The Oneida County Sheriff’s Office began a K-9
program in 1983. On their first call, K-9 Fred and Sergeant Al Leone
proved the value of a well trained canine team when they successfully searched
for three young boys who were lost in the woods of Forestport. Since that first
call, canines have continuously served as a valuable police tool by
bringing a variety of skills to police work that enhance a deputy sheriff's
capabilities to serve the public.
The Sheriff’s Office maintains four K-9 Teams. A K-9 Team consists of a uniform
Deputy Sheriff, and a dog. Canines are acquired when they
are between the ages of one and two years old. The canine and his handler
complete 360 hours of training before becoming certified. The canines have a
working career of about eight years, and a life expectancy of twelve
years. Once trained, the police dog becomes the deputy's partner on
patrol and the dog can effectively protect the deputy. Often, the mere presence
of a police canine deters potentially violent situations.
Police dogs' skills are not limited to deterrence and protection.
A canine's keen sense of smell allows him to find children, senior
citizens, hunters and others who have become lost or disoriented.
A canine is also able to track and locate suspects and can be utilized in
situations that would be life threatening to a deputy. Dogs can enter and
search buildings for hiding suspects, and are trained to locate and secure
suspects until a deputy safely enters and makes an arrest.
The Sheriff's Office dogs are trained to detect marijuana, hashish, cocaine,
crack-cocaine and heroin. When alerting to the odor of drugs during a search,
dogs respond aggressively, trying to get at the substance by scratching and
pawing. The K-9 Teams are utilized frequently by the Correction Facility and
local schools for building-wide drug searches.
Two dogs are trained for explosive detection. The dogs are able to detect
dynamite, C4, nitro and numerous other substances of which explosives are
constructed. During a search for explosives, the dogs respond to the explosives
odor in a manner that is safe, but identifiable to the handler. When alerting
to the odor of an explosive, the dog sits and waits patiently. The aggressive
response of scratching and pawing that signals a successful drug search is not
the appropriate response for a successful explosives search.
A K-9 Team handler and his dog must complete sixteen hours of specialized
training each month. When off-duty, a canine lives with his
handler as a friend and family dog. The county purchases all food and
supplies, and pays for veterinary care and boarding as necessary. In order to
care for their partners, K-9 handlers are allotted an hour of upkeep time each
duty day, and compensated and hour of overtime each off-duty day.