Capital Region K9s are top dogs at Capitol

March 13, 2019 10:55 PM

ALBANY – Usually, in the Legislative Office Building’s press room, a lot of alpha dogs gather to push their agenda. On Wednesday, it was all alpha dogs – K9 officers from several Sheriff’s Departments.

“A lot goes into the selection of the dogs,” said Ken Stern of the Albany County Sheriff’s Office. He’s a top area trainer. “We look for a high drive, a very stable dog, something that we can bring around people and they're very relaxed."


His K9 Ziva, a Belgian Malinois, is rewarded with a toy. Each task is considered a game by the dog. Albany County has 10 dogs: five for drugs, five for explosives.

“These dogs all work for a reward, a toy reward usually,” said Stern. “Her favorite thing is a ball and a rope. She'll do anything for it. When she's looking for drugs or even a person her reward is a ball and a rope. So we find dogs at a young age that have that high toy drive and we're able to teach them the game, per se, and the things that they need to do."

Immediate praise came from new K9 handler Daniel Coppola, who is working with first year K9 Leonitis in Schenectady County: “(Stern) knows his stuff. Because of him, this dog's found at least two guns on search warrants. He's been part of a couple apprehensions in Schenectady County."

They gathered on the 77th anniversary of the establishment of the U.S. K9 Corps. Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara hosted K9 Veterans Day at the State Capitol on Wednesday.

"A lot of these dogs have lost their lives in the line of duty in protection of the officers or in protection of citizens,” said Santabarbara.

The one thing you hear over and over – whether it's drugs, explosives or missing people – K9 officers are an invaluable tool.

"They love going to schools, the kids love them, it's a great bond builder for law enforcement and the public,” said Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple.

They have two in the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and are working to get a third.

"We want to be able to purchase this dog and outfit it without affecting the taxpayers,” said Sheriff Jeff Smith. “And usually in our community, they've been very supportive in years' past."


WNYT Staff

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