K-9 units undergo annual fall certifications  

Lauren Estes-Velez

Hartselle Enquirer

Many Southeast police department’s K-9 units were utilized in a yearly training course where they are certificated (or re-certified) in their canine and handler requirements. This particular certification course was held at the Farmhouse, a portion of Asbury United Methodist Church in Madison.

Among those present was Morgan County Sheriff’s Office deputy and K-9 officer Kristin Barnett. She and her canine unit went through their training course, which took place on Wednesday, September 6 and Thursday, September 7.

The requirements for the course throughout the four-part program boil down to being obedient. Obedience is shown through calls made by the officer to the canine. In one specific instance, the canines are required to adhere to what the field judge’s call “Recalls, false starts and actual attacks which require the canine to catch the perpetrator in question and secure them until the officer can arrive.”

According to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, there are four separate trial parts that a K-9 unit goes through in order to pass the annual canine certification. The four sections include: Obedience, Agility, Searching and Attack and Recall.

The Obedience test consisted of verbal commands from the handler to the dog with words like: Sit, come, heel and they are done so without the leash. The Agility portion includes the dogs performing different tasks to ensure they are in shape for what the job requires. The test includes hurdles, a 6-foot scaling wall, a broad jump and a catwalk. The third portion utilizing a search test instigates a three-minute time limit that involves the finding and retrieving of selected articles such as a key, a shotgun shell or metal gun from a defined area. They also have to locate a suspect who is hiding in one of the five boxes.

The K-9’s are judged on the way they work, and penalties are assessed for lack of interest or leaving the search area.

The Enquirer captured the “Attack and Recall” both on film and through photographs. This test demonstrates the control of the dog under varied circumstances including attack under gunfire, recall-which is letting the dog off of the leash to chase a subject and then calling him off while he is in pursuit. False Start which shows the control of starting and stopping the drill, and attack without gunfire.

Both Wednesday and Thursday’s activities started around 9 a.m. and ended around 2 p.m. K-9 units are responsible for being re-certified each year.

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