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Heroes are born every day. And some of them
sport fur and enhanced senses of hearing and smell above their human
counterparts. Such are some of the heroes of the Special Response Team (SRT)
tactical canine program, a unique program developed by the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). While many law enforcement agencies use
canines in police and security roles, the ATF says they take it a step further
by training the dogs to deploy in high-risk tactical environments, as well as
socialize in numerous functions where the dogs show their very gentle nature.
ATF SRT canines work with their handlers in a variety of
fashions, including working with tactical teams to clear buildings and other
target locations in search of violent criminals, performing searches for hidden
suspects, conducting tracking and large area search missions, and, as a last
resort, attacking violent criminals who pose a threat to the public. One of the
benefits of deploying with a canine, says Jeffrey Perryman, the Special
Response Team Canine Program Manager/Handler, is the dog’s ability to use its
senses — the dog’s sense of smell, hearing, and overall instincts — to locate or
apprehend criminals, which Perryman says in turn enhances safety for the agents
and the public. Here are some of the amazing canines and handlers who protect
us every day.
In 2000, the agency
tested a pilot program whereby an ATF special agent would train with a canine.
This canine team would then be attached to SRT 1, which covered 14 states in
the Midwest, and assist in the mission to fight violent crime across the
country. ATF was the first organization within the Department of Justice to
have a full-time handler and canine attached to a federal team.
Special Agent Jeffrey
Perryman was selected as the first handler, and was paired with his first
canine partner — a remarkable dog named Boomer. Perryman and Boomer were trained
by two very talented K9 law enforcement officers named Terry and Diane
Shoenbach. Over the years, Perryman and his dogs have also trained at the K9 Advanced
Training Facility in Taylor, Michigan, and Cher Car Kennels in St. Johns,
Michigan. In their first year together, Perryman and Boomer were involved in
numerous operations, but two in particular highlighted the unique talents of an
ATF handler working in harmony with a canine partner. The first example was a
case where a suspect who’d seriously assaulted an individual in Lincoln, Nebraska,
was reported to be holed up in a house. After a thorough search, human agents
found one individual but found no sign of the primary suspect. So Perryman
requested to let Boomer search the house. Perryman thought it would be a good
piece of training for Boomer to search a structure he’d never seen.
Courtesy of Jeffrey Perryman, ATF
The ATF trains dogs to work in high-risk tactical environments. The canines are also socialized at functions where the dogs show their gentle natures.
Courtesy of Jeffrey Perryman, ATF
Cisco visited patients at a New Orleans hospital after Hurricane Katrina.
During a violent home robbery, a suspect began shooting at agents. One of the canine agents, Nash, diverted the shooter's attention, taking a bullet and losing his life.
Axel is dressed and ready for work.
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