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Police & Fire

‘Problem child’ at shelter now a local police dog

Leonard is Ohio’s 1st ‘pit bull’ K-9

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    Clay Township Police Chief Terry Mitchell says he is pleased to have narcotics detection K-9 officer Leonard join his force. The dog lives at the chief’s home.

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    Leonard, a 2-year-old dog deemed unadoptable, is now the first ‘pit bull’ certified for police work in Ohio. He is to start work with Clay Township police on Saturday.

    THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH
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GENOA, Ohio — With his blocky head, wrinkly face, and droopy jowls, K-9 Leonard doesn’t look like a normal police dog. And he’s not.

Leonard is the first “pit bull” ever to be certified for police work in Ohio. He finishes training today and will work full time for the Clay Township Police Department beginning Saturday as the township’s first K-9.

The 2-year-old dog, deemed unadoptable at a shelter, is trained to sniff out drugs and will work all day for his reward — a grubby piece of fire hose.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better dog,” said Terry Mitchell, police chief and Leonard’s handler.

Leonard arrived at central Ohio’s Union County Humane Society as a stray in November. Director Jim Alloway said the dog was a “problem child” and unadoptable for the very behavior that launched his new career in police work.

VIDEO: Clay Twp. police welcome Leonard

“He just had a very, very high prey drive or possessiveness drive,” Mr. Alloway said.

He said any time Leonard saw someone holding something, he instantly wanted it — no matter what it was — and would try to take it.

“For the average home, that’s a big problem,” Mr. Alloway said. “But it’s great for law enforcement.”

He said the decision to send Leonard for police-dog training was one of the easiest he’s ever made since he started evaluating K-9 candidates in 1992. Leonard is the first rescue dog from the Union County Humane Society to be sent for such training, and has spent the last several months with Storm Dog Tactical in Sunbury, Ohio.

The business has a grant program to train rescued dogs and provide them to police departments for the cost of equipment and officer training. Chief Mitchell said Leonard cost about $4,000, compared with $10,000 or more for traditional police dogs.

“I spent about 10 minutes with him and knew this was the dog for us,” he said.

He said the first thing he did was educate himself about “pit bulls,” which are seen by many as inherently vicious. But the chief said what he learned is similar to what police officers must remember every day.

“If somebody robs a bank, we don’t just go find out what nationality they are and round up all the rest and assume there will be no more bank robberies,” he said. “It just can’t happen that way. It’s the individual, and it’s the same with dogs.”

Two local businesses, Genoa Mini Mart and Yackee Electric Services, donated the funds Chief Mitchell needed to bring Leonard to Clay Township. Owen’s Ark Veterinary Clinic agreed to provide veterinary care at a reduced rate.

Leonard wasn’t trained to track and catch suspects. He simply adores people too much for that kind of work. 

“He’s extremely sweet, extremely affectionate,” Mr. Alloway said. “And he loves belly rubs.”

Chief Mitchell has been training with Leonard for three weeks, and the dog now lives at the chief’s home. “He’s just a big lap dog,” he said. “He’ll lay on your lap and go to sleep, and he snores horribly.”

Like the chief, Leonard will be a regular visitor at Genoa Schools. He will have at least eight hours of training a month and must be certified annually.

“When he goes to work, he’s all business,” Chief Mitchell said. “He gets excited when he puts that vest on. He’s just a happy dog.”

Contact Alexandra Mester: amester@theblade.com, 419-724-6066, or on Twitter @AlexMesterBlade.

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