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Dept. of Corrections canines work beyond the walls of prison

GDOC canine units help outside agencies / Shannon Lilly (WGXA)

JACKSON, Ga. -- The Georgia Department of Corrections Canine Unit's work goes far beyond the walls of prison.

With 12 canine kennels, 24 dog handlers and more than 40 dogs across Middle Georgia, the dogs are deployed out to different law enforcement agencies to help stop crime.

"Let's say there's a missing person and they've been gone for several hours, instead of the sheriff's office trying to walk the woods and look for them it's a lot easier to call in a a dog and pick up the scent to lead us right to where that person is," said Major Stokes with the Twiggs County Sheriff's Office.

Stokes said the sheriff's office has one tracking dog right now.

"One dog after a while will get tired and you always need a back up," Stokes said.

Upkeep on an entire canine unit is costly.

"You've got vet bills," Stokes said. "You've got to take them to the vet once a month. You've got to have check-ups, their shots yearly. You've got to feed them."

That's where the DOC steps in.

"Our services are used throughout the state of Georgia," said Canine Operations Chief Brad Johnson. "I mean I can't think of a county in the state that hasn't used us in the past."

According to Johnson, last year the unit received an average of 78 calls a month from outside law enforcement agencies.

Deploying the dogs out costs the DOC little, and costs the counties nothing.

"Each deployment is an experience for our guys that could not be duplicated in a training atmosphere," Johnson said.

Johnson said bloodhounds are used to track and can pick up the scent of a missing or wanted person hours after that person has left the scene.

"We're constantly training and running and tracking, and even the narcotics side of it," Johnson said. "I mean it's an astronomical number when you start dealing with everybody we've assisted with and what we do and what would have happened without it."

Johnson said in 2016 the canine unit had more than 2,000 deployments. Nearly 800 of those deployments were for outside agencies.

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