The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department has welcomed two new recruits in recent months.
K-9 officers, Tora and Dexter, are now working full-time for the department after completing training late last year.
Tora, a 2-year-old female German Shepherd, is partnered with Deputy Josh Farrington. She was born in Poland and arrived in the United States in June of 2020. Farrington got her in July and later attended training classes with her. She began working with the department in October and focuses on narcotics detection and tracking and apprehension.
Farrington said Tora has been involved in six narcotics cases, one tracking case, one article search and one building search since going to work.
“Tora is trained to basically detect narcotics and humans,” said Farrington. “That’s useful for evidence recovery. If we’re on a car chase … and someone throws out a gun … we can go back and search that ditch and find that gun.”
Tora would be able to find the thrown out evidence since it would have the smell of a human on it which she is trained to detect.
Farrington said this is the first time he has worked with a K-9 unit. He has been posting some training videos and pictures with Tora on Instagram @k9tora. The two train a minimum of 16 hours per month but Farrington said last month they trained about 39 hours. They usually work on obedience, patrolling and scenting during training sessions.
Dexter is a 3-year-old male German Shepherd. His specialty is a little different from Tora’s in that he is trained to detect explosives rather than narcotics, but he can also track people and items like Tora. According to his partner, Deputy Joe Worth, Dexter has been sent out on one bomb threat call in Pella since he began working where he cleared a building.
Worth said that Dexter is the first explosive detecting K-9 unit in Monroe County history and he does not know of another one in southern Iowa right now. Worth decided to have Dexter specialize in explosive detection rather then narcotics detection to make the dogs more versatile and accessible to people in southern Iowa.
“Generally you’d have to get an explosives dog from Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Coralville, Des Moines … so you’re talking about a good hour and a half drive time,” said Worth.
Worth purchased Dexter about three years ago and donated him to the county to be a K-9 unit. He had previously worked with a K-9 unit in another department and wanted the sheriff’s office to have one again after their last dog retired in 2016 and the Albia Police Department’s K-9 unit retired in 2020.
Worth and Farrington said the entire K-9 budget has been supported through donations by local residents and they are very thankful for that. The officers donate their time to complete training, and donated money helps offset the costs of veterinary care, training, equipment, food, certifications and more.
“The cost to the county is very, very minimal if at all,” said Worth.
He also said he was just grateful to the community for supporting the program.
“I’d like to thank the citizens for providing us the opportunity to work the dogs and to have that as a resource for everybody” said Worth. “It’s very, very appreciated.”
Worth and Farrington said any time they are on duty, the dogs are on duty as well and are with them. The duos are also subject to being called out during their time off for searches, tracking, clearing buildings and more if the dogs are needed.
According to the deputies, usually a dog can work until age eight or nine before retiring if they are not injured. Since they often enter buildings and other areas before officers in order to protect them, they can suffer injuries. Dexter recently cleared a building on a burglary call and was sent in first on his own but came out unharmed.
“It really keeps officers out of harm’s way sometimes,” said Worth. “There’s really a lot of benefits to that.”
The dogs were trained at Tree Town Kennels in Forest City, Iowa by Andrew Klein. That is also where the officers traveled to train with the dogs. Going forward, the dogs and officers will receive yearly certifications to make sure their skills are staying up to date.