FAYETTEVILLE : 2 UA police dogs have noses keyed to find explosives

The University of Arkansas' newest police officers aren't lazy, it's just that frantic scratching doesn't mix well with explosives.

Dox and Orno are the UA Police Department's new explosive-detecting dogs. The Hungarian-bred German shepherds can identify the scents put off by a wide array of explosive components.

When they find something, they sit politely - waiting for their reward, often a tennis ball or some small toy.

The dogs' first day on the job was June 1, where they helped sweep campus buildings in advance of the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. shareholders meeting. The university bought the dogs for $16,000 from Von Klein Stein Working Dogs of Sherwood.

The tab was paid by UA's athletic department, said Lt. Matt Mills, department spokesman.

Mills said the dogs will be used to check facilities before athletic and special events, which the university had been contracting out. The dogs also will patrol the campus, as both are trained in protection as well, he said.

Because the dogs aren't trained in narcotics detection, Mills said campus police will continue to rely on neighboring agencies for support. They will, in turn, be used to assist the departments of other communities, he said.

Bomb dogs are in use around the world, but only three are stationed at Northwest Arkansas police departments - including Dox and Orno. For years, Bentonville police were the only agency in this corner of the state to have a certified explosive-detection dog.

Handler Guary Morgan has gotten used to responding to calls all over the area in his 10 years on the job. He also works closely with the Springdale Police Department's bomb quad.

Morgan said he averages about five calls a month, which may not sound like much. A certified explosive dog can search an area quickly, he said, "and a lot more thoroughly than 30 people could do all day."

Guns and ammunition are the most common items Mor- gan said he's found.

"I just hold the dumb end of the leash; the dog does all the work," he said.

Morgan said he is pleased UA bought the dogs, even though it means they won't have to contract with his company, Specialized Canine Protective Services.

"I love the fact they have bomb dogs," Morgan said.

Morgan said until recently, if he wasn't available the nearest bomb dog was in Little Rock.

Staff Sgt. Travis Taylor, kennel master at Little Rock Air Force Base, is ready to send his dogs to help police departments and agencies statewide - with his commander's approval.

Taylor is in charge of several dogs stationed at the base, which take turns patrolling it. He said they have a mixture of explosive- and narcotic-detecting dogs.

The dogs typically are used as a preventative measure, Taylor said. Someone may be less likely to bring contraband on a base if they see dogs patrolling, he said.

The dogs also are a deterrent to people officers encounter, Taylor said. A person getting pulled over may get agitated with an officer and start to get out of their car, but once they see the dog "they are more likely to cooperate instead of getting bit."

Wal-Mart Stores also appreciates the security offered by dogs and has its own bomb detector dog, a German shepherd named Maverick, said Patty Morgan, the dog's handler and wife of Guary Morgan.

Patty Morgan said the company has long hired dogs, but formed its own unit six years ago.

She said her primary focus is the Bentonville headquarters, but they also work the company's large events and help out at Razorback games.

In time savings alone, the company has gotten its money's worth with Maverick, Morgan said. Items in question can be checked and cleared without having to evacuate places, such as Reynolds Razorback Stadium, she said.

Before UA purchased dogs, Morgan said she and Maverick would assist local law enforcement agencies when needed. She said they also frequent public events, such as ribbon cuttings.

Maverick is trained in handler protection, Morgan said, but "he's a social butterfly."

When Arkansas police agencies shop for a dog, most go to Criss Gardner at Von Klein Stein.

Gardner is a dog handler for North Little Rock police and one of five people in the National Narcotics Detector Dog Association who can certify dogs. The organization also certifies explosive-detecting dogs, which have more stringent requirements, he said.

Explosives dogs have to be able to discern explosive ingredients in a wide range of situations, which could alter the smell of the component. Narcotics dogs aren't tested the same, he said, "because marijuana smells the same whether it's in a Lexus, on a Harley or a Greyhound bus."

Gardner said handlers of explosive-detecting dogs have different tasks to perform than do narcotics handlers. He said if a handler finds a bomb, they need to be able to tell the bomb technician everything they can about it, from placement to the colors of the wires.

Handlers also have to take a tactical approach to sweeping an area, Gardner said. He said when he's searched UA's Bud Walton Arena, they marked each room that has been cleared.

If those rooms were disturbed, they were searched

again, Gardner said.

Chris Krodell and Jeff Shetlar, handlers with the UA police, went through Gardner's program before taking the dogs back to Fayetteville.

Gardner said the amount of training a dog receives increases its price. He said his dogs typically range from $3,500-$6,500. He said even from good lines, only a small percentage of dogs are good enough for detection work.

Working dogs are often imported from Europe because of stricter standards, Gardner said. The United States doesn't have the same requirements, he said.

Here a dog may have faults, such as bad hips, but be registered by the American Kennel Club, so people will breed them, Gardner said. In Europe, that same dog couldn't be bred. "We train real good coon dogs and duck dogs, but we've butchered a lot of breeds," he said.

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