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Officer in training

Canine cop joins FD Police Department

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
Draco, one of two canine cops serving with Fort Dodge’s finest, will be able to assist with building searches, drug detection and missing person searches, as well as public relations efforts. The department’s other canine is currently used to assist officers about four to five times each day.

Meet the newest member of Fort Dodge’s finest: Draco.

At about 100 pounds and 3 feet tall when sitting, Draco is one of the smaller members of the Fort Dodge Police Department, but potentially one of the strongest with skills humans can’t achieve.

The 15-month-old German shepherd — born in Germany — is the canine replacement for Abram, who retired from the force around June 2019.

The Police Department is hoping Draco will be ready for action by next spring after further training and certification. He will be the second dog currently serving in town with his handler, Officer Jacob Naatz. The department’s other canine, Voodoo, serves with Sgt. Paul Samuelson.

The department expects Draco to be able to serve until about age 9.

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
For now, Draco is still in training as a canine officer. The 15-month old dog is easily distracted for both photos and conversation with his favorite tennis ball.

The dual-purpose pup will be trained for obedience, article recovery, building searches, suspect apprehension, officer protection and detection of nine different narcotics.

With a powerful nose that smells layers of items out of sight from humans, he will be able to assist in on-site drug detection to secure search warrants for vehicles during traffic stops, as well as anything officers need to find that may be contaminated by human scent.

Canines are trained to give a passive response, sitting down, when something is detected.

Police canines are often selected for their active drive and pleasant disposition.

“If you test a 1- or 2-year-old dog, you’ll see everything right there,” said Samuelson. “All I do is look for its drives. They don’t want to sit still.”

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
Draco will accompany his handler, Officer Jacob Naatz, during his regular patrols, and live at home with him on their days off.

He selects dogs as adults, not puppies, to avoid getting a dog who might not be ideal for the job.

“Out of a litter of seven to eight puppies, you might hope to get one,” that’s suitable, he said. “We want a sociable one that does all the tasks we ask it to.”

Police canines are used four to five times each day for various tasks and public relations functions, such as visiting kids in school.

“The dogs are a huge part of our community,” Samuelson said.

Though a dog like Draco might normally cost upwards of $15,000 to procure and train, Draco came at cost to the department for $6,500, thanks to in-house canine trainer Samuelson.

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
Draco, Fort Dodge Police Department’s newest K9 officer, is both bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at about 100 pounds.

“Having that resource is definitely a plus for us,” Naatz said.

Nestle Purina donated the bulk of the expenses needed, $12,000 to purchase Draco and all the necessities for his service on the force. Purina donates food for one of the canines on the force throughout the year.

“For us, that is the largest expense out of our (canine) budget, for the dog food,” Samuelson said. Dogs like Draco can eat upwards of six cups of food each day, costing about $1,200 per year.

JRG Livestock and Pet Supply also supplies food for one of the canine cops.

“The reason behind this is that as a company, we support the bond between humans and pets or other animals,” said Mark Layton, factory manager. “That’s a perfect example of that bond, a police officer and their canine. They’ll depend on each other, so there’s a special relationship the two will have.”

Chief Roger Porter also said that individuals and businesses in the community have shown a lot of enthusiasm in helping to hire the new officer.

Other various expenses include outfitting the officer’s patrol car with a kennel that replaces the backseat and safety features. If Draco is inadvertently left in Officer Naatz’s car on a warm day, his car’s lights and sirens will go off if the interior reaches 95 degrees.

“We’re proud to be a member of the community,” Layton said, “to be able to step up and help a cause that’s so relatable to our corporate statement.”