Special to the Journal
Ten canines are now official state K-9s after receiving their badges and commissions as Texas game wardens. The K-9s were accompanied by their game warden partners during a graduation ceremony at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Austin headquarters this morning.
“In a very short period of time, the K-9 program has become a great asset to Texas game wardens, state and local law enforcement agencies, and the citizens we serve throughout Texas,” says Colonel Craig Hunter, Director of TPWD’s Law Enforcement Division.
The dogs underwent an extensive eight-week training led by Sgt. Wendell Nope of the Utah Department of Public Safety’s Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) program. The new K-9s received training in search and rescue, narcotics detection, and a few are also trained in resource recognition, which includes recovery of wildlife and gunpowder residue detection.
“The K-9 program, which began two years ago, has progressed attributes of our job- especially our search and rescue operations,” says game warden Captain Jason Davis, who oversees the K-9 team as part of the Law Enforcement Division’s Tactical Operations. “Now, we can go to the last place a person was and find them faster than we would during a full-area search.”
Davis says the dogs and their partners have become an asset to not only TPWD, but to other agencies as well.
“The K-9 program has evolved into a stand-alone unit due to the large amount of requests they receive,” says Davis. “Handlers and their dogs are dedicated to serving all of Texas, not just specific areas. They are often called to assist other state and local agencies with narcotics searches and search and rescue efforts.”
The graduates are:
“Turbo” partnered with game warden Isaac Ruiz
“Brooks” partnered with game warden Trent Herchman
“Blitz” partnered with game warden Sam Shanafelt
“Justin” partnered with game warden John Thorne
“Gus” partnered with game warden David Thorne
“Woodrow” partnered with game warden Derek Nalls
“Ray” partnered with game warden Scott Kirkpatrick
“Ruger” partnered with game warden Christy Vales
“Rusty” partnered with game warden Royce Ilse
“Cash” partnered with game warden Marcus Vela
The Utah DPS’ POST program is world-renowned, having trained more than 2,500 teams from 50 countries.
The new K-9s are joining the ranks of more than 500 Texas game wardens stationed around the state.