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Sheriff’s Office Introduces Newest Officer K-9 Tia

December 26, 2018

K-9 Tia, one of the newest officers of the Wetzel County Sheriff's Office, is already responsible for making arrests.

Tia was purchased for $4,500 from Ultimate Working Dogs, located in St. Albans, W.Va. Tia, purchased in September, turned two-years-old on Dec. 11 and is a Giant Schnauzer. She is trained in narcotics detection and tracking. At this point, K-9 Tia has been fully trained and certified in the state for narcotics and tracking; Detective Donnie Harris, from the New Martinsville Police Department, assisted with some of the training.

Tia belongs to the Wetzel County Sheriff's Office and is handled by Deputy Jordan Swanberg. Tia has been with Swanberg since the end of October but was just certified on Dec. 5; within a couple of weeks, Swanberg and Tia have already made a few arrests.

Article Photos

Photo by Telina Frye
Tia poses with her handler, Wetzel County Sheriff’s Deputy Jordan Swanberg, and Sheriff Mike Koontz.

According to WCSO officials, Tia and Swanberg stopped three cars in one weekend. It was explained that once K-9 Tia has indicated that she has sensed something inside a vehicle, her fellow officers are allowed to search that vehicle, whether or not the person in the vehicle agrees to the search. If an officer would be without a K-9 and is told no to searching a vehicle, the officer is not allowed to search the vehicle.

As far as the tracking goes, Tia will be able to assist in situations of someone being lost in the woods, or if law enforcement is looking for an item. Deputy Swanberg also explained a situation in which a chase had taken place in Hundred. The Chief of Police had been chasing a suspect, who then exited his vehicle and took off on foot. The man had been spotted exiting his vehicle with a bag. When the suspect was eventually detained, he did not have the bag. Swanberg had arrived on scene, and Tia was used to track and discover the item, which ended up only being a sweatshirt. However, law enforcement was very impressed and happy that Tia discovered the item.

It was explained that tracking an item is a little different than narcotic detection. As far as narcotics go, K-9s only have certain ones that they will track. They use a different part of their nose, in a sense, when they're tracking, because they are just tracking fresh odor. K-9s can tell the difference between something that's old and something that's fresh. In the previously mentioned instance, the suspect being chased had dropped a hat on his way out of the vehicle, so Swanberg was able to use the hat as a reference point. Tia was able to track that smell. This is something a human could never do. Sheriff Koontz said tracking is a secondary reason the WCSO purchased Tia. If she can track, that skill will be very useful.

Tia lives with Deputy Swanberg. He had two German Shepherds already, and adding Tia has been a bit of an adjustment. Swanberg has learned quickly that working dogs always want to work. He explained that the first few days Tia was with him, she found entertainment in things he never thought she would have interest in - such as his kayak and tearing pieces of insulation out of the wall. Swanberg said this behavior is evident on days Tia doesn't work. Therefore, she enjoys some outdoor exercise on her off-days. Swanberg described Tia as "all puppy," and as soon as she exits the vehicle, she is very excited.

Sheriff Koontz stated the amount of time a K-9 spends in the workforce varies from eight to 10 years.

Another WCSO K-9, which is eight-years-old, is in great health. The plan is to work him until he is nine or 10.

Tia attends work with Swanberg and goes everywhere with him. She has her own compartment in the back of his cruiser. Swanberg explained that when traveling, he usually stops about every hour, to every hour-and-a-half to allow Tia to exit the cruiser and run.

It was noted all of Tia's family, that came from the same kennels, are mostly males and have their tails docked and ears cropped. Tia did not have it done. Swanberg said he likes this, as it makes Tia appear friendlier. However, it was noted that having a tail presents its own problems, as it is very heavy. Sheriff Koontz jokingly said that all of the other Schnauzers are jealous because Tia has a tail.

On a more serious note, Sheriff Koontz explained the reason the sheriff's office chose a Schnauzer was because the look is not as intimidating. Tia is not a "bite dog," and is not trained to attack. The sheriff's office wanted a dog that would be friendly with the public. Sheriff Koontz said he felt Tia fulfilled that request.

Swanberg explained when Sheriff Koontz inquired about getting a Giant Schnauzer, he thought it was a joke. Now that he has Tia, he understands the reasoning in using Schnauzers in a K-9 Unit. Koontz said Tia was recommended by a representative at Ultimate Working Dogs. When the office inquired about a K-9, the representative highly recommended, not only a Schnauzer, but Tia in particular. Tia was described as highly intelligent and loving to work. Sheriff Koontz said he was a bit apprehensive at first, but eventually decided it wasn't a bad idea. The WCSO decided to give Tia a chance, and that chance is working out. Deputy Swanberg said the Schnauzer breed has a great demeanor.

It was noted the Schnauzer breed is also very goal-oriented. Schnauzers will do what they are commanded to do, but as soon as a toy is presented as a reward, Schnauzers will go after the toy. In some instances, with other breeds, it is harder to get the dog to quit going after a person. However, with the goal oriented nature of the Schnauzer, the reward is first priority.

Further, the Schnauzer breed originated from Germany, but Tia is from Italy. When a dog is trained for a K-9 Unit, it is usually trained in the language its breed originated. Therefore, all of Tia's commands are German commands. Deputy Swanberg didn't know any of the commands and had to learn them.

Sheriff Koontz stated that with crime in the area, drugs in particular, this is another tool law enforcement can use to try and curb some of the issues. He stated the drug problem has really taken over our community, and the sad part is that it doesn't just affect the people that are using drugs. Koontz said the drug problem affects families, the people drug abusers steal from to get money for the drugs, children, and more. Koontz said it also affects the parents of people using drugs as more children, now than ever before, are residing with their grandparents as a result of drug addicted parents.

It was noted Tia is a welcomed addition to the Wetzel County Sheriff's Office, and the community. She has already made a difference in the amount of arrests being made and has brought joy to many that have met her.



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