In 1998, the Sheriff’s Office was successful in securing private grant money to help fund the creation of the Sheriff’s Office Canine Unit, beginning with one dual-purpose patrol/narcotics dog. The Sheriff K-9 Unit currently operates with all 5 dogs being donated at no cost to the county or Sheriff budget.

The primary function of the Sheriff’s K-9 Patrol/Narcotics Unit is to provide assistance to the Sheriff’s Criminal Fugitive and Non-Support detective squads with warrant service throughout Allegheny County.  The fugitive squad K-9’s are dual-purpose patrol/narcotics, and are certified in 4 odors: Marijuana, Cocaine, Heroin, and Meth. They are trained in tracking, building, woods, area searches, and apprehension. The unit also makes itself available to all squads in all divisions.  On a daily basis, these detectives go into houses, apartment buildings and other facilities where wanted persons are believed to be hiding, putting these deputies at great risk of serious injury from assaults.  Suspects often hide in places where, if not for the keen senses of the canine, the person would go undetected, or could position himself for an ambush of the searching officers.  Using a highly trained canine and a skilled handler in these situations significantly increases the safety level for these deputies.

In addition, the use of a canine in such situations dramatically decreases the likelihood that the detectives will be forced to use deadly force in affecting an arrest.  Canine program studies have shown a marked decrease in officer-involved shootings in direct proportion to an increase in the deployment of a canine team.  There is, therefore, convincing evidence that we decrease the potential for assaults on our deputies by deploying our canine unit for building searches.

The primary function of the Sheriff K-9 Explosives/Patrol Unit is to patrol county and city buildings in the downtown area, such as courts, buildings, garages, and prisoner areas. The E.O.D. K-9 was obtained through Region 13 Homeland Security. It is regularly assigned to Heinz Field for sporting events such as Steelers games, was assigned to the MLB All-Star Game and week- long events in 2006 at PNC Park, and also utilized for securing areas for dignitary protection. It is also patrol trained in tracking, building, woods, area searches, and apprehension.

The Sheriff K-9 Bloodhound Unit began in 2007, and is utilized in tracking, and scent discrimination. It is assigned to a writ division handler, which enables the Bloodhound to be on the road at all times to assist when needed. The K-9 has been used to track fugitives, lost children, senior citizens, or victims who may be disoriented and lost. The Bloodhound Unit is available to all police departments in Allegheny County and the surrounding areas.



 

The Allegheny County Sheriff K-9 Unit handlers participate in an intense, 15 week K-9 academy training course. The Sheriff’s K-9 Unit trains at the Pittsburgh Police K-9 academy, and also attends in-service weekly training after graduation at the K-9 school.

The Sheriff K-9 handlers have participated in national K-9 training seminars nationwide, including the 2007 Eden Consulting National Seminar held in Pittsburgh, Pa., the K-9 H.I.T.S. (Handler Instructor Training Seminar) in Orlando, Florida, and has participated in N.P.W.D.A. (North American Police Work Dog Association) nationals, I.R.T.B. (Incident Response to Terrorist Bombings) Course in New Mexico, K-9 first aid training seminars, Pennsylvania Narcotics Officers Association training courses, and other in-service and con-ed training.

The K-9 Unit also responds to requests for assistance from local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies on a daily basis.  Those requests range from, but are not limited to, narcotic searches, building searches, area searches, article searches, tracking, felony apprehensions of non-compliant actors, detection for narcotic presence and crowd control.  The K-9 unit has responded to hundreds of calls throughout Allegheny County as well as surrounding counties.  The Sheriff’s Office K-9s have been responsible for the apprehension of dozens of fugitives as well as seizing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of illegal narcotics.


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In 2007, money was raised by a 14 year old student from Pittsburgh, through her non-profit K-9 organization K.O.P.P. (Kanine Officer Protection Program) to supply Kevlar vests for each Sheriff K-9. Because of her efforts, each Sheriff dog is protected when on a felony search with a bullet/stab resistant vest.

The Sheriff K-9 Deputies are members of I.P.W.D.A. (International Police Work Dog Assoc.), N.A.P.W.D.A. (North American Police Work Dog Assoc.), P.N.O.A. (Pennsylvania Narcotics Officers Assoc.), and Dogs Against Drugs Drugs/Dogs Against Crime.