By Neil Nisperos
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. — The city and the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department welcomed the community's first bloodhound K-9 officers to the sheriff's Rancho Cucamonga station on Thursday night at the Rancho Cucamonga Animal Care and Adoption Center.
Deja and Dare were born in the same litter two years ago and have undergone several weeks of "boot camp" training in South Carolina.
The program comes after a year of research by Deputies Ryan Girard and Mike Mason, who will be the handlers of the bloodhounds.
"We're really excited to have these dogs to assist the city of Rancho Cucamonga with locating missing children, adults, and apprehending suspects that flee from the police," said Mason. "When we did our research, we identified 75 calls in one month that the dogs could have been utilized and deployed on to assist and relieve manpower."
The Sheriff's Department is counting on the superior power of the bloodhounds' noses to do what is called trailing and tracking to find missing persons, evidence and fleeing suspects, the handler explained.
"They use a scent article and can go out and find them," Mason said.
After taking part in an extensive training process, Mason and Girard will be a dog-handler team for the first time. The two deputies are taking the dogs into their homes as part of their families.
"We received a 20-day, extensive, 12-hour-a-day course in tracking and trailing, scent discrimination, evidence handling, with the dog as far as basic canine handling, and then we come back here and apply it to the streets daily," Mason said.
Sheriff's Capt. Tony Onodera, who heads the Rancho station, said the program is the brainchild of the two deputies.
"Other agencies have it," Onodera said, "but they were the ones who put forth the effort to actually have a proposal that the city and the Sheriff's Department could adopt."
The dogs will not only benefit the city, but also the region, officials said.
"The nice thing about the city of Rancho Cucamonga having the dogs is that other agencies within the county and even some outside of the county can rely on this resource if they have a circumstance that merits it," Onodera said, "and the city has been very generous in allowing the rest of the county and other agencies to use this resource if need be."
Onodera said the bloodhounds are also a community outreach tool for the station.
"They're a great (public relations) tool for us to reach out to the young kids to show them that police are their friends," Onodera said. "They're super important when the vulnerable victims are Alzheimer's patients that walk away from facilities, or the young people that run away from home. These dogs will not only track them, but the victims we're searching for won't be afraid to come out when they see these dogs because they're so lovable."
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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