Dogs With (Dangerous) Jobs
Cops using dogs to hunt criminals as a practice as old as London constable sniffing, Jack, the ripper and drug detection dogs are as old as the war on drugs as training methods become more complex, though their jobs become more specialized and there's a new question of where the line is between using dogs natural skills to help catch crooks and save lives and protecting the health of those dogs who can be trained to do anything for a partners approval. And so into this comes a new drug and a new crisis for years on despite all the work that's been done including this safe injection site. We're learning the opioid overdose. Problem isn't getting better. In fact, it may be getting worse. Thousands of lives per year hanging in the balance. So the RCMP has begun training their dogs to detect fennel, but fennel is so dangerous that one slip up could kill a dog. Tasked with sniffing it out. So how exactly do you train a dog for that kind of danger? And who makes the call on when to deploy an animal that obviously can't properly understand exactly what it's been asked to do. Are we asking too much of man's best friend or is this just a fair price to pay in the midst of an epidemic of lost lives? I'm heath Rawlins. And this is the big story. Kyle Edwards of Maclean's had a chance to witness the MP's new training program firsthand. So Kyle we'll start with who is Kelly Kelly is a German shepherd. She's a boat a year-old. Well, she's probably over a year old now at the time of reporting the piece, but she's this gorgeous German shepherd that I got to meet in his fail Berta. And I was there late September. I think and yes, she was just starting out her training. She was about two weeks into learning how to kind of add different odors to tour it essentially like kind of feeling the different odors, become more familiar with them. So that out in the field, she'll be able to detect things like what does that training process actually like for these dogs? Oh, it's bizarre. Actually, I think when I was. Was when I was there. I was really surprised at how like it's first of all I went I walk into this kind of the RCMP's dog training headquarters. It's just outside of in his fellow Berta. When I was there. It was very foggy outside. And it's like this large facility must be several several anchors acres of land. It's huge and you pull up there. And they're they have this little garage and inside there's this weird little setup where it's kind of like in a story describe it as like a misshapen cocky rink where literally kind of looks like a hockey rink, except you know, there's like the white walls, and there's like these black things on the walls. That are connected to tubes. That contain different sense like fennel heroin cocaine what I found so bizarre about it though was that there. It's weird to see a bunch of grown men getting really excited with their dogs like really shouting really loudly at and. Every time the dog was able to safely sniff out the fed Noel that was in this container ACOG ball shootout and the whole room of like a dozen or so male police officers. Would would just burst into cheers and start petting the dog and really. Really trying to encourage dog and let her letter let Kelly. No that she did a good job. But it's it's kind of fascinating too. Because you get to see the intensity of the dog the dog really knows by only two weeks killing new absolutely knew what she was doing. You could really see the focus when she knew that fennel was locked somewhere inside that container on the other side of the wall. Like, so it's kind of like this tube. She basically sniffs the holes along the wall. And there's like a tube that connects to an odor just to find the one that has the fennel she has to find the one that has the Fenton hill. And oftentimes, you know, they they put Kong balls and all the different holes to try and confuse her to let her know because she'll maybe she'll see the Congo and think that's what I'm looking for right? But no, she's looking for something that's out on the streets hurting, a lot of people. How recent is it that the RCMP of started to have dogs sniff for the RCMP begin trials kind of like. So it goes back to maybe twenty sixteen when the. Head trainer at the RCMP's. Name is Gary creed he was kind of sitting at home one day recovering from surgery, and he's he was kind of thinking about you know, how the RCMP can kind of tackle the ever-growing trafficking of fennel and one of the ways of solving this war on drugs is through police work and not everyone agrees with that. But he was basically just kind of trying to come up with ideas of how we can do this. Because at the time there was no Suadeau odor, basically, manufactured commercially, manufactured sent that you can find for a lot of other different drugs like heroin or cocaine. Yep. Yeah. So he had been getting tons of calls from police officers across the country as well. As former dog handlers within the RCMP who are now working in the private sector, and they were asking if the dogs that he breeds and trains if they knew how to safely detect fennel, and they didn't. So he thought to himself. There has to be a way to do this. There has to be some way we can safely allow our dogs to kind of become familiar with the sense included onto their odor pallets. So he along with the RCMP's drug lab they developed this liquid solution. And this was so at the time this was in two thousand sixteen and they developed this liquid solution that so they essentially just turned the powdered sentinel that they find on the street until like a liquid. So that it wasn't something that you can necessarily inhale. It was in two thousand seventeen that they began actually training all of their dogs to properly detect fennel using this liquid solution. And so it turned out that after all the trials after all the testing the liquid solution. Feno the liquid is Fenella sensually equates to the powdered substance that they're finding on the street. So they're out there. There's some of these dogs are out there working now. Yes, right now, all of the RCMP's narcotic dogs that sniff out for legal substances across Canada of which there is about one hundred twenty. They're all currently trained on fennel. Wow. So do we have any idea yet? I guess how much of a dent this has made like how much how much fennel these dogs are responsible for and what the are Sam is hoping like they can do to get the stuff off the street. Well, I think for right now, they're really just trying to cut off the flow of feno that is continuing to enter Canadian cities and small towns, and they've had they've had some large success with it in twenty seventeen just a few months after RCMP's German shepherds were trained on trained how to seek out. Federal there were two major federal busts along the trans Canada highway in British Columbia, and they were made by a guy I was actually able to speak to at the innisfail headquarters in L Berta, his name was corporal Clayton could tell your and he's also Manitoba boy so long we got along pretty well. Yeah. It was really it was really interesting to hear hear what he had to say. So. He he he made his first bust not long after his dog. Dudes was trained was trained on feno was a bust of twelve thousand federal tablets. Okay. So actually explained to me because you talk to this guy because this is one thing that I actually don't know having never been never been stopped in and had a dog called on me. What are those? What are those bus? Look like, what are the dogs do when they get to the scene. It's really interesting. So in one case Clayton can tell your he pulled over a man for speeding. He was driving this old style van and he became suspicious of the person who is driving. I'm not sure what those indicators were. He wasn't. He didn't share those with me at the time. This was an ongoing the song going trial, but he became suspicious of the driver who was Nell dearly man and told I guess based on those grounds he said, I'm going to run a police dog around your vehicle. And so he goes and gets dudes. And so he goes and gets dudes at the back of his police vehicle, and he's basically on a short leash. She kind of holds her kind of slowly walks around the van and dudes, she'll you know, she'll do what she does. She's she sniffs along the van and while it's happening. Tell your can cut notice her her mood changing he can see certain things certain reactions that she's having so in that moment even before the final alert. He knew that. There was something in there. And wants dudes was also certain that there was something in the van not knowing exactly what it was. It could have been could have been one of a number of drugs. She gave her final Lert, which is a sit. So she just did a nice simple, sit and that gave can tell you the right to search the vehicle from the inside. And that guy in the vehicle doesn't know. But when that dog sits down he's in trouble, right? Yeah. When I was reporting the story, I really got the sense that this was something that you kind of get a really strong sense of how. How I guess sophisticated. Maybe the trafficking industry is because after the first initial search Clayton ca Tellier found nothing in the van. He looked around looking into the seats that all that stuff. There was nothing in there. It was only until he took the van to a to a garage and Chile back BC. He basically stripped the entire vehicle remove the tires started pulling apart carpets, and he removed the interior, and he started reaching his hands inside like the walls of the vehicle down like the wheel. Well, and that's where stashed he started pulling out bag after bag of basically ziplock bags full of fennel, tablets. So you had to make that call based on the fact that dog sat down to two hall that vehicle often strip down to it's like right frames? And that's the kind of relationship that these that these guys have been trained. Yeah. NFL? So like, I would wonder if like, okay? Well, maybe she doesn't have at this time. There's nothing he was absolutely one hundred. Percent. I think he had he had all the belief in the world. I think in his dog at least when I spoke to it just felt like he the you just kind of get the notice the relationship that they have it's it's really something. That's unique. Do they live together just work together? They live together. Yeah. And in many cases, when the dog this police dog will will spend about seven or nine years on the force. They start from anywhere from one to two years old, and yeah, they'll live together. And in some cases when they retire. They'll live out the rest of their lives with their handlers. The you said safely sniff fennel how dangerous is that for a dog. Oh, it's incredibly dangerous it it's just as dangerous as it is for humans for granules or two milligrams is enough to to kill a person that is like about like, four grains of salt. Okay. And they're getting their noses up to that. Anyway is more dangerous to search for them. The other drugs that are in their pallet. Absolutely. I would say so it's killing more and. More people more and more Canadians every single year. It takes such an incredibly small dose to kill a human as it does dog. Are there any regulations from the RCMP around when they will or won't send their dog into a space when there might be those, you know, grains, of salt of fennel around a lot of the officers. I spoke to basically stress the fact that they won't unnecessarily deploy their canine partners. If they see that there is a substance littered around two suspects house, if they if it's noticeably visible, and they believe it could be a dangerous situation at that point. There's really no need for them. Right. You to deploy their dog? But yeah, I mean at the same time though, I Gary creed. The head trainer of the RCMP. He was a bit blunt about it. He basically stressed that. Yes. These dogs have dangerous jobs. That's part of the reason why why they have he he said that if they wouldn't they would never. Unnecessarily expose their dogs to defend all, but if it meant saving somebody's life, of course, they would and where do animal rights groups lineup on that? According to pita who I did reach out to for the story. They were in one hundred percent support of police dogs believing that they did serve an important public service. Basically, they were however against the breeding of police dogs, which the RCMP does they had. They breed all dogs on site in near innisfail Alberta. But the L Berta society for the prevention of cruelty to animals was far less concerned about really the use of police dogs. They were in favour note concerns at all of how the animals were treated or what they were doing in their daily lives have any dogs. Oh deed in Kennedy at since the program started. No, no dogs have oh deed in Canada. At least according to Gary creed. I asked him why why that is why he thought no dogs. I've ever overdosed in Canada. He said just luck. This is a question that I don't mean in jest is this another career path for dogs that were once trained to sniff for marijuana in if not what happened to the dogs whose job it was to sniff for pot the dogs that were trained to sniff out. Hot are no longer working for the ICMP. Really? Yeah. There was about just over a dozen of them, and they were all like kind of forced into early retirement actually Clayton can tell your dog dudes who I previously mentioned with the legalization of marijuana. She was forced into retirement because they simply just couldn't have her alert anybody now walking around carrying. Yeah. Exactly. And so they were they were all forcing early retirement. I asked tell you what would happen to dudes. I don't think dues will be retiring with your she'll be spending the rest of his as at his house. But he was telling me that. He he has a homeland for her Kyle. Are they good dogs? They are good dogs. I was a little afraid of them though. Really? Yeah. I was big dogs. They're big they're fast. I I was holding a Kong ball and the dog just wanted to rip it out of my hands are at no, I think I just had his pet and he wanted it back really badly. Didn't get hurt. Now. Kyle Edwards of McLeans. That was the big story for more from us. Visit us at the big story, podcast dot CA. Check out our other episodes drop us line. You can hit us up on social media at big story podcast on Twitter on Facebook on Instagram. We are as always wherever you get your podcast. And when you get there. It's subscribe hit rate hit review, and then, you know, share a link and push it onto your friends and tell them to check out our podcast. I'm Jordan heath Rawlings. Thank you for listening. We'll talk tomorrow.