WV Police Canine Association honors Forestry K-9 Team

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WV Police Canine Association honors Forestry K-9 Team

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Division of Forestry’s K-9 team of Investigator/K-9 Handler Don Kelley and bloodhound partner Raisy were recently named 2016/2017 K-9 Team of the Year, Forestry Director Barry Cook announced.

Kelley and Raisy were honored during the West Virginia Police Canine Association’s annual training/certification conference. State police and K-9 teams from city and county agencies from throughout the state attended the conference in Barboursville for training and recertification of their respective K-9 Teams.
 
“Being selected for this honor is a clear demonstration of Investigator Kelley and K-9 Raisy’s high levels of professionalism, dedication and commitment,” Director Cook said. “Congratulations to Don and Raisy.”

“The award came as a surprise,” Kelley said. “That it comes from our peers makes it especially meaningful

During the conference, Investigator/K-9 Handler John Bird successfully certified West Virginia Division of Forestry’s youngest member, five-month-old bloodhound Justice. Four-year-old Raisy passed her recertification in searching, for which dog teams must recertify every year.
 
Handlers Kelley and Bird and their bloodhound partners Raisy and Justice are part of the state Division of Forestry’s Investigative Unit. The teams have been trained to sniff out clues, from tracking down arsonists to searching for lost hikers.
 
The K-9 teams also assist other law enforcement agencies in and out of the state. Kelley has teamed with Raisy on missions across the country, including California, Arizona and North Dakota.
 
“She has searched for missing persons who want to be found,” Kelley said, “as well as for some who preferred not to be found by law enforcement.”
 
Kelley got involved in working with search dogs shortly after joining Forestry in 1993. Bill Maxey, who was State Forester at the time, got the West Virginia K-9 program up and running in 1994.
 
“In the beginning DOF had only two bloodhounds, the only two law enforcement bloodhounds in the state,” Kelley said. “This year in Barboursville, the association certified 16 dogs.”
 
The program was part of the solution to the problem of arson fires in rural areas. Witnesses were few and even fewer were willing to identify suspected culprits. The search dogs tracked down the arsonists, leading to arrests.
 
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that certification by a bona fide organization is evidence of a dog’s reliable performance and provides probable cause to search.
 
“Sooner or later, your case ends up in court,” Kelley said. “That’s why annual certification and ongoing training are crucial.”
 

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Photos:

Left: West Virginia Division of Forestry’s K-9 team of Investigator/K-9 Handler Don Kelley and bloodhound partner Raisy were honored as K-9 Team of the Year.

Right: West Virginia Division of Forestry’s bloodhound Justice with Investigator/K-9 Handler John Bird received  certification.
 

FOR RELEASE: June 12, 2017
CONTACT: Catherine Zacchi, 304-957-9340,
catherine.m.zacchi@wv.gov