FWC OFFICER HAS A NOSE THAT KNOWS
His name is Harley. He graduated from the law enforcement academy with “honors” in resource detection and tracking. He’s doing his graduate studies in deer, turkey and lobster.
When Harley jumps out of his patrol vehicle, he could be described as “enthusiastic.” Other terms may come to mind when meeting the three-year-old yellow Labrador for the first time, especially when he begins bouncing straight up in the air.
Harley is a K-9 for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and partnered with Officer Laird Canfield. The team is based at the Crystal River Law Enforcement Field Office.
“He likes getting out of the truck, and he is extremely playful, but he knows there’s a time to play and a time to work,” Canfield said.
To demonstrate this, Canfield had another officer run off and hide in the bushes near the office. Harley’s job was to track the “suspect” and alert Canfield to the hiding place. As soon as Canfield put the harness on the dog, Harley settled down and went to work. Canfield trailed behind at the end of the leash.
First, Harley sniffed a cap the “suspect” had worn. The Labrador lowered his head and began tracking. Never veering off course, the dog found the hidden “suspect” in less than a minute. Canfield rewarded his partner with plenty of praise and time to play with a favorite chew toy.
Canfield and Harley completed 400 hours of training during the first class of the FWC K-9 Academy, where handler and dog learned tracking, area searches and resource detection. The class graduated May 16.
“Throughout the training, the handlers work with the dogs they’ve been assigned,” Canfield said. “That way, the teams get accustomed to working together. Harley lives at my house, and when he’s off duty, he’s just part of the family. I have another dog, a lab/shepherd mix, and the two of them get along great.
“He’s definitely a high-energy dog, and that’s exactly what we’re looking for. Plus, we pick the sporting breeds because they’re friendlier. Our dogs aren’t trained to bite. There’s no aggression training,” Canfield said. “While we were at the academy, Harley received a perfect score (of 300) during resource-detection certification. He also scored very high on tracking certification.”
And the learning won’t stop for either Harley or Canfield. The two will continue to train together for the rest of Harley’s career, honing skills and developing new talents.
“We’re based in Citrus County, but we could be called to work anywhere in the state if we’re needed,” Canfield said.
And they proved this Sept. 20 when the dynamic duo assisted Northeast Region FWC officers working a case in Lake County where a suspect was located hunting at night with a light. Canfield and Harley were tasked to find the suspect’s rifle.
“I put Harley out on an area search more than 1 ½ hours after the suspect initially fled. Within one minute Harley stopped and alerted to his find. He had located a camouflaged bag on top of a rifle with a spent shell in the chamber and a holstered automatic pistol. Inside the bag was a felony amount of marijuana as well as amphetamines and paraphernalia,” Canfield said.
The suspect was charged with taking/attempting to take deer at night by gun and light; aggravated assault with a vehicle on a law enforcement officer; felony trespassing with a firearm; possession of cannabis, over 20 grams; possession of amphetamine, 25 grams; fleeing and attempting to elude law enforcement officers; possession of drug paraphernalia, three counts; and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
“Everyone at the scene was impressed with Harley’s performance and I was certainly proud of my ‘partner,’” Canfield said. “The nose does know!”
There are nine FWC K-9 teams working throughout the state.
“There’s another K-9 team in the North Central region in addition to Harley and me. Officer Leonard “Cricket” Bailey in Taylor County handles a yellow Labrador named ‘Buddy,’” Canfield said.
The primary purpose of these teams is to provide assistance to law enforcement personnel by tracking violators or lost persons, detecting concealed resources, and conducting area searches for the recovery of evidence. The K-9 teams also provide education and deterrence through demonstrations and patrols.
Canfield, who has been with the agency for 10 years, explained, “Harley’s owner could no longer take care of him so Harley was donated to the state of Florida to participate in this program. All of the dogs in the FWC K-9 program have been donated.”
“The only thing that holds Harley up is me,” Canfield said. “He knows exactly what he’s doing. I’m still learning what he’s capable of doing.
“Harley has started training in detecting marine species,” the handler concluded. “He seems to have a knack for lobsters.”
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