MUSCATINE, Iowa–Soon, for the first time in two years, the Muscatine County Sheriff’s Office will have two K-9 units. Deputy David Hallett, the office’s next K-9 handler, traveled to Cedar Creek Kennels in Monmouth, Illinois, in early July to collect K-9 Kevin, a two-year-old Belgian Malinois.
Lieutenant Matt Bowers shared that previously, the Sheriff’s Office had two K-9 units. After Bowers’ own K-9 retired due to age in the fall of 2019, the office began searching for their next dog. Now that they have found K-9 Kevin, in addition to K-9 Neiko and his handler Sargent Zachary Lane, the department plans to keep two K-9 units in service moving into the future. “We find that that suits the community’s needs better,” Bowers explained: “Two K-9s are going to be a great asset to the community. I hope to continue the K-9 program into the future–I think it’s something that’s needed.”
Later this year, Hallett and K-9 Kevin will return to Cedar Creek Kennels to complete their initial 10 weeks of training. Together, they will learn basic obedience and policing skills as well as the advanced skills necessary to track missing persons and fugitives and detect five different types of narcotics. Their scenario based training will meet all of the requirements for police dogs in Illinois, as Iowa currently does not have a published set of standards. Hallett and K-9 Kevin’s training will represent some of the most intensive training of a K-9 unit and their handler the Sheriff’s Office has undergone. Their current K-9 unit, K-9 Neiko, came to the office with prior experience, leading to him and Lane needing only four weeks of training together. “Mine was significantly different,” Lane observed.
Following K-9 Kevin’s initial certification as a tracking and narcotics dog, he and Hallett will need to renew his certification every year. Barring any health conditions, K-9 Kevin will serve the Sheriff’s Office for the next six to eight years. Belgian Malinois typically have fewer of the health problems associated with working dogs such as German Shepherds.
As Hallett and K-9 Kevin get ready for their work together, Bower looks forward to the Muscatine Sheriff’s Office having more K-9 units to respond to calls, as the office has one of the most active K-9 divisions in the region. “It’ an invaluable resource,” commented Bower. “The type of calls that we’re receiving, especially throughout the county–the community requires it,” he added.
Though K-9 work presents many additional challenges, as handlers must not only look out for their dogs’ safety but must also log each time they get the dog out of the car, Hallett welcomes it. “I think it’s awesome,” he shared: It’s a great experience and I’ve worked my butt off to get it. Kevin is a great dog, and I think we make a really good team.”