On Wednesday, a pair of specialized K9 dogs—two of five in the entire state of Michigan—were recertified to sniff out arson accelerants.
Dale DeKorte with the Kent County Sheriff’s Office and his K9 Ritzey, and Marshall firefighter Matt Parks and his K9 Bingo, both completed their recertification on a Zoom call Wednesday. The four successfully completed a series of tasks. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work, for a good cause.
“Every day she has to train in order to be fed,” said DeKorte of Ritzey. “What we do is we go and collect samples at the scene.”
Ritzey and Bingo are able to sniff out accelerants like gasoline and other flammable substances that could indicate arson. Each year, according to the FBI, over 33,000 arsons occur each year. The average cost of each case is $16,000 to the homeowner, and more than 42% of arsons affect residential or public structures.
The dogs can rule in or rule out arson at a fire scene and are used all around the area when needed. They won’t just save lives by helping catch arsonists quicker but also money and time.
“Each year there are millions and millions of dollars in fraudulent claims related to arson,” says Heather Paul, a spokeswoman from State Farm, who’ve sponsored more than 400 K9 teams in the U.S. and Canada. “It increases the safety because you’re going to have, hopefully, less arson crime.”
“As humans, we’re not able to smell and detect exactly where there may be evidence, so we’re guessing and all of those samples cost money,” added Paul. “[The dogs] are able to pinpoint where there’s evidence, take less samples that are more likely to come back positive.”
Ritzey, a 10-year-old Goldador (a cross between a Golden Retriever and a Labrador) will retire in 2022 after almost nine years with the department. The Kent County Sheriff’s Department is already looking for her replacement.
For more information on the State Farm Arson Dog program, click here.