Constable Sue McLeod with her K9 partner. (Photo Credit: KelownaNow)
Police dogs and handlers from across Canada are competing in Kelowna with the Canadian Police Canine Association (CPCA), and you're invited to watch.
The competitions are being held throughout the entire weekend, with a public day on Sunday at the Apple Bowl. These trials are hosted annually by a different police agency, and they're meant for friendly competition and networking rather than certification.
Sue McLeod and German Shepherd partner during the tracking competition at Eco Turf Farms. (Photo Credit: KelownaNow)
Steve Kaye, president of the CPCA, says that the trials help the public to understand how the K9 teams locate criminal offenders. “It's a pretty unique tool in that it's the only living, breathing creature (outside of horses) that law enforcement uses as an investigative aid. They provide a service that we can't duplicate with an instrument or machine.”
According to Kaye, 20 general duty teams and four single purpose teams from across Canada are competing in Kelowna this weekend. In addition, six of the general duty teams are doing speciality searches as well. The handlers are able to see how their skill set measures up against other handlers in Canada. The competitions aren't just about evaluation either. The judges also mentor and coach handlers and give them different ideas to be more successful in the field.
Friday's events included tracking, which various officers called “the bread and butter” for law enforcement general duties teams. At Eco Turf Farms on Friday, organizers laid trails 20-30 minutes before the K9 team began, and the dog and handler then had to follow the scene to its end. Friday's course was apparently very difficult, especially with outside distractions, but Kaye noted that the teams have to work in similar conditions all the time in the field.
Sue McLeod and partner getting a running start on tracking competition. (Photo Credit: KelownaNow)
The next event will be the building searches, which Constable Sue McLeod from Victoria said is always fun for the dogs. “It pumps the dogs up; they get super excited about it. They get a chance to go into the building and search out likely multiple suspects in a stage scenario.” Often suspects have bite suits on, protective gear with a jacket and pants that can withstand a dog's full mouth bite. The suspects are volunteers, usually those who are wishing to become handlers themselves.
Friday's events include tracking, building searches, and a speciality detection search, and Saturday will switch up the venues for these events.
The public is invited to watch the last day of trials on Sunday at the Apple Bowl. Admission is by donation, with all proceeds going towards to the B.C. Children's Hospital Foundation. If you want to see the dogs and their handlers in action, the event is starting at 8:30 a.m.