Pa. county jail adding K-9 to curb drug smuggling

"We think this could be a game-changer for us," said Corrections Director David Kratz


By Sarah Sinning

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. — One of the newest corrections officers at Bucks County Correctional Center has four legs and a sensitive snout, the Bucks County Courier Times reports

Earlier this month, Corrections Director David Kratz announced that the jail would be acquiring a yet-to-be-named Belgian Malinois as its first K-9 officer; this new addition will cost the county around $3,500 for both the dog and the necessary training.

This yet-to-be-named Belgium Malnois will soon serve as the first K-9 officer in the Bucks County jail.
This yet-to-be-named Belgium Malnois will soon serve as the first K-9 officer in the Bucks County jail. (Bucks County Correctional Center)

“We think this could be a game-changer for us,” Kratz said.

While drug smuggling is a perpetual problem for jails everywhere, it has been a particularly challenging one in recent years for Bucks County. Last year, a now-former corrections officer was charged with selling suboxone to an inmate for $5,000. And in 2020, several inmates and another officer were charged with distributing drugs in the jail over the course of a nine-month period starting in late 2018.

Neighboring Montgomery County Correctional Center has been using K-9 officers for drug detection for more than 20 years, and according to CO Josh Weaver, who handles one of the county's three dogs, they have proven quite effective.

His dog Leo alerted on a bible mailed to an inmate a few years ago that had 24 suboxone strips hidden in the hardcover.

"It happens more than you think," said Officer Chris Miller, whose dog Buddy recently found narcotics inside a car in the jail's parking lot.

All three animals are trained to passively alert, which means they will sit in the spot where they smell the drugs. Sometimes a dog will even sit on a bed, Miller said, sensing the smell in sweat on the sheets after an inmate has used.

While the costs associated with K-9 programs can get expensive, including food and manpower costs, Bucks County has partnered with a local veterinarian who will be providing free care, which will help keep the price tag in check, Kratz said. 

The county hopes to acquire the puppy next month, after which he will begin six weeks of specialized training through the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinarian Medicine. Once introduced to the jail, a supervising officer will be assigned as his 24-hour caregiver during on-site training, after which he will remain with the handler during regular work shifts.

The remaining catch? "The challenge will be people will want to pet him," Kratz said.

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