Floyd County Police host K9 bomb dog training at Battey property

Thursday, March 28, 2024–1:25 p.m.

-Adam Carey, Rome News-Tribune-

This story is possible because of a news-sharing agreement with the Rome News-Tribune. More information can be found at northwestgeorgianews.com

Photo: K9 Officer Rex looks back at University of North Georgia Officer Dustin Singleton, indicating he’s found the decoy bomb and looking for his reward. (Adam Carey)

The K9 teams quickly spread out across the abandoned hospital building to cover as much ground as fast as possible.

Each handler moved to a floor, quickly opening doors and helping guide their canine partners as they sniffed the air intensely to detect the tiny particles that would tell them where the bomb was hidden.

One of the dogs began to whine, his huffing becoming more intense as he suddenly stopped and quietly stared at a cabinet. They’d found it.

Luckily it was a drill — this time.

The Floyd County Police Department hosted a Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency training event for K9 explosive ordnance detection teams.

There were 26 dog and handler teams from all over Georgia at the Battey Business Complex off Division Street, some coming from as far away as Camden County right above Jacksonville, Florida.

According to FCPD Sgt. Matt Henry, the three day event is a combination of classroom and fieldwork designed to keep all K-9 EOD teams up-to-date with the current tactics and training and to help evaluate the teams.

Henry and his K9 officer, Raider, have extensive experience detecting explosives all over the region, even finding explosives closer to home.

“There’s something about Polk County and pipe bombs,” Henry said. “Some folks just really love them down there.”

The dogs are trained to smell a variety of explosive materials at various scent levels. The longer a device has been in a specific area, the larger the device’s scent picture.

And unlike narcotics dogs, which are kept on reasonably short leashes lest a dog try to consume the narcotics it’s been trained to find, bomb dogs are kept on much longer leashes — just in case they find what they are looking for.

“Yes, we love our dogs, but they are tools,” Henry said. “And if they find a bomb, they might also set it off. So we want our handlers as far away from their K9s as possible if that were to happen.”

FCPD gets their dogs from a kennel in Florida that specializes in these types of working dogs, and bomb dogs typically have a working career of eight to 10 years.

The dogs begin training at an early age, and are screened out for various traits that might not make them good K-9s, such as being afraid of loud noises.

“We can’t have a K9 bomb dog that’s afraid of loud noises when they are working during an NFL game,” Henry said. “So when these dogs come to us, they are more or less ready to work.”

K9 units can cost anywhere from $5,000 to over $10,000 for a dog that is very highly trained. A lot of it really depends on the individual dog.

“Bomb dogs and narcotics dogs have about the same career lengths,” Henry said. “Apprehension dogs typically have a shorter career, maybe only five to six years, as what they do is very demanding.”

Henry’s previous dog, a German Shorthair Pointer named Blaze, retired recently and now lives with him and his children.

“I’m very happy with my K9 partners,” Henry said. “We’ve gotten to do a lot of neat things together, and traveled all across the region. We’re pretty lucky.”

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