Sheriff's Department's drug dogs heading back to patrol

With $11,000 from the meth coalition, and the remainder squeezed out of an already thin departmental budget, Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong said Wednesday his drug dog program is about to be reborn.

"The sheriff is footing the bill out of his own budget to re-create the drug dog program because he is committed to fighting methamphetamine," said Chief Deputy Steve Schuette.

On May 4, four trained pups - three Labradors and a Chesapeake Bay retriever - will arrive in the city. For 10 days they will undergo testing of their skills and at the end, the two top dogs will be selected to become the Sheriff's Department's newest and only working dogs.

The cost: $13,200.

The last drug dog on the clock was Luke, and his tenure with the department was embattled at best.

Donated to the city by a Carson City woman in 2002, Luke worked for a while on the streets. Then, when city supervisors awarded a former canine deputy $63,000 dollars after she sued for overtime pay, Furlong thought it best to suspend the drug dog program until the fine details of the duty could be worked out.

First Luke landed in the animal shelter, however public outcry and Furlong's own feelings of guilt rescued the hound.

Luke then wandered the halls of the department and lived with the sheriff, until Nevada State Prison decided they'd give him a try.

But then NSP determined the program wasn't feasible, and Luke came back to the department.

In his last months as K9 cop, he was plagued with foot problems, Furlong said, and the decision was made that at the age of 5, it was time for Luke to retire.

In April, he took up residence - as just a dog - with a private family.

With two new dogs coming this way and veteran deputies becoming rookie handlers, Furlong said the best choice for commander of the unit is Sgt. Brian Humphrey.

Humphrey spent several years as a dog handler with the department. His K9 partner, Tahoe, was Carson City's most famous and beloved K9 cop.

"Brian has been the dog-handler-of-the-century for the department and I have full faith and confidence in him," the sheriff said.

Tahoe, whom Humphrey took home upon the dog's retirement, succumbed to illness in 2005.

Furlong said once the first two dogs are settled in, he will consider bringing more.

The only issue is money, he said.

For each dog, a patrol car has to be equipped with a cage, heat sensors and an automatic door opener in case of fire.

Then there is the care and feeding costs associated with the program.

Furlong said the department may have to resort to private funding to help foot the bill.

But despite the obstacles, he is determined to make it work.

"It's critical to have drug dogs in support of the methamphetamine and other drug operations we are running," he said. "Without them, we are at a disadvantage. The drug dogs really enhance detection."

• Contact reporter F.T. Norton at or 881-1213.


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