Scott County gets new K9 arson detector

SCOTT COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ) – He looks like he would be very comfortable spending all day lying on the end of the couch.

But don’t be fooled by Mikey’s laid back demeanor.

The newest member of the Scott County Fire Department’s arson investigation team has plenty of get-up-and-go when it’s needed.

Meet, canine Mikey and his handler, Assistant Fire Chief Jim Kanavy.

Mikey’s official title is accelerant detection canine (K-9). He and Kanavy were teamed up earlier this year and were officially certified to begin investigating fire scenes in May 2020.

The program is funded by State Farm and is available to fire departments and law enforcement agencies across the United States. Since its beginning in 1993, the State Farm Arson Dog Program has placed more than 425 dogs in 46 states, three Canadian provinces, and the District of Columbia.

All accelerant detection canine teams are trained by Maine Specialty Dogs and certified by the Maine State Police.

This is the third arson dog for Assistant Fire Chief Jim Kanavy with the Scott County Fire Department. Assistant Fire Chief Kanavy has used an arson dog for fire investigations since 2004. He worked with K9 Smokie from 2004 – 2009 and then with K9 Honey from 2009 – 2019.

K9 Honey is now retired and enjoying life as a pet with Kanavy’s family.

“We feel law enforcement officials should have every tool possible to combat this costly — and sometimes deadly — crime,” said Paul Odland, Vice President Agency/Sales for State Farm. “These K-9s enable investigators to do their job more efficiently and effectively.”

And that’s exactly what accelerant-detection dogs are – a tool to help on-the-scene arson investigations.

“The dog will never replace the arson investigator,” said Paul Gallagher, trainer – Maine Specialty Dogs. “The dog simply extends the capabilities. The scent discriminating abilities of a canine are better than any equipment we can take to a fire scene when arson is suspected.”

Each K-9 is tested that it can discriminate among a wide variety of odors. The dogs are a great aid to the fire investigation. They are right a high percentage of the time.

“A few years ago, arson investigators would spend days, perhaps even weeks, sifting through evidence at the scene of a suspected arson,” said Gallagher. “Today, with the help of a canine, they can do the work in just a matter of a few hours. From a management standpoint, in this day and age of doing more with less, that’s very important.”

Law enforcement agencies seeking to obtain a dog through the program should be responding to at least 50 structure fires in their area each year. Law enforcement agencies that participate in the program must be willing to invest the time and effort necessary to make it work successfully.

“This isn’t a program that’s here today and gone tomorrow. We’re looking at a commitment that could be five or 10 years long,” Gallagher said.

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