Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009 | 2 a.m.
The 19th annual Las Vegas Police K-9 Trials are this weekend, with 36 police dog-officer teams from across the United States and one from Mexico competing. Metro Officer Mike Horn, president of the nonprofit group behind the event, joined the force in 1980 and the K-9 unit six years later. He is the department’s senior K-9 trainer and handles Bocho and Lovie, both German shepherds.
What are some of the dogs’ job requirements?
The work can be rigorous. They have to jump in and out of vehicles, run up and down stairs and search cars, houses and apartments. We put them through a battery of tests to see if they’re a good match for the tasks we’re going to need them to do.
How expensive is it?
Most of our dogs come from Europe, and can cost $7,500 to $10,000. We do all our training in-house, and currently have about 40 dogs in the K-9 unit assigned to patrol, narcotics and explosives detection.
What happens when a dog is no longer able to work?
The handlers adopt them for a small fee — no one ever gives up their partner. That’s one of the reasons we created Friends for Las Vegas Police K-9s almost 20 years ago, to help raise money for the retired dogs. Most of them are at a point in life when the vet bills start piling up and the expenses become the officers’ responsibility. The proceeds from our fundraisers help. We’ve also gotten tremendous support from Siegfried & Roy.
Have you had any particularly memorable “gets?”
My German shepherd patrol dog Eich found a burglary suspect in a warehouse. The guy tried to grab Eich’s collar and got bit. A while later we respond to a break-in at a pizza shop. Eich has to jump over stacked cases of soda to get to where there’s someone hiding. He’s biting through the cans to get to him, spraying soda everywhere. And it’s the same guy — two weeks after he got out of prison for the first burglary. I say to him, “Dude, have you not learned?” The guy tells me, “That dog is so good — it’s the second time he’s found me.”
How would you describe the bond between officers and their K-9 partners?
We spend more time with the dogs than we do with any human being. They are with us 24-7, on the job and at home. But they are not pets. When your truck starts up they are right there, ready to go to work.
What do you hope the public takes away from this weekend’s event?
This is an opportunity for our dogs to demonstrate what they do for the community. Usually nobody sees it but the bad guys.
The 19th annual Las Vegas Police K-9 Trials will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Orleans Arena. The event is free and open to the public.