By Alex Bridges
WOODSTOCK -- Bloodhounds from outside Shenandoah County recently helped local authorities find a missing child and to investigate a murder. Now the Sheriff's Office plans to keep its own tracking dog for future emergencies.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved Sheriff Timothy Carter's request to spend $13,525 for a trained bloodhound.
In a Sept. 23 memo to Budget Manager Garland Miller, Carter pointed out that tracking resources from out of the county have been called in to help in investigations.
"Although we are extremely grateful for the assistance of other agencies and will continue to use their assistance in future cases, the times that it takes to get such an asset on scene is sometimes problematic," Carter stated in the memo.
Carter told the board the idea of his office buying a tracking dog came up after investigators used a bloodhound at the scene of a homicide earlier this summer. More recently, a bloodhound and his handler from Fauquier County assisted in a search for a missing child. The child was tracked by the bloodhound and was returned home safely.
"When you have a lost  year old usually you can get a bloodhound pretty quickly, quickly as in two to three hours," Carter said.
"Having that capability here, locally, can expedite getting a least that first unit on the scene," Carter said. "This is something I think we need."
A bloodhound already on hand likely could have helped authorities find the child sooner, Carter said in response to a question from Ferguson. The sheriff added that incidents all come with different scenarios.
Carter said that from his experience, search and rescue bloodhounds are invaluable.
"We've used them I know in all of the searches that I've been a part of in the last few years," he said.
In response to a question from board Chairman Conrad Helsley, Carter explained that most bloodhounds are trained for different purposes than narcotics-detecting dogs. While some bloodhounds can be cross-trained, Carter said his agency has seen the most success using bloodhounds when searching for lost children or investigating violent crimes.
Supervisor David Ferguson voiced support for the purchase of a bloodhound.
"I think it's a great idea to have this bloodhound," Ferguson said. "I think with a limited amount of expense there, especially coming from asset forfeiture money, the workload that it could eliminate by having a quick response in incidents like this could pay for itself very quickly."
The dog costs an estimated $8,000, according to Carter's information. The
Sheriff's Office would need to modify a vehicle with a rear cage at a cost of about $2,500. Other costs include a kennel, concrete pad and housing for the dog at $1,500; $300 for training aids and a harness; $600 for initial veterinary expenses and $625 for a year's worth of high-protein dog food.
Carter states in the memo that the money would cover the cost to buy, train and care for the bloodhound and that the Sheriff's Office would assign the dog to a patrol deputy. The agency would use the bloodhound as a primary resource to aid in the solving of violent crimes and to find missing people.
Carter notes in the memo that he typically uses funds from the asset-sharing program -- awarded by the federal government -- to buy equipment and training to support and enhance public safety in the county.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org