Lyon County Sheriff's office adds K-9 unit

Lyon County Sheriff’s deputy Keith Suits has his hands full with “Tanks,” a Belgian Malinois pup that an anonymous donor presented to Sheriff Brent White’s office. Suits has previous experience with K-9 units, as the dogs are called. He hopes to follow up on Tanks’ upcoming obedience training with additional training in drug detection and suspect tracking.

Lyon County Sheriff Brent White, like most law enforcement administrators, knows that modern budgets leave little room for anything beyond strict essentials. Nevertheless, he kept his wish list in mind, just in case a potential donor asked. Now that one has, he hopes that donation of a Belgian Malinois pup will result in a drug-sniffing, suspect-tracking K-9 unit who packs quite a bite, if needed.

“This dog was donated by a Lyon County resident, who does not wish to be named,” White announced. “The resident purchased another Malinois out of the same litter as this dog, ‘Tanks,’ ” he said, as Tanks the puppy playfully scuffled with anyone who scooped him up off the floor.

The sheriff revealed that the donor had contacted him previously to inquire about whether White’s office had a K-9 program. “We told him we did not and never had in the history of the Lyon County Sheriff’s office, to my knowledge and this would be the first,” White said. “This gentleman just wanted to be a good citizen and he wanted law enforcement to have the tools we need to serve our citizens better. I just thought that was outstanding.”

That anonymous donor made delivery of the animal last week. “So, we will take deputy (Keith) Suits and this animal and possibly another person in the sheriff’s office with some prior K-9 experience. They will travel soon out of state to visit with a trainer to see what we need to do with the dog between now and the time the dog will be tested to see if he has the skill-set to become, hopefully, a dual-purpose dog.”

Dual-purpose, in this case, would mean a dog who could detect narcotics as well as a tracking and bite dog, if needed. “Definitely, with three prisons in our community, we think it’s necessary to have a dog pretty close,” White said.

The Kentucky State Police have two K-9 units fairly close by here. One is in the Calvert City area. Another is here, but assigned to the drug interdiction team out of Bowling Green DESI (Drug Enforcement Special Investigations) West. “We don’t always get to utilize those dogs,” White said. “So, this would give us another tool in the toolbox.”

Deputy Suits has worked in White’s office since March. Prior to that, the Livingston County native was a deputy in the Caldwell County Sheriff’s office for five years. “Tanks is about nine weeks old,” Suits stated, as the puppy scampered around the office. “Most people say it’s kind of like a German shepherd on steroids or on an energy drink, I guess you could say, because they’re very hyperactive and playful. They’re very good dogs. They listen to you well. They’re very protective, very intelligent, and they make good police dogs. We’re going to get him some obedience training for now. Then, somewhere around 1 year old, we’ll get him trained to be a certified police K-9.”

Suits worked for the Kentucky Department of Corrections from 2006-13, when he entered law enforcement. For more than three years, he worked and ran some of the bloodhounds as human tracking dogs at the Western Kentucky Correctional Complex. “It’s going to be exciting, a challenge, and a whole lot of work,” he acknowledged. “I’m going to need a lot of patience with him. It probably will take 95% of my work-related time to work with him, to get him where we want him.”

Like the sheriff he serves, Suits sees great potential benefits in the project. A talented, trained narcotics detection dog could help tremendously on traffic stops. “If there’s something we think might be in a vehicle,” Suits explained, “if we don’t get consent to search, we might be able to run the dog around the vehicle and possibly find narcotics that way. That would give us probable cause to get in the vehicle.”