Drug detection dogs around Iowa in Anamosa to pass test

A K-9 named Karma scratches at the side of a vehicle to indicate the presence of illegal drugs...
A K-9 named Karma scratches at the side of a vehicle to indicate the presence of illegal drugs on Monday, April 16, 2018. A regional competition is taking place in Anamosa to certify the dogs that are used by police. (Dave Franzman/KCRG-TV9)(KCRG)
Published: Apr. 16, 2018 at 4:49 PM CDT
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Police drug detection dogs from throughout Iowa are in Anamosa Monday and Tuesday working to pass an important test. The dogs have to prove, to judges, they can find illegal substances during a search.

That’s because when the dog handlers go to court they need proof their dogs actually found illegal substances through scent and training. And the certification, from the Police Canine Association Detector Dog Trials, is that proof.

Sgt. Damon Van Bogart, a K-9 officer with the Anamosa State Penitentiary, is one of the local hosts for the regional detection dog competition.

He says about 65 dogs and handlers from Iowa came to the regional testing.

The testing itself isn’t open to the public because judges plant actual narcotics like marijuana, heroin and cocaine in hidden places for the dogs to detect.

Dogs get a combined score from searching vehicles and rooms in a second building.

And dogs, like humans, who fail have to repeat a class to continue working.

“If they don’t make it at that point, they won’t be certified. It would make anything they do inadmissible in court and the dog could be taken out of service until they can retrain that dog,” Sgt. Van Bogart said.

Van Bogart says halfway through the event, all the detection dogs appeared to be getting passing grades from judges.

In addition to certification, the top teams also get trophies and a chance to compete at a national competition.

This is the first time the regional competition was held in Anamosa.

The Police Canine Association also tests bomb detection dogs using real explosives. But no bomb dogs came to the Anamosa competition.