to do drills like this every single days, multiple times a day in order to feed their dog,” Batz explained. “These dogs don’t eat unless they work, so you have to work them seven days a week, just to make sure they maintain the proper nutrition, make sure they’re getting fed every day,”
“It’s actually, very, very good to keep their drive going. They want to work, they want to do this job.”
The program is sponsored by State Farm, and the State Farm Arson Dog Program has trained and placed over 400 dogs in 46 states, as well as three dogs in Canada.
A representative from State Farm confirmed all the K-9s came from an animal shelter or rescue… or in the case of Booker, was given a second chance, a “career change,” after not being so great in guide-dog school.