“That’s because all of the dogs in our current investigative units originally came from that country [Czech Republic],” Miami-Dade Police Sgt. Eric Mendez said speaking to a Hammocks District Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) audience on June 27.
“European-bred German Shepherds have proven the best for the apprehension and attack work we do,” Mendez added, relating how Miami-Dade Police Department selects dogs for attack and apprehension.
“These dogs have already had at least six months training in their native country before coming to the U.S.,” he explained about the 18 current “K-9s” (a homophone of canine) who serve with the 16-member Miami- Dade County unit.
Distinguishing between attack and detection training among different breeds, Mendez said German Shepherds remained the most commonly used for “their inbred aggression and intelligence, as well as their discipline in attack situations.”
The unit also uses “search and rescue” dogs, like “Cody,” a bloodhound brought to the session who met CAC members after Sgt. Mendez’s descriptions of varied types bred for different purposes.
A separate training routine is used for detection or explosive-sniffing dogs who “sniff out” illicit substances such as drugs or explosives, the job assigned to a totally separate unit at Miami International Airport.
The special world of K-9 unit dogs and handlers as described by Mendez included:
• Once trained, an attack dog, its handler is the sole human or animal recognized as an “Alpha” individual; all other humans or animals rank below the dog’s sense of protocol.
• Feeding is confined to a special diet of high protein dry dog food, provided only once daily because “treats as rewards are not standard procedure for attack animals;”
• A typical attack dog’s longevity is “not more than eight to 10 years due to the high stress situations that such dogs must necessarily live with;”
• Cadaver dogs trained to detect the odor of decomposing bodies have noses so sensitive they’re capable of locating bodies under water, and
• Dogs upon retirement “are always kept by their handler” because no provision is made for their “after-service” life.
Mendez, a 22-year veteran with four years’ service with the police dog unit, was joined by Officer Pedro Otano during the session at Hammocks Police District station.
Asked about the cost of an imported pre- trained German Shepherd with Czech commands, Mendez quoted a price of $12,500, adding “but they’re worth their weight in gold,”