August 26, 2008
For More Information
Contact: Gretl Plessinger
TALLAHASSEE -- Some hard working dogs at the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) are going to be a lot cooler during these dog days of summer thanks to a generous $27,500 donation from the Animal Welfare Foundation, Inc. A portion of the money is being used to purchase ice vests for the dogs, who work eight hour days at prison facilities statewide to sniff out weapons, guns, drugs, ammunition, alcohol, cell phones and other contraband both in the prison parking lots and on the prison grounds. The K-9s have such specialized training, they can sniff out drugs between a bologna and cheese sandwich, and not eat the sandwich.
“We are extremely grateful to the Animal Welfare Foundation, Inc., for their generous donation to our K-9 programs. These dogs and their handlers assist citizens of Florida every day, through finding missing children and elderly adults to catching escapees to stopping drugs, weapons and contraband cell phones from getting into our prisons. Our K-9 programs are a vital part of our public safety mission,” said Department of Corrections Secretary Walter McNeil.
Lorrie Nassofer, the Director of Animal Welfare, contacted the Department to ask what might be needed for the dogs. She subsequently donated money for the Department to purchase, among items like the ice vests, a dog specially trained to sniff out cell phones in prisons. Cell phones are considered contraband in prison because inmates can arrange escapes, drug buys, or conduct illegal business from behind bars. Contraband cell phones are becoming an increasing problem in prisons nationwide. In Fiscal Year 2007-08, 336 cell phones were confiscated from Florida prison inmates.
The DC has 36 teams of bloodhounds (and some beagles) trained and ready to assist throughout the state when emergency situations arise. Last year alone, the DC’s bloodhounds were called to assist sheriff’s offices, police departments and others in need 411 times – averaging more than one call per day. Its drug detection unit has eight teams of Labradors and one golden retriever who work, unannounced, at prisons statewide.
The mission of the DC’s Canine Tracking Teams is to track (via scent) escaped inmates, but with fewer and fewer escapes occurring (there have been no escapes from a secure perimeter in the last year), their services are now being used more often by local law enforcement who don’t have K-9 units of their own, or who need additional K-9s to assist their teams. All the Department’s K-9 teams are also part of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Child Abduction Response Team (CART), with whom they assist in finding missing children.
Washington Correctional Institution’s K-9 Tracking Team was recently selected to receive the 2007-08 Florida Missing Children’s Award for Trailing Team of the Year, to be presented to them on September 8, 2008 by Governor Crist. This team was instrumental in finding a missing seven-year-old boy who had wandered away from his home in Washington County on Christmas Eve.
The tracking teams are often called by local law enforcement to assist in finding lost children and elderly adults, even if they have their own K-9 units, because the DC dogs are not attack dogs. When they find their quarry, they bark and lick them.
The Animal Welfare Foundation, Inc., located in Winter Garden, donates funds to assist law enforcement agencies’ K-9 programs. Donations may be made to the Department’ canine units via the Corrections Foundation, 2601 Blair Stone Road, Tallahassee, FL 32399-2500, (850) 410-4475.
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Correctional Officer Inspector Brian White and Ziggy, CO Inspector Supervisor Kevin Dean, Barbara Joyner and Lorrie Nassofer with the Animal Welfare Foundation, Inc., CO Inspector Robert Herbrand and Roy
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Lt. James Kirkland from Santa Rosa CI and
bloodhound puppy “Belle”