K9 unit joins department as sniffer, tracker

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 12, 2011

NATCHEZ — A vivacious, energetic redhead is the newest member of the Adams County Sheriff’s Department.

This new employee is gentle with children and the elderly, serious about his job and loves to have his belly scratched.

Scout, a young golden retriever, will not only serve Adams County as a narcotic-sniffing dog, but also as a tracker, said criminal and K9 unit deputy Summer Moffett.

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“We wanted a dual purpose dog that detects narcotics and can track people,” Moffett said. “There have been problems with the elderly or Alzheimer’s patients going out and getting lost.”

Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield said Scout is on call 24 hours a day and seven days a week for all shifts if they need him.

“We can also use him in jail searches for contraband,” Mayfield said. “Scout is certified and accredited in narcotics detection and tracking.”

Mayfield said it was important that they chose a breed that does not have a tendency to bite or nip people.

“We wanted a friendly dog,” Mayfield said. “Kids can be around him, and we can take him into the schools.”

“He is very sociable,” said Moffett, who has a background in dog handling. “But at the same time, he’s very hardworking. Scout can go from being loved-on to getting right to work. He switches modes just like that.”

On the lawn of the Adams County Sheriff’s Office Friday, Moffett demonstrated Scout’s near-obsession with a tennis ball that serves as his motivator and reward mechanism. She said trainers select dogs like Scout for ball-drive.

“He’s so excited about the ball, he gets tunnel vision,” Moffett said. “He relates the tennis ball to work when he’s tracking or alerting on narcotics. It makes him very happy and is his complete focus.”

Moffett said she and Scout have been bonding the past three weeks. Scout lives at home with Moffett.

“He has gotten used to my commands and scent, and I have gotten used to his actions,” she said.

Scout officially starts his new job Monday, but his training doesn’t end there. Moffett will conduct a daily practice with Scout called maintenance training.

“We do maintenance training to be sure he’s not false alerting on anything,” Moffett said. “Scout is going to take a bite out of dope in this town. He doesn’t get tired and he’s always right on target.”

Moffett said she is anxious to see what having Scout will do for the town.

“Where people are using narcotics, up goes crime, violence, neglected children and so many things,” Moffett said. “If Scout and I can work to get a portion of that off the street, it will make us happy.”

Moffett said Scout’s presence will take pressure off law enforcement in the area. If Scout alerts on something in a vehicle, shed or package, it is considered probable cause to search.

“Scout won’t alert on food or tennis balls,” Moffett said. “Only illegal narcotics. Some people say that dogs sniff everything, but to him, (sniffing) is different from working.”

To reward Scout even when narcotics are not found in an area, Moffett said she will bring the scent with her, so Scout can alert and be rewarded with his tennis ball.

“This is something the public can be a part of,” Moffett said. “We want this county and city to see him work and produce results. He will make a difference.”

Scout was purchased with money seized in drug arrests.

Moffett said working as a K9 unit was what she wanted to be “when she grew up.”

“I am an animal lover, and this has been in my brain for years,” Moffett said. “I have a family I love to wake up to, but I am one of those people who goes to a job I absolutely love, with people who make a difference. I feel truly blessed to use Scout to fight the drug problem and serve the community.”